Animated Event Film
We all know what a summer blockbuster looks like: all-star cast, high-end visual effects, big action. These films are often dubbed ‘event films’; movies of which their release itself could be considered an event.
Now that we know what an event film is, let me ask you this question: could animated films be considered a part of that definition?
In my opinion, yes. But for a few different reasons.
The Big 3 Studios
First, let’s look at the big three studios: Disney, DreamWorks and Pixar. These are the companies that pump the most money into their feature films. They are the names that we associate with when it comes to big studio productions. Granted, how their movies fit the quota of event films vary differently.
Pixar’s movies can be considered event films on the basis that they have built themselves into a brand name that will automatically be a draw to general audiences. DreamWorks has this brand recognition too, but hearkens closer to the definition by way of their films packing major celebrity voice talent. Disney Animation combines brand recognition and voice talent with their ability to generate strong box-office returns by way of word-of-mouth.
Furthermore, while these films have the high-end visuals and star-studded casts, they’re not what we’d describe as the usual ‘blockbuster’ type movies. While there do exist films that fit this category (the How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda franchises, and recently Big Hero 6), animated event films tend to be more fluid in tone and genre. We (sadly) rarely see anything in animation that can go toe to toe with a superhero film, but where else could an idea like Despicable Me grow to become a mega-hit franchise!
Outside the Big 3
It’s with all of this in mind that I personally expect the number of animated event films to increase tenfold within the next few years. Why do I make this statement?
One, it’s because of newer studios that are proving on a consistent basis that blockbuster animated films don’t always have to be realized through super high budgets. Illumination is a top example of this theory in action with the Despicable Me films. You also have Warner Animation Group’s The LEGO Movie having done gangbusters on a budget of only $60 million.
It’s a proposition that studio executives would have scoffed at years ago, but it took the success of films like Despicable Me and The LEGO Movie to break through the skepticism and prove that it indeed could be done.
Heck, it’s partly the reason why we are seeing an unprecedented number of new animation companies entering the field in addition to big studios stepping back in. Which leads me to reason #2: there’s just simply more competition than there ever used to be. Why else would 20 films be submitted for this year’s Oscars?
And finally, reason #3: animated films are starting to become recognized for their value as a profitable segment of the film industry. Allow me to share a quote from a post on the TAG (The Animation Guild) blog: “We are way past the era where cartoons were a small, sleepy side show to the real movie business.”
This couldn’t be any more true right now, especially when three of this year’s animated films were able to rake in a collective $1.5 billion at the global box office alone (How to Train Your Dragon 2, Rio 2, and The LEGO Movie). Combined with studios managing to churn out hit films at the fraction of what it would cost to make them and the growing competition, We’re definitely in for a interesting next few years in animation. And one will only need to take a look at the animation calendar to know that.
More to Come
While we won’t have many instances of two big animated films facing off on the same day in the foreseeable future (maybe once in a blue moon), I can tell you that we will be seeing plenty of two things: animated blockbuster event films facing off against live-action blockbuster event films (like the heated box office battle between Big Hero 6 and Intersteller that ended in Big Hero 6 taking the top spot on opening weekend) and summer seasons where animated films are more than likely to sit right next to a Marvel or DC film in terms of box office performance.
And while we are on the subject, let’s talk about 2017: a year that will see How to Train Your Dragon 3, the recently-announced Toy Story 4, and Despicable Me 3 all release in the same month (June), making for an unusual phenomenon that will see a good chunk of the summer season dominated by animated tentpole franchises.
Can you call it cannibalization? I don’t think so. They may be in close quarters with each other (and the box office numbers for all three films may be effected as a result of that), but you would need to have all three of these films release on the same day in order to call it cannibalization (and an extreme version of it at that). That’s just something that can’t ever be done, even considering the competitive nature of the field.
I’m I worried for any of these films? Honestly I’m not. These films will score their big numbers regardless of how close they are to each other. Like I said, animated films are not just becoming profitable, they’re becoming immensely profitable. Now of course anything can change between now and 2017 date-wise, but still consider that all three of these films are third/fourth installments in their respective properties and an original animated film would likely have a higher chance of getting savaged than they will.
It’s a time of rapid-change in the animation industry. Asides from all the predictions and observations, the real fun will lie in watching it all unfold.
What do you think? Any thoughts you’d like to share on the subject?