Mid Year Survey

For those (like me) who keep score, it’s interesting to note that as of this week Pixar’s Wall•E and Dreamwork’s Kung Fu Panda are virtually tied at the U.S. box office with approximately $211 million gross apiece. The Pixar film will probably top out at about $215 domestically by Labor Day weekend. Both are strong contenders for the Academy’s Best Picture Best Animated Feature nomination.

On the flip side, Space Chimps is probably doing better than it should with $26 million already collected. Fly Me To The Moon and The Clone Wars are opening this Friday. We’ve got Igor (MGM), Bolt (Disney), Madagascar 2 (Dreamworks), A Tale of Desperaux (Universal) and Waltz With Bashir (Sony Classics) waiting in the wings for this fall.


  • http://portapuppets.does.it uncle wayne

    Thank you!! I love “keeping score!” I know I will be [heavily]crucified for this….but comparing the 2 is like watching an episode of “Edge of Night” vs. “I Love Lucy!”

  • http://www.nicholastam.ca Nicholas Tam

    Jerry, you’ve made your admiration for Kung Fu Panda clear… but as far as strong contenders go, do you mean that Best Picture? I’m sure they are both locks for Animated Feature, but when Oscar voters have ignored animated films for the biggest prize year after year (except for Beauty and the Beast) and demonstrated a consistent amnesia for almost everything released prior to November, I’m not placing any bets. Wall•E has a more credible shot, I think, but it didn’t happen with Finding Nemo or Ratatouille in relatively weak years for film, and I’m not convinced it will happen now. There’s a great deal of press momentum required to carry a film over that long, and with The Dark Knight replacing Wall•E as the big story this year, it’s not looking good. Fingers crossed, of course.

    Then again, this year’s release schedule is especially bleak.

  • Oliver

    ‘Kung Fu Panda’ has about as much chance of winning Best Picture (as opposed to Best Animated Feature) as Osama bin Laden has of winning Miss America.

    Funny, isn’t it, how the ‘elitist, didactic’ Pixar picture took exactly as much as Dreamworks’ purely populist effort?

  • BrewSick

    You left out Veggie Tales: The Pirates Who Don’t Know Anything, Fox/Blue Sky’s blockbuster Horton Hears a Who! LAIKA’s Coraline as well as Chicago 10 and Bill Plympton’s Idiots and Angels. Sheesh…do your homework!

  • http://dailygrail.com/blog/8389 red pill junkie

    I enjoyed both movies. I laughed more with KFP, but Wall*E’s story was more interesting, both intelectually and emotionally.

  • http://www.cartoonresearch.com Jerry Beck

    Oops! You guys are right… I meant The Academy’s BEST ANIMATED FEATURE nomination. I stand corrected.

  • http://www.cartoonresearch.com Jerry Beck

    Brewsick – Coraline is scheduled to open February 2009, no official word on an Academy qualifying 2008 release yet. I have no idea if Bill Plympton’s film will officially open this year. I didn’t leave out Veggie Tales or Horton… I was discussing the current (and future) animated features. Those films came and went – and have little chance at an Oscar. If you want to “do your homework”, check my regularly updated Animated Features page on Cartoon Research – there you’ll note two other under-the-rader anime features (Sword Of The Stranger and Bleach The Movie) that were also released this year. You forgot to mention those.

  • steven f

    The story of the year is definitely going to be Hornswiggle premiering on Nickelodeon in 2008. After that Dark Knight will only be a memory.

  • Undi J.

    Yes, Coraline is going to get a limited release for Academy consideration at the end of this year in New York and Los Angeles.

  • TheAnimator

    Katzenberg sold his soul to Hollywood finding the perfect formula of gaining as much star power as they can obtain. At times it doesn’t seem to matter the quality of the film as to who is in it, when it comes to winning awards. No disrespect to Jackie Chan but he barely spoke what was the point of him in Kung Fu Panda? In truth Dreamworks is for a quick thrill ride among with other studios. While Pixar is trying to broaden the horizons of animated film giving more meaning to their films.
    While having mixed feelings on Wall-E to begin with but I’d be upset to see it lose to a mediocre film. I can’t fully judge Kung Fu Panada for I’ve only seen clips. After the last few Dreamworks films they’ve begin to lose my interest. Sony Pictures last two films have been far more engaging and charming in my humble opinion.
    It’ll be interesting to see which film takes the award this year.

