... The big showing by the PG-rated “SpongeBob” was way over projections of analysts and the studio, who had predicted a debut in the $35 million range.
"SB" did it by connecting with teens and adults as well as kids, drawing an audience that was split evenly with 50 percent under the age of 18 and 50 percent over. That’s the same formula that “The LEGO Movie” used on this weekend last year as it headed to a $69 million debut for Warner Bros., the only February opening for an animated film better than “Sponge Out of Water.” ...
Every time an animated feature underperforms, the mantras of "Animation is over-exposed!" "Animated features are crowding each other out!" ... "Animation is over-exposed!" ring through movieland.
Except when they don't.
As Brad Bird has pointed out, animation is a way to tell a story, not a "genre." That producers make "family" cartoon features doesn't mean that's the only kind of animated feature that has to be made. Apparently SpongeBob is enough different from other animated fare to rake in big bucks in the middle of winter.
What it underscores is that animation remain a vital (and commercial) way to tell a story. You just need to have the right story (i.e., one that an audience wants to see.)