‘Luca’ may go to Disney +, but Pixar’s future is in theaters
Excerpt from Disney’s latest Pixar movie “Luca”.
Along the pristine white beaches and cerulean waters of the Italian Riviera, an unlikely friendship is born between two young sea monsters disguised as humans.
That’s the premise of Pixar’s latest feature film, â€œLuca,â€ which debuts Friday on Disney +.
Since 1995, Pixar has released 23 more titles, setting the standard for animated films. His films have won nearly two dozen Oscars, including 10 for Best Picture, and have totaled more than $ 14.5 billion at the global box office.
“It’s hard to imagine [it’s been] 26 years since Pixar first opened its animated toy box to the world, â€said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “From the first ‘Toy Story’ film to ‘Luca’, Pixar has left an indelible creative mark on the art of animation, built a reputation for excellence in storytelling and in doing so has generated a fortune. world at the box office. “
Over the course of nearly three decades, Pixar has fundamentally changed the animation industry. He released the first fully computer-generated feature film in 1995 and revolutionized the way animated films were made. His stories were designed to entertain children and adults.
Disney acquired the studio in 2006, pumping millions into the brand’s coffers to produce and release more films. Pixar has become the darling of the Disney company, revitalizing its animation pipeline, which had stalled at the box office.
But, almost two decades later, Pixar animators question their role in the ever-expanding Walt Disney Company. They may not need to worry, analysts said. Animated films have a strong track record at the global box office, which should convince studios to continue bringing these feature films to the big screen.
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated streaming ambitions for studios, changing the way some films hit the market. Disney shunned theaters in December to release Pixar’s â€œSoulâ€ for free on Disney +, a move staff members at its prestigious animation arm hoped was unique.
However, in March, the company said its upcoming â€œLucaâ€ would skip theaters and head straight for streaming. Once again, Disney did not place the $ 30 premiere access price on the film – something it did for the release of “Mulan” and “Raya and the Last Dragon” as well as as part of the theatrical release of “Cruella” and the upcoming “Black Widow”.
The “Luca” strategy was devised when the studios were very concerned about theatrical exposure. It was only last month that the box office showed signs of revival. The push also comes as Disney reorganized its media and entertainment divisions to focus more on digital offerings.
Disney + was always going to house television series based on the properties of Pixar and Disney Animation like “Monsters Inc”. and “Big Hero Six”. The strategy has also been used for its Star Wars and Marvel franchises.
For the most part, studios have delayed the release of animated films until theaters reopen. The animation studio owned by Universal Illumination, for example, has delayed â€œMinions: The Rise of Gruâ€ until 2022 to ensure that it could be shown in as many theaters as possible. After all, animated feature films can fetch hundreds of millions of dollars at the global box office and even surpass the billion dollar mark.
â€œI think a lot of people involved in feature film development aren’t happy with the direct streaming approach,â€ said Eric Handler, media and entertainment analyst at MKM Partners. â€œIf your compensation structure depends on the financial success of a movie, removing the first and largest window probably means lower profits. Also, how do you define profit from a movie that is part of a subscription platform? “
Disney representatives did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
The big screen vs the living room
In recent years, streaming players like Netflix has turned to animation as a way to attract new subscribers, especially parents of young children. That could change the dynamic a bit as streaming services seek to keep subscribers happy.
While Disney was forced to place â€œSoulâ€ and â€œLucaâ€ on Disney + due to the pandemic, these films could easily have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars at the box office for the company. Disney diverted these films to its streaming platform primarily because the coronavirus outbreak disrupted the development pipeline and needed new content for its digital consumers.
â€œThroughout the pandemic, major media conglomerates have prioritized their streaming platforms as the key (top priority) growth engine of the future,â€ Handler said, explaining that movies have become a tool. to accelerate subscriber growth.
Tina Fey and Jamie Foxx play the characters of “Soul” from Disney Pixar.
