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A “Brutal Animation War” Is Predicted by the “Hollywood Reporter”

The Hollywood Reporter published a lengthy piece that suggests an impending feature animation war:

The unprecedented glut of product points to a seismic shift in the animation business as new players such as Universal and Sony finally gain a stronghold and established companies like DreamWorks Animation, Fox, Disney Animation Studios and Pixar up their games. Family franchises can be incredibly lucrative if done right — between global theatrical sales (particularly international), home entertainment and merchandising. Pixar’s Cars franchise, for example, moved north of $10 billion in merchandise alone. If they don’t work, studios can lose tens upon tens of millions, with hundreds of jobs at risk.

Late last month, Pixar and Disney Animation chief creative officer John Lasseter essentially declared war on Katzenberg by dating a slew of untitled Pixar and Disney Animation Studios films through 2018, going so far as to claim June 17, 2016, even though DWA already had put How to Train Your Dragon 3 there. Never before have a Pixar and DWA movie gone up against one another. Katzenberg and Fox, where Vanessa Morrison heads up Fox Animation Studios, retaliated by flooding the calendar through 2018 with their own untitled films, even planting one on June 16, 2017, a Pixar date.

The Reporter doesn’t have all their facts straight. They wrote that, “For the past handful of years, there have been no more than four or five studio animated films a year, plus a handful of indie titles. There are eight releases this year and 10 next year.” However, there have easily been eight to ten major studio animation releases per year in recent times. Just take a look at the 2011 and 2012 release slates.

Of course, the other argument is that there aren’t too many tentpole animated features, only too many features that are cut from the same cloth. Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks and Blue Sky each use their own finely tuned formulas, and audiences are guaranteed to tire of those sooner than they do of animation itself.

  • Aaron Mincey

    The funny thing is that everyone is going to think all CGI animated stuff is pixar. I mean for those who aren’t too fluent in animation which is a lot. Ask yourself how many people mistaken a hand drawn film that isn’t Disney for a Disney film?

    • Joel

      Around the time “Monsters Vs. Aliens” came out, I was in my math teacher’s classroom doing homework when she told another student that she was taking her niece to see it that weekend; they indeed both thought it was a Pixar film. I didn’t correct them nor did I think vindictively of them (since it’s just a movie and I don’t like to be “that guy” if I can avoid it), but I imagine it’ll be interesting to have “two Pixar movies” open on the same weekend.

      • Lewis

        I remember when I was 11 my teacher decided to give us an end of term ‘Disney Quiz’ that had questions on Shrek.

  • Céu D’Ellia

    Well… At least it explains why animators feel more and more as infantry soldiers…

    • jmahon

      having articles like this that pit traditional animation against 3D animation where it invariably comes to how the former is so much better and the latter is choking it out like a weed doesn’t help. I’ve been told to my face essentially “3D animation isn’t REAL animation. I hate 3D animated movies, they have no life or soul.” I like traditional animation as much as the next guy, but I don’t want to see what it is that I do for a living shoved down the throats of everyone to the point where they hate it. Even the most deilcious cake is gross when you eat it too often.

  • Roberto Severino

    It’s the animators I’m worried about most. How many more of them will get the axe in the back and will these films be able generate enough profit to compensate their pay? I could care less about Katzenberg or Lasseter.

  • Matt

    As someone who was around during the return of the golden years of 2d animation, I am seeing the same mistakes taking place. Disney was making money doing 2d and everyone and their brother jumped in and looked what happened. I think 3d is going to see the same route of 2d in the next few years as audiences look for something else. Laika is breathing new life into stop motion and seeing some success as well. At some point 2d will make a come back then fall out of favor with the big studios and back to 3d and so on. Everything is a cycle.

    • Animator606432

      Exactly what my animation teacher’s been telling us. The reason why CG Animation may not last is not because it’s an inferior style of animation, it’s because the market is becoming saturated with far to many films. People will eventually wanna see something new.

  • Chris

    I think the finely tuned formulas you are referring to at the studios are talent and hard work.

    • Joel

      I think Amid was referring to most/many of the studios’ stories and characters with that comment, but I fully agree; the people that work at these studios are incredibly talented and give their respective jobs their best (to a great effect).

  • snicker

    You make a good point Amid. Between DWA and Disney/Pixar alone they are going to over-saturate the CG feature animation market with bland, easily digestible schlock.

    People may not wisen up to the constantly rehashed storylines and one note characters but they will definately get tired of all this stuff looking like the same over-textured, plasticine, robotic, waggling corpses pretending to be animated.

    ” Never before have a Pixar and DWA movie gone up against one another. ”

    Antz and Bugs Life anyone?

    • Scott550

      They were released almost 2 months apart. Not exactly head to head.

      Antz: October 2, 1998
      A Bug’s Life: November 25, 1998

  • Tim

    I’m glad the execs are optimistic that “success breeds success” and these films won’t nuke each other, but if their bet is wrong then what happened with “Me and My Shadow” is going to happen all over the industry. Films that have been in development 3+ years are going to get cancelled. Kind of makes the industry a scary place to work when your production has to outrun a bubble that’s about to burst.

  • coalminds

    Are they going to start making adult cartoons like what Japan has produced for years as part of this new battle or do we keep getting talking cat movies?

