Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Pixar vs. The Galaxy: What Does Episode VIII's Date Change Mean For 'Coco'?

It's amazing how one switch can shake up an entire slate.

Disney announced earlier today that Star Wars: Episode VIII will be opening later than expected, inevitably in the same timeframe The Force Awakens opened. Episode VIII, originally pegged for the traditional late May frame in 2017 (and also near the 40th anniversary of A New Hope), will now open December 15, 2017. May is no longer Star Wars month, it seems. It comes as no surprise, really, for The Force Awakens is probably going to cross $900 million domestically ($900 million!), and while it may not top Avatar overall worldwide, $2 billion is still damn massive.

So other movies moved as a result.

With 5/26/2017 vacant, Disney plucked Pirates of the Caribbean 5 out of July 7, 2017 and stuck it there. It's been filming since 2014, and really, it should be a 2016 release but so many other productions are lined up at Disney, that's why it's opening long after it wraps up shooting. Either way, it's going to do excellent business overseas if it falters here.

Marvel's line-up saw a minor alteration as well. The currently untitled solo Spider-Man film will now open in Pirates' original spot, just a few weeks ahead of the original date. Good move on their part!

But I ask one question... Are they going to keep Pixar's next original film, Coco, in the 11/22/2017 slot?

I was always not too fond of that release date, and if you've been here long enough, you already know that. Coco is a story based on the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday, which occurs from October 31st to November 2nd. It's weird to release a film about it nearly a month after it, and even if many Americans don't celebrate Day of the Dead, they can still very well release it in October and promote it as a Halloween-esque movie.

That's not my concern about the film's release date, though.

This past holiday season, Pixar's The Good Dinosaur opened during the Thanksgiving week. Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuted in mid-December. You know what happened? The Good Dinosaur didn't open too, too well... Before it could really grow some legs and make 3.5x its opening weekend gross, Star Wars washed everything and it away. While it and other movies still hung on after the juggernaut came out, the weekend-by-weekend grosses were minuscule. The picture looks to finish up with little more than $120 million domestically, and worldwide it seems like it won't meet the $500 million mark it unfortunately needed to reach.

Star Wars wasn't really the main reason why The Good Dinosaur had trouble here, though it certainly didn't help. This could've been moot had The Good Dinosaur opened with $60 million for the three-day gross, like Pixar films typically do. This one missed for one good reason: Disney's marketing department: They didn't put much marketing muscle into the movie. I saw a lot of people say "I didn't even know a new Pixar movie was out!" Those who did know it was out thought it looked terrible. The $39 million opening makes sense now. A Pixar movie shouldn't look like a skip-it from the trailers! Especially one that's about dinosaurs!

I guess Disney figured "Hey, it's Pixar and it stars dinosaurs! People will eat it up!" It was a very bland marketing campaign that didn't drum up too much interest, it didn't soar on opening weekend, and no legs could save it. Pixar now has their first-ever money-loser, when it could've (and should've) been a respectable hit in its own right. This was a film that Pixar pushed back from summer 2014 due to the much-reported director change, and in hindsight, I kinda wish that they pushed it to summer 2016 and have Finding Dory be the film to come out next to The Force Awakens. There would've been zero issues there...

I fear Disney marketing might do the same to Coco.

Not to be an alarmist, but let's say Disney pulls a Good Dinosaur with Coco and backs it with a dull, ineffective marketing campaign? What's going to happen? Before the legs start to form, Star Wars will arrive and then it falls behind. I don't want that, I'm sure Pixar doesn't, and Disney? Well, I hope they learned something from The Good Dinosaur. If they don't want Pixar's next and only original for now to flop, they better move the release date to mid-October or give it their absolute all when marketing it. If they can't do just that, then don't release it near Star Wars. Plain and simple. Pixar has given them nothing but hits, so they better keep that hit streak going, instead of making bad decisions.

Pixar is without a doubt still strong, as one money-loser is not going to hurt them financially. But it shouldn't happen again, and Disney needs to be aware of this. They should not toss Coco off come fall 2017. You don't toss off a Pixar film, especially an original film.

And don't give me any "Disney knew Good Dinosaur was crap, so they tossed it off for that reason." A lot of terrible and poorly-reviewed Disney releases got great marketing, and many of those films did very well. The 2010 Alice in Wonderland is not a good film, and it got negative reception. Made $1 billion, though. Maleficent is even worse, yet it did very well. The same also applies to several poorly-rated blockbusters that cover the Top 100 biggest grossing films. Quality means zilch in these cases. Good Dinosaur could've been a hit had it been marketed correctly, regardless of what you and I thought of the movie. For the record, it has a 76% on Rotten Tomatoes. Many animated films would kill to have that, and some of those films have done much better than it. Quality means nothing when it comes to these movies, the opening weekend gross all hinges on how good the movie looks from the ads. You can take absolute shovelware and make it look desirable, and it's happened before.

That is my only concern. Given that this is Disney's marketing department we're talking about, I feel I have a right to worry.

Other than that, I'm not phased that I have to wait longer for Episode VIII. More time gives them the opportunity to really make something special, and to be honest, as much as I loved The Force Awakens, it was kind of rushed in spots. No doubt it was kicked into high gear in order to make its Christmas 2015 release date, even if it needed more time to come together as a complete, near-perfect whole. Plus, Episode VIII would've been arriving less than half a year after Rogue One.

Now you may ask, will Moana have a similar problem? Moana is opening this coming Thanksgiving, and this coming December we're getting the Star Wars anthology film Rogue One. Rogue One is a story set before the events of A New Hope, a heist film about the rag-tag rebel spies who steal the Death Star plans, kicking off the events of the original trilogy. Rogue One will without a doubt do very well because of the recent success of Force Awakens, the hype will indeed be there and that momentum will still be strong, though I don't see it grossing more than... Say? $400 million domestically. A huge hit in its own right, but probably not enough to be a big threat to Moana.

Moana is already being marketed by Disney themselves. Moana has it all going for it, being the next princess story, the next big musical (from the mastermind behind Hamilton no less!), the next big 90s-style Disney movie that everyone so loves. It's going to open big. I'll gladly eat crow if it doesn't, but I'm sure it's going to open big. It'll be all set after Thanksgiving weekend concludes. Rogue One will be all but a mere obstacle by that point.

But Coco? I'm not too sure at the moment. It doesn't sound as "instant hit" as Moana does, which is why I'm cautious. Regardless of what it's about, it needs to look like a must-see from the ads. If it looks great, people will go on opening weekend, the picture will be safe, and the latest Star Wars will mean nothing.

All of this, however, is over a year and a half away. Things could change, something could move, something could be switched with something else... But being one who keeps up on release dates, I will be cautious. I want Pixar's next original to score, I don't want it to be Star Wars' doormat.

Do you think Disney will give the film a good marketing campaign? Do you think this Pixar original should be given a different release date? Sound off below!


  1. I think Coco will have the same scenario as Good Dinosaur, which will cause Disney to force Pixar into becoming a sequel factory.

  2. I think when Coco comes out, we'll probably see a repeat of what happened to Good Dinosaur, and Disney will probably make Pixar a sequel factory.