Summer 2013: Animation Over-Saturation?

AnimatedSummer2013

What a summer it’s been for animated movies. Starting with the late March release of DreamWorks’ The Croods and ending with the August release of Disneytoon Studios’ Planes, there have been six big budget animated films released from most of the major Hollywood animation studios along with one direct-to-video release which was put in theaters first. With so many animated films to choose from, not all films performed equally at the box office and in the hearts and minds of the movie going public.

In trying to explain the lackluster box office results for the most recent animated feature films released this summer, including DreamWorks’ Turbo and Sony Pictures Animation’s The Smurfs 2, the Los Angeles Times said:

“Some industry veterans say Hollywood may be saturating the market with too many animated movies, with characters and story lines that begin to look too familiar.”

While there have been plenty of derivative characters and story lines in the latest round of CG-animated films, I firmly believe that the market isn’t over-saturated, but rather that the higher quality animated films were rewarded with big box office results this summer. The mediocre films just didn’t fare as well given that there were so many films to choose from.

What Makes a Good Animated Film?

A key reason I believe why some animated films did better than others was that the more successful films appealed to both adults and children–which I think is something that not all studios remember to do (ahem, The Smurfs 2, etc.).

Walt Disney said:

“I do not make films primarily for children. I make them for the child in all of us, whether we be six or sixty.”

MONSTERS UNIVERSITY

As far a creating a formula for a successful movie, we all know that it’s a difficult proposition. However, John Lasseter has regularly articulated these key points about what it takes to make a good animated film:

“…For all good movies you have to do three things really well. You have to tell a compelling story that keeps people on the edge of their seat where they can’t wait to see what happens next, and it works for adults as well as kids. You populate that story with really memorable characters, and appealing characters. That’s really the important thing for me. Even the bad guy should be appealing — that you enjoy watching. And you put those characters in that story in a believable world. Not realistic, but believable for the story you’re telling.”

And lastly, John also said, speaking particularly about Pixar Animation Studios:

“Everything I do and everything Pixar does is based on a simple rule: Quality is the best business plan, period.”

The Score

Based on these ideas, here’s how each of the animated films released during the summer of 2013 fared (opinions are my own).

The-Croods_1

  • The Croods
    • Studio: DreamWorks Animation
    • U.S. Release Date: March 22, 2013
    • Interesting for Adults? Maybe
    • Fun for Kids? Yes
    • Compelling Story? Yes
    • Memorable and Appealing Characters? Maybe
    • Believable World? Yes
    • Animation/Production Quality Level? Medium High
    • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer: 69%
    • Current U.S. Box Office (as of August 22, 2013): $187,033,567
  • Epic
    • Studio: Blue Sky Studios
    • U.S. Release Date: May 24, 2013
    • Interesting for Adults? Maybe
    • Fun for Kids? Maybe
    • Compelling Story? No
    • Memorable and Appealing Characters? No
    • Believable World? Maybe
    • Production Quality Level? High
    • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer: 64%
    • Current U.S. Box Office (as of August 22, 2013): $107,279,341
  • Monsters University
    • Studio: Pixar Animation Studios
    • U.S. Release Date: June 21, 2013
    • Interesting for Adults? Yes
    • Fun for Kids? Yes
    • Compelling Story? Yes
    • Memorable and Appealing Characters? Yes
    • Believable World? Yes
    • Production Quality Level? High
    • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer: 78%
    • Current U.S. Box Office (as of August 25, 2013): $261,796,000
  • Despicable Me 2
    • Studio: Illumination Entertainment
    • U.S. Release Date: July 3, 2013
    • Interesting for Adults? Yes
    • Fun for Kids? Yes
    • Compelling Story? Yes
    • Memorable and Appealing Characters? Yes
    • Believable World? Yes
    • Animation/Production Quality Level? Medium High
    • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer: 76%
    • Current U.S. Box Office (as of August 25, 2013): $350,659,000 (estimate)
  • Turbo
    • Studio: DreamWorks Animation
    • U.S. Release Date: July 17, 2013
    • Interesting for Adults? No
    • Fun for Kids? Maybe
    • Compelling Story? No
    • Memorable and Appealing Characters? No
    • Believable World? No
    • Production Quality Level? Medium High
    • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer: 64%
    • Current U.S. Box Office (as of August 25, 2013): $78,774,000
  • The Smurfs 2
    • Studio: Sony Pictures Animation
    • U.S. Release Date: July 31, 2013
    • Interesting for Adults? No
    • Fun for Kids? Maybe
    • Compelling Story? No
    • Memorable and Appealing Characters? No
    • Believable World? No
    • Production Quality Level? Low
    • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer: 12%
    • Current U.S. Box Office (as of August 25, 2013): $62,616,000 (Estimate)
  • Planes
    • Studio: Disneytoon Studios
    • U.S. Release Date: August 9, 2013
    • Interesting for Adults? No
    • Fun for Kids? Yes
    • Compelling Story? No
    • Memorable and Appealing Characters? Maybe
    • Believable World? Maybe
    • Animation/Production Quality Level? Medium
    • Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer: 26%
    • Current U.S. Box Office (as of August 25, 2013): $59,591,000 (Estimate)

What Does It Mean?

In an analysis of this very topic on The Animation Guild Blog, veteran Disney animator Floyd Norman commented, “Trying to second guess the public is a losing game. All you can do is make your movie and hope the public likes it. Kinda like it always was, eh?”

despicable-me-2-image09

I hope it also means that the big animation studios will realize that just because they created a CG-animated feature film doesn’t mean that they will always have a built-in audience. Things like story, character and high-quality design really matter and really can pay off. Mostly, I’m happy that quality won over mediocrity during the summer of 2013.

Epilogue

For more analysis about the supposed CG-animation saturation and to read what the studio heads are saying about it, check out their responses on the Animation Magazine website.

Sources: Box Office Mojo, Rotten Tomatoes

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One thought on “Summer 2013: Animation Over-Saturation?

  1. Pingback: 2013 IN REVIEW: My Top 15 Worst Films of the Year | The Viewer's Commentary

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