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Is There Really Such a Thing as ‘Too Many’ Animated Films?

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animatedsummer2013(Image courtesy of our friends at Animation Fascination.)

Introduction

Are there too many animated films made today?

While this may sound like a fairly odd question to ask, it was a question that was asked back in 2013 and has been heavily debated ever since. It’s certainly a topic that invites a certain level of thought in regards to today’s bustling animation industry and the growing number of new studios popping up everywhere (a point I’ll touch on later).

But unlike the topic of why there aren’t very many kid protagonists in animated films, the question of whether there are too many animated films made today can be answered in several different ways. While the following reasons aren’t clear and definite in any way, they should provide more perspective on the matter.

Where it Started

First, let’s look at where this argument came from. Even though it was an August 20, 2013 article from the LA Times that sparked this discussion, the idea that the animation industry might be headed in a more competitive direction was originally brought up in an article by The Hollywood Reporter that was published back in June of that same year. While not all of the facts are straight, the article does make (in my opinion) a very accurate prediction about the change that has since occurred as feature animation starts to be viewed as an important part of the film industry:

The unprecedented glut of product points to a seismic shift in the animation business as new players such as Universal and Sony finally gain a stronghold and established companies like DreamWorks Animation, Fox, Disney Animation Studios and Pixar up their games.

It wasn’t until the LA Times article came around that this point was crystallized in a more pointed manner with the question: “Is this too much?”

Packed with quotes from DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffery Katzenberg (“We’ve never experienced this level of animation congestion in a period of time.”) and Illumination Entertainment CEO Chris Meledandri (“Everybody has been able to survive so far, but as more films are planned, it’s inevitable that there will be more acute cannibalization of each other.”), the main concern expressed in the article appears to be that, with the growing number of animated features, there’s more of a chance that the studios will cancel each other out. This could result in some big-time losses.

Amid Amidi doesn’t exactly share this view or, at least, he does not share this view in the way it was framed by the LA Times. In a reaction article on Cartoon Brew, he takes issue with the ‘alarmist’ tone of the article and the fact that the author of the piece refers to animation as a ‘genre’ multiple times (a valid criticism). Furthermore, he states that it isn’t so much that there are too many animated films in general, but that there are too many animated films aimed at the same demographic.

Exactly How Many?

Now that we know where two sides stand on the matter, let’s take a look at just how many animated films are released each year and how many more we’ll see in the years to come.

While the LA Times article is rather incendiary in its sensationalist tone on the subject, it is true that the number of animated films is expanding.

In the past few years, we’ve had anywhere from 8-10 animated features released each year. Now, this ratio can balloon to anywhere from 8-12 animated features that hit the big screen every year. This is not only because of the fact that feature animation is no longer viewed as a sideshow (as noted above), but is also due to the fact that the feature animation playground is larger.

The next five years will not only give us animated films released by the big three (Disney, DreamWorks, and Pixar), but we will also see films from secondary players (Blue Sky Studios, Sony Pictures Animation), established newcomers (Illumination, Reel FX, LAIKA), returning giants (Paramount Animation, Warner Animation Group), and a host of other fresh faces (Brazen Animation, 3QU Media, Rainmaker Entertainment, Splash Entertainment, Toonbox Entertainment, Mass Animation, Zag Animation Studios). And this isn’t even counting the number of films that will be brought over from international studios like Aardman and Mikros Image.

In a way, I can understand LA Times writer Richard Verrier’s main concern (even though I don’t necessarily agree with it). Any way you slice it, we’re going to have a lot of animated companies vying for our attention. This will undoubtedly lead to more cases of two animated films from two different animation companies clashing at the box office (Warner Animation Group’s Storks and LEGO Ninjago films vs. two untitled films from Sony Pictures Animation, for example) and more than a few misses for those involved.

This being said, I also agree with Amidi’s assessment that the animation industry won’t fall apart because the pool gets bigger. More and more superhero films are made nowadays, but that doesn’t mean the end of cinema as we know it (which is a rather silly argument to make, anyway).

What Should Be Done

Ultimately, I think it will all come down to two key strategies that companies may need to adopt in order to stay agile in this busy climate.

First, they should always be smart about how they plan release dates. While there are certain windows that provide bigger advantages over others, it’s really all about finding a spot where the film can stand out the most.

The second and most important strategy is to remember that animation is a medium. The reason why 2014 was a great year for animation was that the industry finally woke up and realized that you can make different types of animated films, and that animation in general can encompass a multitude of genres just as easily as live-action.

The Answer to the Question

To that end, I will repeat the question at the beginning of the article: Are there too many animated films made now?

My answer: yes and no. Yes, it’s getting crowded and box office clashes will happen as a result, but as long as studios remember the lessons learned from the 2014 year in animation and begin to expand on these lessons, then it should all be a matter of quality.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Is there such a thing as ‘too many’ animated films? Be sure to answer the poll below!

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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About Brandon Smith

Brandon is your average nerd with a love for nerdy things (games, comics, anime/manga, etc.). He also loves reading and writing and plans to be an author someday. For now, he writes with passion and curiosity about the world of animation. He lives with his family in North Carolina and is currently attending college.
  • Míriam

    I think Amid Amidi summarized it pretty well: “…it isn’t so much that there are too many animated films in general, but that there are too many animated films aimed at the same demographic”. Great article, Brandon!

  • Pierre M

    Too many animated films? Of course not! Too many animated films with the same types of stories/characters/design aimed at the same demographic? Oh yes.

