Wreck-It Ralph - This is another one that’s tricky to predict. Walt Disney Animation Studios finally scored a huge hit with Tangled, which went on to gross $200 million, making it the highest grossing Disney animated feature since Tarzan in 1999. (Though Tarzan sold more tickets) Disney’s animated films have been getting good critical reception as of late, but terrible marketing is causing them to underperform. One must look at the multipliers. Bolt and The Princess and the Frog were poorly marketed, and consequently grossed less than $30 million on their opening weekends. They had strong legs and climbed to $100 million, which isn’t easy for most films. Tangled was lucky, grossing $48 million on its opening weekend and getting an extra boost from Thanksgiving week. Now if Bolt and Frog had big openings like that, $170-200 million would’ve been easy for them to reach.
This proves that audiences DID like these films, but Disney’s marketing department sells them short, which is why they have a hard time at the domestic box office. They did the same thing to Winnie the Pooh last summer. Now Winnie the Pooh wasn’t blockbuster material to begin with, but they could’ve had a good-sized success (somewhere between $80 million and $100 million) on their hands, but no. Instead, they put barely any effort into marketing it and just threw it out in the middle of a competitive summer. What were they thinking?!
The same thing will probably happen to Wreck-It Ralph if they pull these shenanigans. Wreck-It Ralph is an INCREDIBLY risky film. It doesn’t have four-quadrant appeal, and it’s an ambitious adventure comedy about video games. I can’t see tons of people flocking to see a Disney animated film that has a video game setting. Disney needs to market this as an event, and with a good-sized opening weekend (somewhere around $50 million), it can garner excellent word of mouth and easily pass the $200 million mark. Why can’t Disney do this? Walt Disney Animation Studios is back on track, and these films need to be successful. Disney executives see the rather disappointing box office returns (a gross below $120 million domestically), ambitious projects get scrapped. We don’t want that, now do we?
Anyways, I expect this film to at least gross over $120 million at the domestic box office. It all depends on what the opening weekend is going to be. A good-sized multiplier is guaranteed, since all of the post-2007 Disney animated films had them. I’m hoping it could gross $200 million and be the ambitious blockbuster Disney has been waiting for. The risks would be worth it, and more projects like that will come. Remember when Disney took risks like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Fantasia 2000, Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet? The films either underperformed or flopped, either due to poor marketing or a lack of faith in the projects by the executives.
Wreck-It Ralph is ambitious, and there’s a lot of care going into it unlike those films I just mentioned. Those films were produced when production on a Disney animated film was dictated by executives, sticking their spoons in the broth. Hunchback’s uneven blend of mature themes and childish comedy (the gargoyles) didn’t appeal to audiences. Fantasia 2000 wasn’t box office material to begin with. Atlantis felt restrained, as if it was only allowed to be ambitious at times. Treasure Planet had the same problem, while also being backed by terrible marketing.
This is why Ralph is tough to predict. The marketing will probably be a bust, but the film will probably score a good-sized multiplier. Hell, Tron: Legacy pulled a 3.7x multiplier. If that can gross $172 million domestically, so can Wreck-It Ralph. Disney needs to kick off the marketing campaign now. Tron’s marketing campaign kicked off a good year and a half before the film even came out. There’s no trailer for this film yet! We’ve gotten announcements sporadically. What’s taking them so long? They need to get this film out there. If they do that, it’ll be the success they are hoping for. Disney marketing executives ought to have more faith in the in-house animated films.