... [A]nimation has been the story — and savior — of the disappointing 2016 box office.
Three of the ten highest-grossing animated movies of all time hit theaters this year, with “Dory” in the top spot, as it gulped down $476.8 million at the domestic box office and $897.6 billion worldwide. Disney’s “Zootopia” and “The Secret Life of Pets” from Universal’s Illumination Entertainment placed ninth and 10th, with $341.3 million and $336.2 million, respectively. ...
One distinct advantage of animation over live action is that it’s not terribly difficult to produce customizable alternate language versions that look perfectly natural, with characters’ mouth movements aligned with the specific soundtrack. ...
but the fact that these movies are good helps even more. ...
Hollywood hasn’t forgotten how to make good movies in at least one genre. The kids are not just all right — they’re keeping the box office afloat.
It's eve simpler than that.
Animated features, though they've become more captive to Hollywood's corporate movie-making machinery than previously, are still less caught up in the live-action power structure.
Board artists who know the craft still have considerable input with story development.
Newer talent can move up to director slots.
Some studio management does understand that animation development can't be done in the same way as live-action. (The more successful stuff is driven by visuals, not dialogue.)
And the media is finally accepting the reality that animation is a mode of story-telling, not a genre. When a live-action feature fails, neither Variety, the L.A. Times nor Deadline blather on about "cannibalization" or an "over-crowded live-action lineup." They say the movie kind of sucked, and so it didn't make much money.
The same exact cause-and-effect applies to animation. No cartoon eats another cartoon. The bad cartoons simply fail. (Simple, no?)