    • JJK

      Because a film is only adult if there’s lots of murder and panty shots. Something like Up!, Finding Nemo, or even How to Train Your Dragon were kiddy films that no adult would appreciate. I especially hated The Lion King because how am I suppose to connect to a bunch of jungle animals? They’re not human I don’t care about them!

      Seriously can’t people stop making that stupid mature-Japanese animation argument? The content is what matters not the rating. Just take animated films for what they are in America and stop thinking they’re kiddy because they don’t have fantasy robo-girls slashing people’s heads off in short skirts while screaming philosophy at their enemies.

      • Ewan Horne Green

        You complain about generalising, then you go ahead and reduce anime to it’s lowest denominators. Every industry creates its dross, but Paranoia Agent, Kids on the Slope, and Grave of the Fireflies were not made in America. We want mature themes such as there are in many Pixar films, but without automatically setting it in a childish context. Who doesn’t groan when they see a new film poster featuring a personified animal with its eyebrow raised?

      • It depends on what sort of anime you watch. There’s a big difference between something like Grave of Fireflies (intellectually mature, deals with a serious topic), vs something along the lines of Dirty Pair…

  • Alex Dudley

    Best case scenario: In an effort to diversify, studios will try harder to differentiate the films in terms of story, look, and even medium in an effort to stand out more and attract moviegoers
    Worst case scenario: Animated films start bombing left and right leading to massive layoffs all around, and an increase of outsourcing work.

  • truteal


  • GW

    It’ reminds me of what’s happened to newspaper comics but it’s even worse there. There used to be a couple of comics with at least half a page to develop an idea, but nowadays there’s so many comics that they have to be drawn smaller and crowd each other out. Today you’ve only got three or four panel comic strips and they’re almost all domestic situations. It’s a situation that nobody wants to reverse because nobody wants to put themselves out of business.

  • Strong Enough

    oo stop it. this is fun. lets see who wins!

  • Toonio

    Like it or not all kind of movies need a baking time. Pull them out of the oven too early and they will flatten out.

    • John

      But leave them in the oven too long and they will burn.

  • i can haz jobz nowz?

  • canimal

    “going so far as to claim June 17, 2016, even though DWA already had put How to Train Your Dragon 3 there.”

    Interesting that they picked that specific date and that specific movie to do this to. I don’t know the ins and outs of the business behind this stuff but it looks suspiciously to me like they’re threatened by the present as well as future success of the Dragons franchise. Thats pretty lame of them and I feel bad for the artists from Pixar, Dreamworks, and Fox who are going to be effected by this.

    Though on the chance that one of them doesn’t eventually cave and move release dates, it would admittedly be interesting to see if the Pixar brand name is enough for an original movie to beat the third film in an already hugely loved franchise (that is, of course, assuming the second film does well).

  • Ju-osh

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Ju-osh

    “If we’re not careful, features are going to lose any focus on story or craft.”

    Too soon late.

  • Ewan Horne Green

    You’re right. Degas was wasting his time. He should have turned his ballerinas into hippos. Picasso was being stupendously unimaginative when he drew those nude bathers, missed out on the PG rating too!

    Lucian Freud should have just taken a photo. With some nice lighting it would have looked just as “pretty”. Shakespeare! Don’t get me started. Just sex and death.

    There should be space for every flavour of story. You are perpetuating a ghetto.

    • JJK

      You lost your own argument the instant you started comparing animation to fine art oil paintings.

      While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and compare watercolor to vector art. I think watercolor is instantly better because it leaves organic looking blotches. Vector art can’t do that!

      • Axolotl

        So you’re saying that animation and oil painting have their own inherent subject matter? Presumably religious and mythological scenes are the ‘right’ content for oil paintings.

  • Matt Sullivan

    How about they stop spending 90% of their production budget on A-list voice actors and oh hey, here’s a thought. Buy a really good script, or greenlight a good pitch, and MAKE THAT MOVIE. Don’t spend 3 years rewriting or picking it apart. Animation producers need to learn to be decisive.

  • Pedro

    I’m waiting for this to get down to hand to hand combat. Then it will seem interesting to me.

  • Axolotl

    That was awesome.

  • coolzone

    Personified animals/inanimate objects have become such a stupid gimmicky crutch of Pixar/dreamworks that I avoid their films.

    Is the point of animation to take cliche stories and characters and formula and just apply them cleverly to a random animal. Do i care about a racing snail? No. It’s so predictable it’s not even funny. it’s such a condescending premise.

    I think the point of animation as with other mediums is to communicate an idea. How it does that is up to it’s creators.

    All of the examples you have given fall into the “family vein” of entertainment. That in itself is a compromise. It is LCD. something for everyone is something for no one.

    The Anime/Manga/foreign example is important because of the variety of content they have achieved. They are able to produce a wide range of things for different audiences. That cannot be said for the majority of animated projects made in the U.S. which is probably limited to: primetime sitcom, adult swim stoner show, generic kid’s cartoon, family funtime feature.

  • Hyun Park

    That mindset is just too conventional to me. Do animations have to be full of imaginary/fantasy setting? Does it really matter if animation decided to approach realism in terms of visual? We’re living in the world where animation is trying hard to be real while live-action is trying its hardest to be animation/cartoon.