Walt Disney Animation Studios vs PIXAR
Over the past few years many have been citing that the Walt Disney Animation company has been experiencing a new renaissance. With its latest release, Moana, currently trending at 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, it seems that statement holds weight given the immense success that just occurred with 2013's Frozen phenomenon. Most cite the beginning of this upswing starting with the release of The Princess and the Frog in 2009. It was a return to hand drawn animation and seemed to give a new energy to the studio overall. Keep in mind this was also due to the new leadership of John Lasseter who took over as chief creative officer of PIXAR and Walt Disney Animation in 2006 following the announcement of Disney purchasing the CGI powerhouse.
Lasseter is of course widely known as the creative force behind PIXAR, which first hit the big screen in 1995 when Toy Story changed the game completely and ushered in a new age of digital animation that continues to grow this very day. At the same time that PIXAR was wowing audiences, child and adult alike, with films as Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Monsters Inc., and Finding Nemo, Walt Disney Animation Studios was struggling to make large connections with its offerings of Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Hercules. That is not to say that Disney did not make fine films during this era either. I will stand by my belief that Mulan is one the best the studio ever produced. James Woods as Hades can't be denied and Tarzan was surprisingly good and well received by critics even earning an Oscar. Compared to the numbers at the box office that PIXAR was pulling though, it was no contest.
From the years of 1995 to 2008 the average box office for Walt Disney Animation releases was $249 million worldwide. PIXAR in the same time frame averaged $555 million. Keep in mind during the 14 year span PIXAR produced 9 films while WD Animation put 16 to the big screen. Going forward, from 2009 to present, WD Animation has produced 7 films (we will exclude Moana for now since those numbers are unknown) at an average of $577 million. This number of course is helped by inflation of ticket prices but it shows a massive improvement with Frozen and Zootopia bringing in over a billion in returns a piece while also being dropped down by Winnie the Pooh in 2011 which only earned 33 million, while appearing on only 2400 theaters during a short engagement. By comparison, Zootopia appeared on nearly 4000 screens. PIXAR meanwhile has averaged $732 million over its 8 film releases with Toy Story 3 and Finding Dory both cracking the billion mark worldwide.
Box office does not a great film make though. If that were true then Transformers is a better film that Spotlight, and no. Just no. So how about critical response during these times? Has Disney Animation closed the gap that existed for so long? For most of recent memory it was the PIXAR films getting all the hype and the studio that started it all was playing a distant second fiddle. Big brother became little brother. Recently though PIXAR has seemed more hit or miss. Granted the hits are homeruns but the streak seems to have ended. Has the landscape shifted since the new renaissance? Is it fair to call it that? Let's take a look.
We will refer to Rotten Tomatoes scores to see how this plays out. Here are the numbers I compiled using the very basics of math. In these listing you will see the films released, there Tomatometer score, and box office earnings. Then below the titles released in the time frame, the average Tomatometer score, the highest score, the lowest score, the average amount of films produced per year (FPY) and average box office earning worldwide in millions.