  • Martin

    I think you should mention KFP came out three weeks before, because the way you wrote it makes it feel like WALL-E and Panda are actually tied at the exact moment of release.

  • Jody Morgan

    Back to the books, BrewSick: it’s The Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything: A VeggieTales Movie.

    Assuming Wall•E and Kung Fu Panda are locks for Best Animated Feature nominations (a safe assumption, I think), that leaves one slot open for speculation. From what little I’ve seen at this point, I’d give the edge to Igor, but I wouldn’t count out Disney or Blue Sky yet. (And of course, Waltz with Bashir could be this year’s Persepolis.)

    Probably the more interesting question is which feature will win the Academy Award, Wall•E or Kung Fu Panda?

  • Chris Webb

    It bothers me that so many people who write about films nowadays choose to write about box office grosses, and “winners and losers” with regard to the box office. Critics Pauline Kael, Roger Ebert, and James Agee never did.

    In the long run, how much money a film makes has nothing to do with its quality. It really has nothing to do with anything. Marketing of films has just become another form of show business.

    I just wanted to provide the contrarian viewpoint – this focus on the box office is beneath the talents of most of these writers.

    I like what Jerry and Amid are doing with this site, but ask them to think twice before wasting their energies writing about grosses and marketing.

  • PorkyMills

    With the overwhelming success of The Dark Knight, the opportunity for making a change within the Academy this year will be whether a comic-book movie receives the honor of the Best Picture. Animated features will have to take a back seat once again, though from what I’ve seen of this years offerings – none were as good as Persepolis.

  • readersahoy

    Funny, isn’t it, how the “populist, much reviled” Dreamworks picture took exactly as much as Pixar’s purely incandescent effort?

  • elan

    >>It bothers me that so many people who write about films nowadays choose to write about box office grosses, and “winners and losers” with regard to the box office. Critics Pauline Kael, Roger Ebert, and James Agee never did.<<

    True. And, if you’re going to do that, look at how much the films cost as well. KFP was reportedly made for 50 mil less than Wall-e (180 vs 130)…and, internationally, is cleaning up (based on Box Office Mojo’s reports)

    And heck, look at Horton….85 million to make! Woah!

  • readersahoy

    This sentence:
    While having mixed feelings on Wall-E to begin with but I’d be upset to see it lose to a mediocre film.

    Immediately followed by this one:

    I can’t fully judge Kung Fu Panada for I’ve only seen clips.

    Just priceless. Kind of sums up the “Dreamworks vs. Pixar” silliness.

    There’s absolutely no reason the two films need to be compared, nor is one diminished or enhanced by the success or failure of the other.
    And no one worked on either of them to win awards, which might be the most important point to make.
    I thought what Jerry was noting was that there are two hit animated features in theaters this summer. The more the better. Or was I missing something?

  • Philip Street

    I’d like to echo Chris Webb’s point, with this qualification: Sometimes marketing or the lack of it (Iron Giant, anyone?) become serious issues, and box office grosses can create perceptions in the public and the industry that affect what animators do.

    Having said that, I wouldn’t want Cartoon Brew to become Daily Variety. Business news has become pervasive in our time, and, I believe, has distorted our sense of what is truly important.

  • Bobby D.

    TheAnimator says: >While having mixed feelings on Wall-E to begin with but I’d be upset to see it lose to a mediocre film. I can’t fully judge Kung Fu Panada for I’ve only seen clips.<

    With all due respect, how can someone enter a debate like this, have an opinion, while not having seen the film they’re calling “mediocre”. My 80 year old dad does this…”ah, it’s a lousy film, I saw the commercial”!

  • Carlos

    At least Space Chimps is being rightfully ignored. While Wall*e will probably get the award, I applaud KFP for actually providing competition. I will say KFP was way more fun, but Wall*e wins on the sophistication side.

  • Bryan T.

    If Kung Fu Panda somehow won I think there would be more anger at my Oscar party than when Crash won best picture. I know I’ve seen a lot of people tear Wall-E apart on here (I don’t get that at all) but pretty much everyone I know considers it a masterpiece. I even have a non-animation buff friend who saw it 3 times in 2 days. And it’s one of the few movies where I can sort of understand doing that.

    Kung Fu Panda is better than previous Dreamworks movies I’ve seen but it’s not anywhere near the category of Wall-E for emotional resonance, originality or just plain beauty.

    Of the other ones mentioned, I can’t wait for Coraline.