  • hellosanfransokyo

    More quality animation is always a good thing by me.

  • aquapyro

    Depends. People are still going to go see the Disney, DreamWorks, and Pixar films. But most of the time everything else gets questioned. Laika has a successful box office run, but Blue Sky hasn’t put out something original in a while until Peanuts. Illumination has only made one Franchise which of course that’s Despicable Me but that’s it. And Lego of course was mostly successful in the US and UK.

    • brandon

      “most of the time everything else gets questioned.”

      I think all doubts about anyone seeing Illumination’s films were obliterated when Despicable Me 2 made $970 million worldwide.

      And while LAIKA has done fairly well, they haven’t had a smash-hit yet.

      Also, Peanuts is by no means an original Blue Sky property.

      • aquapyro

        Except you seem to forgot that Illumination has only made one franchise and that they are riding only on that. Meaning they have no true impact until they start creating something original.

        Peanuts is questionable in that its a long culture icon that if BlueSky ruins it, thay can screw themselves over big time.

        • brandon

          I respectfully disagree. The fact that Despicable Me’s Minion characters can still be seen just about everywhere in the larger pop culture space is definitely a sign that, for better or worse, Illumination has made an impact on the industry in the span of just four films.

  • Mark

    add more variety. Animation is a medium so technically its undersupplied compared to standard live action films. add animation to drama, slice of etc.

  • Daniel Rich

    I just keep hoping that the US animation studios (and audiences) will finally learn that animation doesn’t have to be focused solely at children. DreamWorks seemed to believe that once upon a time as their earlier films had an appeal for all ages. Their last several films however have been marketed solely to children.

    • brandon

      How to Train Your Dragon 2 would beg to differ.

      On the flip side, I clearly remember films like ‘Bee Movie’ and ‘Megamind’, that were very blantantly marketed for the kiddies.

      • Tim Tran

        Not sure about Bee Movie. That film cannot grasp its demographic. Its so trippy and filled with way too much nonsense regarding beastiality and an animals right to trial that I don’t think it qualifies as either.

  • Ryan Prieto

    I live by the rule “the more the Merrier”. However I can see the general public disagreeing. Despite being older, the medium is still looked to be geared towards children. Without getting into to much it can be a good thing there is so many animated films. By the market being filled it will cause companies to innovate, allowing the medium to mature as a whole. Counter point both audiences and creators will have to suffer through a great deal of downfalls to this current path. If you take risks you could fail… or succeed… or break even… but as far as the general population is concerned you never know how much is too much until the balloon pops.

  • We can all agree that the Smurfs (1 and 2) are not real animated films.

    • brandon

      That’s true. But that can also go for any Live-Action/CG hybrid film ever made.

      • Tim Tran

        Respectfully disagree. It depends on the percentage of animation. It needs to be at least 70-80% animated to be an animated film.
        Ex: all the WDAS war films
        Smurfs has about 20% of animation. Therefore not animation.
        Ex: Enchanted, Mary Poppins.

        But the real question is does CG count as animation? If so, Transformers, Maleficent, and Avatar can be counted as animated films.

        I think what separates them is animation have more freedom and artistic styles than working with actors.

      • Which is why I like to acknowledge that a Yogi Bear film was never made. Ever. Nope, it’s not real, you can’t make me say otherwise. *lalalalalalalala* I’m not listening.

  • Satria Rahmadi Djajasudarma

    Ever since the computer has been touched upon by many animation studios, I feel that quality and quantity became an issue (yeah DreamWorks I’m looking at you now!!!). And “too much of a good thing” could be bad as well.

    For instance, PIXAR managed to maintain a balance between quality and quantity for each release, and with 2014 a dead year for them, it became apparent their standards needed to be elevated. I’m looking forward with how 2015 could become PIXAR’s year (once again).
    With problems regarding box office success and the quality that each film has made, I guess that it’s only a matter of timing in their release. Like Frozen, where it was released during the holiday season along side Catching Fire and the 2nd Hobbit. However because of Frozen’s appeal in themes, setting, and music, it was able to run longer in the BO and earn more profit in return.

  • Renard N. Bansale

    When there’s barely enough animated films deemed eligible to make a 5-slot Best Animated Feature Oscar category, it would be more fitting to say that not enough are made each year.

  • Baymax

    A way to describe the golden jewl of 2009 was that it was packed, but it had some of the best films people had ever seen. It’s like making a big sandwich with care. You are proud of the sandwich and think it tasted great. But in 2013, they took anything you can find in the pantry and put it together. Maybe some sugar, crackers, popcorn, anything! But, I’m not talking about the genre of these films. I’m talking about effort. 2013 was a snort fest. Don’t go to my house and riot with pitch forks about what I’m going to say. I HATE FROZEN!!!!!!!!!! But anyway, it’s not about the numbers, there are millions of live action films and nobody complains about that, it’s the schlockfest-ing.

  • Anyone here thinks that it is Frozen that threw open a whole new market for animation? It actually changed many grown adults view on animation as just ‘another kid movie’.

  • Ok well I agree the numbers in animated movies being made is like getting bigger and bigger but think about it, back then the idea was just a joke that animated movies should even exist and now looking at today its common. I don’t care if there is too many I like that there is a lot of them out whether their god awful or just fun to watch or one of my favorite movies ever I hope this never ends!

  • Seiya20n

    actually it’s really easy to respond, creating an animated movie should be easy nowadays similar to a video game, they just need to find the right voices for the characters and you are done, easy money with low investment-