1995 - 2008 Walt Disney Animation
Pocahontas - 56% - $346
The Hunchback of Notre Dame - 73% - $325
Hercules - 83% - $252
Mulan - 86% - $304
Tarzan - 88% - $448
Fantasia 2000 - 82% - $90
Dinosaur - 65% - $349
The Emperor's New Groove - 85% - $170
Atlantis - 49% - $186
Lilo and Stitch - 86% - $273
Treasure Planet - 69% - $109
Brother Bear - 38% - $250
Home on the Range - 54% - $103
Chicken Little - 36% - $315
Meet The Robinsons - 66% - $169
Bolt - 89% - $309
Average : 69.0%
Highest Score : Bolt 89% (Note : Yeah, that was a surprise to me as well)
Lowest Score : Chicken Little 36%
Average Films Produced Per Year : 1.14
Average BO Worldwide : 249 Million
1995 - 2008 PIXAR Studios
Toy Story - 100% - $373
Bug Life - 92% - $363
Toy Story 2 - 100% - $497
Monsters Inc - 96% - $577
Finding Nemo - 99% - $940
The Incredibles - 97% - $633
Cars - 74% - $462
Ratatouille - 96% - $620
Wall-E - 96% - $533
Average : 94.4%
Highest Score : Toy Story 1 and 2 with 100%
Lowest Score : Cars 74%
Average Films Produced Per Year : 0.64
Average BO Worldwide : 555 Million
2009-2016 Walt Disney Animation Studios
Princess and the Frog - 84% - $267
Tangled - 89% - $591
Winnie the Pooh - 90% - $33
Wreck I Ralph - 86% - $471
Frozen - 89% - $1002
Big Hero 6 - 89% - $657
Zootopia - 98% - $1023
Moana - 99% - TBD
Average : 90.5%
Highest Score : Moana 99%
Lowest Score : Princess and the Frog 84%
Average Films Produced Per Year : 1.00
Average BO Worldwide : 577 Million *Moana not included
2009 - 2016 PIXAR Studios
UP - 98% - $735
Toy Story 3 - 99% - $1066
Cars 2 - 39% - $562
Brave - 78% - $540
Monster University - 78% - $744
Inside Out - 98% - $857
The Good Dinosaur - 77% - $332
Finding Dory - 94% - $1026
Average : 82.6%
Highest Score : Toy Story 3 99%
Lowest Score : Cars 2 39%
*Average minus Cars 2 : 88.8
Average Films Produced Per Year : 1.0
Average BO Worldwide : 732 Million
Rank in Order of Highest Average Score
1 - Pixar 1995-2008 94.4 FPY .64
2 - WD Animation 2009-2016 90.5 FPY 1.0
3 - Pixar 2009-2016 82.6 FPY 1.0
4 - WD Animation 1995-2008 69.0 FPY 1.14
So what does this all show? A few things that are interesting to dissect.
Firstly, PIXAR's heyday was incredible and may never be duplicated. We also cut off two of the best films ever created by PIXAR in Toy Story 3 and UP due to when the "rebirth" of Walt Disney Animation is supposed to occur.
Second, Walt Disney Animation has rebounded in a HUGE way as of late. From 95-08 they came in with a cold average of 69% and since then sit at over 90%. That is an improvement to be celebrated by the company. To call it a new renaissance seems apt.
PIXAR's second set of scores are still fine at 82.6% but we see some inconsistencies. Brave, Monsters University and The Good Dinosaur all dipped below 80% while Cars 2 earned the raspberry at a 39%. That score was only above Chicken Little and Brother Bear if you rank all the films from both studios and timelines. Ouch. Compare the overall average of 82.6% to that of their previous score of 94.4% and that is a significant dip. Half of the films from 2009 and on are also sequels that were met with varying results from fantastic to Cars 2. "Cars 2" may become an adjective by the end of this. PIXAR has recently announced that the currently planned sequels to Toy Story, The Incredibles, and Cars (...) will be the last for a time. More original films are lined up and for my taste that is great news.
Has Walt Disney Animation Studios overtaken PIXAR though? That ultimately comes down to the viewer I feel. The gap is certainly been closed but UP, Wall-E, and Toy Story 3 are films that it seems only PIXAR could have made. There is still a mystique to PIXAR releases as well. We expect more as an audience. Walt Disney Animation though has the momentum and Moana seems to be keeping it going.
I want to point out how hard it was not to use a "wave" pun there.
For me though the most interesting stat is in a direct correlation between the average number of films produced per year and the average score received on Rotten Tomatoes. The more focus on a single project, the better that project turns out. From 95-08 PIXAR only produced 0.64 films per year and have a cumulative percentage that is stunning. Compare that to the churning days that were happening over at Walt Disney Animation in the same time frame. Disney was creating 1.14 films per year, approximately 1/3rd more action that resulted in nearly 1/3rd less the average score. Then, as PIXAR upped their annual outage, the quality dropped. Disney cut back on production and the quality increased. Less is more.
Bottom line is we now have two studios within one company that are putting out some very high quality entertainment and pushing for more that just that in many cases. I like to think there is a friendly rivalry building between the two studios as well which will push them even further.
Where do you stand? Do you feel PIXAR has lost a bit of its swagger? Has Walt Disney Animation taken the crown from them? Are you happy with the directions each studio has taken an plan to take in the near future? Let us know below!
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