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda(although I was rather suprised there was no
    romance between Po and Tigress),I haven’t seen Wall-E yet (it doesn’t open here in Australia until September) but I know its good.
    I have high hopes for Bolt,which I think will be a box office hit and another nominee for Best Animated Feature Oscar. I liked Madagascar 1,so I’m definetly looking forward to seeing Escape 2 Africa. I’m also interested in seeing Hayao Miyazaki’s Ponyo and Henry Selick’s Coraline.

  • http://hoyvinglavin64 rubi-kun

    Nicholas Tam>2007 wasn’t that weak. I haven’t seen Atonement, but all the other Best Picture nominees that year I liked as good or better than Ratatouille, not to mention some real snubs (Sweeney Todd, I’m Not There, PERSEPOLIS).

    Dark Knight may take over Wall-E’s buzz for now but there’s no reason we can’t see two offbeat choices for Best Picture. Remember, the year Beauty and the Beast was nominated was also the year Silence of the Lambs won.

    Having seen both, I don’t get the praise for Kung Fu Panda whatsoever. Beautiful but dull and not that funny. Wall-E=possibly the greatest movie I ever saw

  • http://www.animationinsider.net/ Aaron H. Bynum

    BOLT will gross rather well, and we shouldn’t overlook that. Since the distributor of the next Harry Potter movie pushed back their movie, only yesterday, Disney moved back the release date of BOLT to Thanksgiving Day Weekend…

    BOLT should have decent numbers domestically. And while obviously, the numbers don’t always correlate to the feature presentation’s overall quality, we cannot assume that it doesn’t correlate to an increased Academy awareness for said project.

  • Baron Lego

    How on Earth did Space Chimps make 26 million!? Kids are dumb.

  • Jason

    I read “Coraline” the book, and didn’t care for it. Hopefully the movie will be better. As for the Dreamworks/Pixar debate, come on, Pixar is iconic. Dreamworks is an also-ran. However, I have to admit I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda more than Wall*E. I’ve actually seen KFP more than once; not so Wall*E. Frankly, I didn’t go ga-ga over Pixar’s Ratatouille either, and its Cars bored me silly. I think Pixar’s in danger of getting a little too boutique-y, and perhaps needs to refocuse itself on creating good enjoyable movies. “Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em laugh, don’t you know all the world needs to laugh”…

  • Peter

    It’s kinda hard to say this without using other currently released points of comparison, but I’ve just been surprised how Wall-E has not become one of those ‘biggest movie of the summer’ phenomena.

    The early teasers seemed to catch on in the populist conscience like a next-generation E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. There seemed to be a lot of public goodwill generated far in advance, enough so that it seems odd it hasn’t made this one of Pixar’s hugest hits.

    I have no problem of course with movies like The Dark Knight making more money, but unlike such examples, Wall-E is a movie for pretty much everyone. Its sheer box office potential was higher than everything else in the market.

  • acetate

    When I saw the box office totals you have there of roughly 215 million, I started thinking back a few years to Finding Nemo and other animated films…seems like they made more money 10 years ago than they do now. Why is that? Nemo did 330 million or so I believe. Shouldn’t the box office be increasing with ticket prices going up and so forth? Or are fewer people going out to see animated features these days?

  • Adam

    Honestly, I think Wall-e just had a few too many plot holes and dragging story in the 2nd/3rd act, that’s why it didnt just plain blow KFP out of the water.

    Was Wall-e the most appealing character in animated film history so far? Maybe. Probably. Best story? No, I really dont think so. I thought KFP’s story, though formulaic, was much more polished, rounded, and cohesive.

  • http://dailygrail.com/blog/8389 red pill junkie

    Maybe Wall*E wasn’t so succesful because American viewers don’t like to be patronized by a puppy-eyed robot? ;-)

    Ok, I’ll shut up now.

  • Peter

    “Shouldn’t the box office be increasing with ticket prices going up and so forth? Or are fewer people going out to see animated features these days?”

    In some cases, box office DOES go up … just look at the current Batman franchise … and no, this doesn’t mean fewer people are going to see animated features. It just means fewer people went to see Wall-E than went to see Finding Nemo.

    Which surprises me, if only because of Wall-E’s pre-hype. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel it quite lived up to it … The Incredibles was a better movie, maybe Ratatouille was too … but Wall-E was just one of those projects that had ‘box office gold’ written all over it, yet by this summer’s standards, even its sizeable haul puts it at silver at best.

