2011's animated crop has lots of potential. We have a sequel to one of DreamWorks' more popular films, a new Pixar film as always that's also a sequel, a wildly original Western directed by Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy director Gore Verbinski, a fun film from Blue Sky about colorful birds set in Rio de Janeiro, a sequel to Happy Feet, a film starring the well-liked Shrek character Puss in Boots, and a hand-drawn film from the Mouse House about the beloved Winnie the Pooh. Then there's stuff like The Smurfs, Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil and Hop, who knows how that stuff is going to do.
The first film out of the gate is Touchstone/Starz’s Gnomeo & Juliet. A project that was on and off at the Mouse House for years that was pretty much Elton John's pet project. It opens with $25 million and shocks everyone. It does well because it’s the only family-friendly film that’s available at the moment in theaters. It comes close to $100 million, despite getting mixed reviews.
The week after Rango debuts comes Disney and ImageMovers' motion-capture disappointment called Mars Needs Moms. Critically panned, the film becomes one of Disney’s biggest bombs and only grosses less than $60 million worldwide against a $150 million. It singlehandedly kills Robert Zemeckis’ brand of motion capture, thus leading Disney to scuttle his planned remake of Yellow Submarine. Disney considers dropping "Mars" from its upcoming sci-fi action epic John Carter of Mars, but the studio realizes that Mars Needs Moms bombed because it wasn't good, so John Carter of Mars' title isn't changed.
On April 1, Illumination released the Easter-themed Hop, which only cracks $90 million domestically because of the holidays. It doesn’t interest anyone else, being more kid-friendly than Despicable Me. On April 27th, the long-delayed Hoodwinked Too!: Hood vs. Evil (an unwanted sequel to a film that really wasn't that successful to begin with) comes and goes. In the middle of the month, we get Rio from Blue Sky, a colorful romp that's sure to please everyone. It does so, from critics to audiences. Grossing $46 million on its opening weekend, it has no competition for a month and grosses $165 million. It's an Ice Age-sized hit for Blue Sky. Worldwide, it's a huge hit.
The big animated event for 2011 comes, the Pixar film, but wait... It disappoints critics and audiences. Cars 2 still pulls in $85 million on its opening weekend due to people trusting Pixar and kids loving the first film, but with poor legs, it grossed over $210 million, even less than what the first film made without 3D six years ago. Still, it takes in over $650 million worldwide so it isn’t viewed as a financial disappointment. Disney rolls in the dough and figures they don’t have to ask Pixar for another one since a direct-to-video spinoff is sure to make more for them when it hits shelves in 2013. While people are disappointed with the film, they don’t lose an ounce of respect for Pixar. The teaser trailer for Brave already generates lots of buzz for being different from the usual Pixar teasers.
Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a 3D re-release of Disney’s The Lion King pops up (also in 2D, to satisfy those who are sick of pointless 3D) and grosses $150 million domestically and $100 million worldwide. With the re-release totals added to the original and 2002 re-release grosses, the film now has grossed $478 million domestically making it the highest earning animated film domestically defeating DreamWorks' Shrek 2. With the worldwide totals, it has grossed $1 billion worldwide and is only behind Pixar's Toy Story 3. The title has been in the vaults since the Platinum Edition DVD went out of print, which is why the re-release is a success, and the Diamond Edition will follow after the re-release. The success of this re-release plus the success of Winnie the Pooh proves that hand-drawn animation is still alive and well. Disney plans several re-releases of their classics, including the Pixar films. Beauty and the Beast 3D is scheduled for January 2012, with more planned for 2012, 2013 and even 2014.
Last but not least is Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin, despite being a performance capture film, it still looks good. The film has already taken in $200 million overseas. The marketing mentions the original comics by Herge while also reminding 90s kids of the Tintin animated series that aired on Nickelodeon back in the day by attaching Nickelodeon’s name to the film, which also attracts family audiences the same way Rango did. The Adventures of Tintin opens amidst a box office battlefield (Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows) but it takes in a good $35 million on its opening weekend and finishes up with $155 million thanks to holiday legs. Family audiences see the Raiders of the Lost Ark-style action adventure film instead of the movie with the chipmunks singing pop songs that will already age horribly by next Christmas.
So basically, 2011 repeats the success of 2010, though there isn't any $400 million or $300 million grossers. It's still a fantastic year for the medium, as all the good stuff succeeds. Rango gives mass audiences a different kind of animated film, the DreamWorks films entertain and tell good stories, Rio entertains audiences while not completely pandering to kids, Pixar has one minor flub that still does well, Winnie the Pooh's success paints a good future for hand-drawn animation along with the re-release of The Lion King, and Arthur Christmas opens audiences up to the works of Aardman. The Smurfs only entertains kids, and leaves adults alienated, ditto Hop. Happy Feet Two fails to live up to its predecessor and underperforms. Mars Needs Moms bombs. Hoodwinked Too! is ignored. It's a great follow-up to 2010 and it gives animation fans high hopes for the future.
1. Kung Fu Panda 2 - $280 million
2. Puss in Boots - $214 million
3. Cars 2 - $210 million
4. Rango - $190 million
5. Rio - $165 million
6. The Adventures of Tintin - $155 million
7. The Lion King in 3D - $150 million
8. Arthur Christmas - $130 million
9. Winnie the Pooh - $110 million
10. Hop - $91 million
11. The Smurfs - $70 million
12. Happy Feet Two - $64 million
13. Mars Needs Moms - $21 million
14. Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil - $8 million
1. Kung Fu Panda 2 - $860 million
2. Cars 2 - $650 million
3. Puss in Boots - $629 million
4. Rio - $523 million
5. The Adventures of Tintin - $466 million
6. The Smurfs - $423 million
7. Rango - $358 million
8. Arthur Christmas - $256 million
9. The Lion King in 3D - $250 million
10. Winnie the Pooh - $215 million
11. Hop - $160 million
12. Happy Feet Two - $140 million
13. Mars Needs Moms - $49 million
14. Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil - $12 million
And there you go... That's my alternate 2011 story. Again, this was only for fun and who knows if this would've happened or not. If you have an alternate history of sorts, be sure to share yours? Did you think 2011 was really all that bad of a year for animation? Or do you think otherwise? Please share your thoughts and what you think the year should've been like for animation.