(Image courtesy of our friends at Animation Fascination.)
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