  • TheAnimator

    For those who seemed to blow out my statements I wasn’t bashing Kung Fu Panada. I didn’t intend it that way, how can I if I’ve never seen the whole thing? I was merely commenting on Katzenberg and his formula for animated movies. My opinion of Dreamworks excludes Kung Fu Panada and is based on all their previous films in 3D. Personally I found their 2D films had more of an epic scale to them, then their latest movies. In the end the whole Pixar and Dreamworks while in the same market have two very different views on making a feature. Neither is right or wrong, all are just a matter of ones opinion.

  • http://zekeyspaceylizard.blogspot.com Zekey

    I thought both were excellent and saw both several times at the theater and enjoyed each screening.
    I want to be pretentious and hate one of them, but I just cant do it. Dont have the proper training, I suppose.

  • Keith Bryant

    I’ll take the fat panda over the incredibly dull, drawn out for seemingly hours Wall-E any day. Hell, I’ll take the Georgia Bigfoot over Wall-E. Even lying dead (assuming he’s not a hoax) in his freezer, he has more charm and charisma than Wall-E.

  • Ry

    Don’t you guys ever get tired of trying to compare the two companies? We all know what Pixar and Dreamworks do are different. I enjoy both for their differences, would you want DW to try and follow the Pixar mold? Aparently people like “The Animator” are so intelligent, they can’t enjoy an animated comedy. Seriously, get over yourself. We should all be happy that the animation industry is thriving, that both films are succeeding, and that artists and animators are being employed. Put your energy into animating instead of hating and maybe, just maybe, someday, you’ll actually get a job at one of these companies and gain a little respect for them. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy opinions and encourage debates when it comes to animation, but last time I checked, there was enough box to go around. Also, Wall-E gets best picture, duh.

  • Ry

    Correction: Best Animated Feature.

  • Iain Robbins

    So far in the year, “WALL-E” was, of course, spectacular, “Kung Fu Panda” was surprisingly good, “Horton Hears a Who” was pretty good, “Pirates Who Don’t Do Anything” was cute and funny, “Space Chimps” wasn’t that bad, and “Fly Me to the Moon” was crap.

    BTW, I’m expecting “WALL-E” to get a nom for Best Picture.

  • Christina S.

    Eh. Honestly, I REALLY tried to like Kung-fu Panda, but in the end it just didn’t do it for me. The story felt far too formulaic and bland, and there were some parts that I just couldn’t wrap my head around. Like how a duck can be the father of a panda, and how Po was able beat the villain with only three days of training. Ratatouille had a similar moral-of-the-story (“Always follow your dreams no matter who you are.”), but the difference is that Remy actually had talent, so it was far more believable that he could achieve his dream. With KFP, it just felt too much like a Deus Ex-Machina to me.

    And yes, I know, the story’s supposed to be pretty cheesy because most kung-fu movies have cheesy stories that only give a backdrop to awesome action sequences, but KFP just had too much frenetic camera shots in every scene for me to really appreciate the action sequences. I dunno, maybe I’m just really picky. :P

  • Susana

    I just read this today, and I was confused about the Best Picture crossed out and the italicized Best Animated Feature, haha. I thought it was some sort of insinuation or a side comment :PP

    anyways, I loved Monster’s Inc, Finding Nemo, and Ratatouille (and Cars and Toy Story 2), but I didn’t really like Wall-E! Ok, well I thought it was okay. I don’t know exactly why, though.
    I have yet to see Kung Fu Panda, but I heard it was funny & my sister liked it, so I want to see it soon!

  • Susana

    oh, and I second what Martin said, I think you said mention the release dates so we know which one came out first (but I’m not lazy, i looked it up, too :P)

    and about Persepolis, I thought the ideas and messages of the movie were good, but I thought it was kinda slow. I think I liked the graphic novels better.

  • Susana

    *”should,” not “said”

  • Peter

    “would you want DW to try and follow the Pixar mold?”

    Sure.

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    To Christina S; Don’t you think that Po’s Mother was a Panda? I admire Dreamworks putting interspieces’ romance in their animated
    movies (Donkey & Dragon in the Shrek movies,Stella the skunk & Tiger the cat in Over The Hedge). It’s quite obvious that Po’s Father fell in love with and married a female Panda,and Po is their offspring.
    Love DOES conquer all!

