For those who haven’t read the first part of the story click here.
When we left off on our story 2D animation was done and 3D animation was to be the future of Disney. And to be perfectly fair their 3D animation DID seem to be making more money on paper! So that’s it then right? Conversation closed, 3D is the sure thing? Not exactly. See, while their 3D animation may have been making more money the movies cost double (sometimes triple) than their 2D brothers and sisters (“The Lion King” was made on a budget of $25 million dollars). That made the rising ticket sales a little bit more deceptive and difficult to explain. So like last time we’re going to follow the money.
Title: Chicken Little
Budget: $150 million
Box Office: $314,432,837
Money Made: $162,432,837
Man did I hate this movie. Not nearly as much as I hated “Home on the Range,” but this was such an obvious attempt from Disney to copy what was making DreamWorks films so successful. Or, at least, what they THOUGHT was making DreamWorks films more successful! Rather than focusing on a solid story and characters, “Chicken Little” rested on pop culture jokes and zany gags. The result showed that Disney clearly had lost their way when it came to telling a good story. Yes, the film did make more money than their last several 2D films, but only by about $50 million more than “Lilo $ Stich.” And since that movie was $70 less to make it meant that the films roughly made the same amount of money. But hey, things could always get better right?
Title: Meet the Robinsons
Budget: Unknown (let’s assume $150 even though it was likely closer to $200)
Box Office: $ $160,333,034
Money Made/Lost: Hard to say
We’re at a little bit of a disadvantage with this film because the budget is unknown. It might have been $150 million to make but it looks closer to $200 million. Either way, the movie was either a minor hit or a minor flop. And it made less money than “Lilo & Stich,” “Brother Bear,” and “Atlantis: The Lost Empire.” Wasn’t the fact that these films were in 3D supposed to make them bigger hits?
Budget: $150 million
Box Office: $309,979,994
Money Made: $159,979,994
While this was another 3D success for Disney (and the first of the 3D movies where 3D projectors were mainstream), the truth of the matter is the film still made less money than some of their 2D films from just a few years ago when you factor in the bigger budget. Am I the only one who was as confused by this as I was?
Title: A Christmas Carol
Budget: $175-$200 million
Box Office: $325,286,646
Money Made: $125,286,646
For “A Christmas Carol” we can see the films are starting to make more money, but the rising costs are keeping the profits the same as they had been for their 2D films. Thankfully, their next film would finally bring in the kind of money Disney really wanted.
Budget: $260 million
Box Office: $590,721,936
Money Made: $ 330,721,936
I should mention that at this point Disney had resurrected their 2D department (thanks in large part to John Lasseter) and had already released “The Princess and the Frog” to good reviews, Oscar nominations, and solid box office. It was successful enough that Disney committed to making a 2D animated film every two years. We’ll discuss that film in part three, but for the time being let’s look at “Tangled,” which is by far the most successful Disney film since “The Lion King.” In fact the film made almost $600 million in box office worldwide! Yet because of the high costs of the animation and time it took to make this film, the budget was a record $260 million dollars. This wasn’t just the most expensive animated Disney film of all time, but the most expensive animated film PERIOD!
And did it really make all this extra money because the film was in 3D? If Tangled was 2D it would most likely have cost $80 million, $140 tops. That would have resulted in more money for the shareholders and the movie would still have sold more toys for girls. The success of this film finally proving that 3D animation was the surefire way to make more money was going to take a HUGE blow with their next film!
Title: Mars Needs Moms
Budget: $150 (though there are some insiders who claim it was closer to $250)
Box Office: $38,992,758
Money LOST: $111,007,242
Oh boy, this one cost Disney. This has actually gone down as one of the biggest bombs in motion picture history. There’s just no other way to say it. The funny thing is Disney blamed the poor box office performance on the fact that this was a MOTION CAPTURE 3D film! If you don’t know what motion capture is take a minute to watch this video clip that will explain things better. But yeah, 3D animation wasn’t to blame, the MOTION CAPTURE animation was to blame! This time I will say it: I’m calling bullshit on that. Robert Zemeckis’s Digital Movers made three consecutive hits in a row: “The Polar Express” (now a Christmas classic), “Beowulf,” and Disney’s very own “A Christmas Carol." Not mention there were motion capture successes that included Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin” and James Cameron’s juggernaut “Avatar” (currently the highest grossing film of all time).
By that track record, “Mars Needs Moms” was an anomaly not only for them, but for motion capture IN GENERAL! Disney didn’t see it that way though. They shuttered Digital Movers and canceled a planned remake of “The Yellow Submarine” (which might have been an unintentional blessing for us). I mean, this had to be the reason the movie flopped right? It couldn’t be that the movie probably just wasn’t very good. However…
Title: Wreck-It Ralph
Box Office: $471,222,889
Money Made: $306,222,889
This finally brings us to the current day and “Wreck-It Ralph.” Above all, THIS is the one time a 3D animated Disney film has clearly been a much bigger success than the 2D animated films have been! I think these are the numbers that Disney was hoping for since they ended 2D animation in the first place. And this film deserves to be the success it is because it’s a really, really good movie. There’s nothing else I can say about this now so let’s get to the numbers.
Overall Budget: $1,226,000,000 billion (assuming the worst)
Overall Grosses: $1,282,970,094 (that’s over a billion dollars)
Estimated Profit: $56,970,094 (that millions, NOT billions)
Now then, it’s time to take a look at those numbers and compare them to the numbers in the last article. Now once again I want to stress that we do not take into account what the theaters take out of the box office, promotions, or other things. We’re using the same basic numbers The Walt Disney Company uses in their shareholders meetings to justify what they do sometimes. So if we’re taking the numbers at face value (which includes rough estimates and the guessing of costs on a couple of them) then Disney’s 2D films made $606,419,372 MORE than their 3D films! To top it all off, the 2D films managed this in four years where the 3D films managed this in eight. That’s twice the amount of time and fewer movies than those 2D films had to make money (and just to be clear, I’m only adding up those four years for fairness…even though it’s probably a handicap when you get right down to it).
Then the there’s the question of RealD 3D and IMAX premium charges. I don’t know how much those added to the box office, but in theory without them this profit margin could be MUCH lower if the upcharges made for a huge percentage of the box office (or even half for that matter)! Then to add insult to injury, because these films cost more money to make, they spent (roughly) an additional $516 extra MILLION dollars on the 3D movies! Over half a billion dollars extra, to make profits that amount to peanuts when you compare these films to “the hand drawn films nobody wanted to see anymore.” I haven’t managed to find numbers on how much DVD’s and BluRay’s these movies have sold, but I wonder if the difference in sales are even that big (hmm, maybe that should be added to these series).
But wait…what about the 2D films Disney released in the past few years? Where do “The Princess and the Frog” and “Winnie the Pooh” fit into all of this? That’s where part 3 of our little journey comes in.