Disney + has certainly benefited from it. In May, the company said it had 103.6 million paying subscribers at the end of its fiscal second quarter. It was a feather in Disney’s hat, considering the platform had only launched 16 months before. The company expects to see between 230 million and 260 million Disney + subscribers by 2024.
Yet the large budgets of films like “Soul” and “Luca” mean that this digital release strategy is not sustainable. While shows like â€œWandaVision,â€ â€œLoki,â€ and â€œMonsters at Workâ€ were set to debut on streaming, these Pixar features were created in the hope that they would first air on the big screen.
“Since not all theaters are open yet, capacity restrictions are still in place, and not all age groups are comfortable returning to theaters yet, studios need to be flexible with their films – especially since there aren’t many theatrical release slots available to push films through 2022, â€said Eric Wold, senior analyst at B. Riley Securities.
As global markets continue to reopen and seating restrictions ease, attendance is expected to return to normal levels. Handler and Wold expect Pixar releases to return to theaters as well.
When it comes to the box office, Pixar has grown into one of the most consistent studios in the industry.
Since the release of his first movie “Toy Story” in 1995, his films have averaged $ 650 million at the global box office, and four of his films have grossed more than $ 1 billion in ticket sales.
And the critical reception for his films has been equally consistent.
The animation company has long been praised for its heartwarming and at times heartbreaking storytelling. His films feature complex characters and rich universes. The studio answered timeless questions that inhabit children’s minds like: What happens to your toys when you leave the room? What if the monsters in your wardrobe weren’t all mean? Where do our emotions come from?
Only seven of his 23 outings have scored less than 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, and only one movie, “Cars 2”, is considered “rotten” on the site, scoring less than 60%.
â€œPixar’s emergence on the Hollywood scene has been an inflection point if ever there is one,â€ said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com. â€œNot only did ‘Toy Story’ and those early films usher in a new era centered on [computer-generated] animation, effectively removing the traditional style, they proved that Disney’s in-house animators weren’t the only creative teams capable of creating timeless animated classics. “
In fact, Pixar’s early success in films like â€œToy Story,â€ â€œMonsters Inc.,â€ â€œFinding Nemo,â€ and â€œThe Incredibles,â€ which were co-produced with funding and distribution from Disney, led the CEO then Bob Iger to buy the company for $ 7.4 billion in 2006.
Tim Allen and Tom Hanks voice Buzz Lightyear and Sheriff Woody in Pixar’s “Toy Story”.
Pixar’s use of computer animation has been a game-changer. This new method of making movies has essentially bypassed the need for hundreds of illustrators and dramatically reduced the time required to make an animated film.
â€œIt took hundreds and hundreds of people – highly skilled people – to make a play,â€ said Frank Gladstone, executive director of ASIFA, an international association of animated films. â€œIn the traditional way of drawing and painting and photography and stuff, it took a lot of time and a lot of people. There were other animated films, but for all intents and purposes for them. big markets, it was Disney. “
In the decades leading up to the release of â€œToy Story,â€ the box office saw only a handful of animated film releases each year, and the dominant distributor of those films was Disney. Now there are dozens of animated films from several different studios every year.
And as more and more content flooded the market, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences took note. It added a category to its annual Academy Awards just for animated feature films. Along with prestige, massive box office gains were made, prompting studios to continue investing heavily in these projects.
In the years before Pixar entered the industry, animated films averaged only around $ 250 million to $ 350 million in ticket sales worldwide. Since 1995, nine animated feature films have exceeded $ 1 billion at the global box office, and the average box office is around $ 740 million worldwide.
This box office success is hard for studios to ignore and is one of the reasons analysts are confident animated films will continue to debut on the big screen.
â€œIt’s clear that most studios have used some key titles to launch their streaming platforms – and that will likely not be a priority anymore in 2022 and beyond,â€ Wold said.
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal owns Illumination, Dreamworks, and Rotten Tomatoes.