  • Wes

    I had a difficult time enjoying Wall-e because I thought he looked too much like Short Circuit. Wall-e and Eve were very bland characters. (I guess I think this because it was hard for me to relate to cold metal.) It’s sad, but the roach was more appealing than Wall-e. As for story, I enjoyed the first half of the movie, but found myself growing very tired of the almost purely pantomime story line. I was greatly relieved when humans were finally introduced to the story. I felt the humans were the saving grace of the movie.

    As for the other blockbuster, I really enjoyed KFP simply because Dreamworks knows how to entertain an audience. It was funny. Sure, the story was basic and predictable, but I laughed throughout the whole movie. And for me, that’s more important than making me empathize with a lonely trash compactor. But, it had many flaws too. The greatest being the absolute neglect of the all-star cast of kung fu warriors. They were so central to the trailers I was completely disappointed that their characters had little development.

    I think Wall-e is an Oscar favorite because of it’s drama and KFP’s fun, slapstick style movie just won’t be enough to sway voters.

  • Bobby D.

    You know, as time goes by and tons of CG films pile-up around us…”Chicken Little” is really not that bad…just watched it today for “work” purposes and it’s a lot of fun. (I know this is off topic, just didn’t know where to post it). Could it be the “It’s A Wonderful Life” of its era? Nah, but it’s worth a second look.

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    To Christina S; did you consider the idea that Po’s Mother was a Panda? Dreamworks likes putting inter-species relationships in their
    movies (Donkey & Dragon in the Shrek movies,Stella & Tiger in Over The Hedge). So its obvious that Po’s Father,a duck,married a panda,and Po was the result of this. Love does conquer all!

  • Adam

    It’s also possible that the Duck adopted Po (or fell in love with his mother, who already had Po). But is that really a sticking point? To me, wall-e had serious pacing problems in the 2nd/3rd act (how many times did we have to go back and forth to the captains bridge), and an anti-climactic, rushed ending. The villain was ambiguous and had no back story or motive. Also, I never bought the idea that the captain “suddenly” became interested in earth. I got it, but I never felt it. It was weak. Also, why did Wall-e go through such great lengths to get the humans back to earth (ie, almost getting crushed). His primary objective was to find Eve, not save the humans. I could go on and on, and I felt all of this while watching the movie. I think people just cant get past how Pixar “magically” gave life to a robot (um, thats what animators do. Technically ALL CG rigs are robots if you think about it. We can give life to socks if we want)

    Also, in KFP, Po WAS the dragon warrior, and was born to be so. He always knew deep down he was meant for greatness, but his real life got in the way. It was his secondary love for food that became the motivating force for him to become a kung fu master (ala, how easy it was for him to get the monkey’s cookies and he didnt even know it) C’mon, thats good stuff!

  • P.C. Unfunny

    After watching Kung Fu Panda, I will never, ever watch another Dreamworks animated movie again. Pixar seems to be going down hill too and they were the last realistic hope for feature animation this country. I only hope UP is going to be alot better.

  • Peter

    Weekend box office update (for Aug. 15-17), c/o BoxOfficeGuru.com:

    ***

    Disney and Pixar watched their latest hit toon WALL•E become the top-grossing animated film of the year. The lovable Earth-class robot took in an estimated $1.8M, off 41%, and lifted its total to $214.1M. That put it ahead of the $211.9M of Kung Fu Panda for the toon crown. Look for WALL•E to finish its run with $217-219M putting it ahead of the $206.4M of last summer’s Ratatouille, but behind the $244.1M of 2006′s Cars.

  • Ross W

    As a parent of 3 kids I am greatful that there are both these movies were very enjoyable, as I will probably have to watch them over and over again after they come out on DVD.

    And my Oscar predictions- They will both be nominated in the Best Animated Feature catagory along with a third random pick and Pixar will win again because the Academy loves Pixar. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it’s just… predictable. But they don’t love them enough to nominate them for Best Picture. At least not in a year when they will have nominate a movie based on a comic book. That would look too silly, and god forbid they nominate movies that are both critical and box office hits, because then people might actually watch they awards ceremony.

  • Peter

    Corporate legacies aside, I do feel Wall-E was a better movie than Kung Fu Panda, though I enjoyed them both.

  • Greg H

    “Was Wall-e the most appealing character in animated film history so far? Maybe. Probably.”

    Are you kidding me? Maybe my sarcasm meter is broken. Wall-E doesn’t even rank in the top 100 characters. Hello, Bugs Bunny? Mickey Mouse? The closest thing Wall-E comes to is Dopey from Snow White, and nobody calls Dopey the most appealing character in animated film history.

    Seriously.