Last weekend at the U.S. box office, two films with strong animation ties opened in very different fashions. Disney’s Maleficent, a dark fantasy reimagining of the 1959 animated feature from the perspective of the villain, launched with $69.4 million. The Robert Stromberg-directed film tried to recapture the 2010 success of Disney’s live-action Alice in Wonderland, but fell short of that earlier film’s $116.1M opening. Even if it didn’t reach the heights of the earlier Tim Burton film, Maleficent still posted a strong debut, including a $100.6M international opening, and certainly won’t be the last Disney animated classic reheated as a live-action pic.
Meanwhile, A Million Ways to Die in the West, directed by and starring Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, sputtered with $16.8M. According to Box Office Mojo, “That’s less than one-third of Ted’s $54 million debut in June 2012. The movie even managed to open lower than past Summer comedy flops like Year One ($19.6 million), Land of the Lost ($18.8 million), The Dictator ($17.4 million) and The Internship ($17.3 million).”
The weak opening of Million Ways marks a rare miss for MacFarlane, who has generally enjoyed great success with his animated projects. The difference here is that MacFarlane relied on his own celebrity and acting instead of animation, which is what his fanbase likes about his work and has come to expect from him. The stark difference between the opening of Million Ways and Ted suggests that perhaps the earlier film’s success owes a bigger-than-acknowledged debt to its animated star.