Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Who Moves?

Another game of "Who Moves?" has been started...

From time to time, we see studios schedule an animated release of theirs to come out the same day as another studio's animated release. Back in the late 1980s, going head-to-head like that was a big thing. Don Bluth's The Land Before Time opened the same day as Oliver & Company and both did very well, but the following year saw The Little Mermaid crushing Bluth's All Dogs Go To Heaven. In 1991, Universal foolishly pitted An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (which the successful original's director, Don Bluth himself, wasn't even involved with) against Beauty and the Beast. By the mid 1990s, this kind of competition slowly died down.

Today, the closest thing we get to head-to-head competition in animation is a film being released very close to another one. A good example of this was the summer of 2012, when Madagascar 3 debuted two weekends before Brave came out. Both did fine though, since Madagascar 3 had already gotten traction and good word of mouth spread, so Brave didn't "cannibalize" it. (Can the press just retire the "animated films cannibalize each other" belief already?)

But then in late 2012, DreamWorks announced that B.O.O.: Bureau of Otherworldly Operations was set to open on September 25, 2015 - it was moved there from its original November 6, 2015 release date. This date was already secured by Sony Pictures Animation for Hotel Transylvania 2. Months and months later, DreamWorks ended up moving. No way would those two big (and similarly-themed) animated features open against each other!

At another time, Focus Features and LAIKA scheduled a then-untitled film (which was later revealed to be The BoxTrolls) for a September 26, 2014 release, the same day Sony Animation planned to open Popeye. LAIKA then moved BoxTrolls, until Sony put Popeye in the TBD bin, BoxTrolls reclaimed the September 26th date.

Right now, we have had two big animated films scheduled for June 17, 2016 and June 16, 2017. In 2016, How To Train Your Dragon 3 is set to open the same day as Finding Dory. DreamWorks got the date first, but no one has moved yet. Disney got the summer 2017 date first for an untitled Pixar film, then DreamWorks got it for an untitled film of theirs. No movement there, either.

For a while, I thought that Finding Dory would be the one to move, but Disney already has May filled with Captain America 3 and an Alice in Wonderland sequel, I'm sure the latter will be moved. Anyways, I think now that DreamWorks might ultimately have to move the dragon threequel. I think they'll also move their summer 2017 film (reportedly The Croods 2) to a better date.

Now... Two animated features are set to open on September 23, 2016!

An untitled Sony Pictures Animation film and a Lego Ninjago movie, simply titled Ninjago...

Warner Animation had announced that a theatrical film based on the popular Lego line of the same name was in the works back when The Lego Movie broke out at the box office, in addition to a sequel to The Lego Movie. However, Sony Animation claimed that 9/23/2016 date last summer...

So, who will move?

I'm thinking it'll be Warner Animation, but where to? 2016 is pretty crowded and a lot of slots are already taken. Here are the current late summer/fall/winter slots:

August 2016 - Smurfs Reboot (Sony Animation)
October 2016 - Vacant
November 2016 - Trolls (DreamWorks) and Giants (Disney Animation)
December 2016 - Untitled Musical (Illumination) and possibly Tintin 2

While they could aim for a mid-to-late August release, I think Ninjago could move to October, because The Lego Movie just proved that you can release a family-friendly animated film at any time of the year and it can do good. The movie has to look good to adult moviegoers, you know? That's why The Lego Movie opened as high as it did and that's also why it held on. Kids are in school? Whatever, they'll go on the weekend, but reel in the adult audiences and you get a huge hit. Not rocket science, but apparently it is to people who still assume family animation is just for kids.

So yes, an October release, I think, would be fine for Ninjago. Sony Animation is known for their late September releases, their first film was a late September release! Ninjago can do just fine in October, as long as it looks good to moviegoers of all ages and is good.

What do you think? Do you think they'll open the same day? Or do you think one will move? If so, which one? Sound off below!

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