Pixar Feels the Impact of Disney’s Ongoing Struggles as Second Summer of Box Office Disappointments Unfold


Hollywood is still adjusting to the new viewing habits and platforms that have emerged in the wake of the pandemic. The audience is less stable, and genre films that are usually reliable are having to face challenges. While blockbusters and franchises continue to be successful, other categories such as comedies, romances, and adult dramas have been largely ignored. Release shakeout continues.

Disney, in dealing with the movie saga, has become a woke entertainment outlet. Not only is its feud with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis raging, but it has also delivered a series of social lectures disguised under big-name properties. The company has released a series of films that range from huge losses to embarrassing failures. This weekend, the list was extended.

This past weekend was a great example of the evolution of motion pictures. We saw both an animated family film and a comic-book hero released. Both films were considered failures but for different reasons.

Warners released its comic book character, “The Flash,” after years of delays. The Flash was part of an original attempt to expand its superhero universe. The pandemic not only made “Justice League,” intended to launch several character films such as “Aquaman,” a failure, but it also delayed the release of its first film. Ezra Miller was then plagued by legal issues in many countries and became a social outcast. His PR problems were also a result of this. Warners saw his controversies subside and a major movie released, but the star was not used to promoting it.

The projections were for “The Flash” to earn between $75 and 85 million. It’s $70 million this weekend was a major disappointment. Pixar released “Elemental”, an allegory about immigration that uses earthly elements to represent characters. The release was expected to earn between $35-40 million, but it only managed to reach $29.6. After a decent preview on Thursday, the film slowed down through the weekend and lost its audience, rather than increasing it. This is not only a big disappointment for Disney but also one of Pixar’s worst-ever openings.

Studio appears to have followed the Disney playbook in that socially significant aspects of the production are highlighted instead of the story and the characters. Some praised the fact that the lead characters were a mixed-race couple. Others lauded the inclusion of non-binary characters in the cast. These moves have not only caused a rift with the audience and financial disasters (both “Strange World” and “Lightyear” boasted similar claims), but are also superfluous. How can race or sexuality be a factor when you have fictionalized animated elements such as water and fire? This is so unnecessary.

The debut film of the animation studio, “Toy Story,” was a big hit in 1995. Adjusting for inflation, it’s now worth nearly twice as much today. It also ran for a long time. Disney-Pixar’s origin story “Lightyear” was a major bomb last summer. It opened at $50m, but barely doubled this total over its run. This is in line with the debut of other less popular titles such as “The Last Dinosaur,” which opened at $39 million, and “Onward,” which had the same opening total.

The film also received a poor reception overseas. China, which is the most important market for this film to recover, had only a $5m weekend and there’s no sign that it will improve. This country has a run of about three weeks for US titles. There is also a big national holiday that will replace the majority of theater releases in China with domestically produced movies. To break even, “Elemental” needs a major boost in the overseas market. The film needs to be profitable with its marketing and budget.

Bob Iger has taken back control of Disney, but it is clear that the studio is struggling with its content, which heavily leans on social media. There is no immediate fix, despite Bob Iger’s return to power. In his most recent earnings call, Bob Iger stressed that the studio will rely on its existing franchises to release future films. This is a clear effort to correct the ship and get away from the woke, social content that has been affecting returns. These films require years to produce, so new products may take some time. There is also Iger’s reality that must be considered when working on new projects.

Bob Chapek, who was the head of the company during the year of disappointing returns, was actually releasing Iger-approved products. Chapek had to limit his new projects because of the backlog due to pandemic closings. Iger oversees the effects of content he has approved.

After decades of consistent success, Pixar is now experiencing a series of failures. After the theater closures of “Onward”, “Soul,” Luca” and “Turning Red” were all released on Disney+. As it returns to theatres, the animation hit factory is being impacted by the woke decisions – both internal and from parent company Disney – that are driving audiences away from the theater box office.