Universal Pictures, the parent company of Dreamworks Animation, will launch Abominable in U.S. theaters tomorrow. The $75 million film is Dreamworks’ first collaboration with China’s Pearl Studio.

Analysts are projecting a no. 1 domestic opening weekend of $17–$20 million, which though low for a Dreamworks title, would still be the biggest opening for an original animated feature in the U.S. this year. The current high opening for original animation is Paramount’s Wonder Park, which launched with $15.8 million last March.

Ahead of the release, Universal is spending big money to promote it. In the week running September 16–22, the cg family feature topped ad spending across tv networks in the U.S., with a spend of $5.97 million. Ads for the film were aired 1,543 times, garnering 376,152,023 impressions; Dreamworks prioritized spending on Fox, Nick, and NBC. The data comes from iSpot.tv, a tv ad measurement and attribution company, in partnership with Variety.

Abominable outspent the likes of The Addams Family ($4.19 million) and Ad Astra ($4.09 million). Significantly, though, Abominable’s ads registered the worst attention index in the top five, meaning that they were most often interrupted by viewers.

Echoing recent releases like Warner Animation’s Smallfoot and Laika’s Missing Link, Abominable tells the story of a yeti displaced from his habitat. When young Yi finds the creature on the roof of her Shanghai home, she names him Everest and resolves to reunite him with his family in the Himalayas. Cue an epic journey across China.

The film is a U.S./China co-production between Dreamworks and Pearl Studio, which started life as Oriental Dreamworks. In 2018, China’s CMC Capital Partners took full ownership of the studio, and relaunched it. Abominable is its first feature; it is working with an array of partners on forthcoming films, such as Glen Keane’s feature directorial debut Over the Moon, which is being produced for Netflix and animated at Sony Pictures Imageworks.

Last year, Pearl’s chief creative officer Peilin Chou told Cartoon Brew that Abominable marks “the first time a major global animated film will be set in modern-day China, and will feature modern-day Chinese teenagers.” This reflects the studio’s general pitch: it is positioning itself as a prestige production company with a special insight into the Chinese market, where animation is enjoying something of a boom.

Jill Culton, who previously co-directed Sony Picture Animation’s Open Season, is the writer and director behind Abominable, with Todd Wilderman (head of story on Dreamworks’s Home) serving as co-director. The producers are Suzanne Buirgy (Kung Fu Panda 2, Home) for Dreamworks, and Chou on behalf of Pearl Studio. Tim Johnson, Frank Zhu, and Li Ruigang are executive producing.

Reviews so far have been broadly positive, netting the film an 78% critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes. Here are some takes:

Kate Erbland at Indiewire gave the film a B- score:

Told in vivid colors and a great respect for the awe-inspiring power of big, floating things (lights and flowers and even a lovely interpretation of music itself), the timeline mechanics and real-world implications of their map-spanning adventure fade away in the face of such a charming story. Culton’s script slips in plenty of laughs.… The film’s many action sequences are zippy and well-constructed.

Over at The Hollywood Reporter, Jordan Mintzer identified one of the film’s main selling points:

[I]t’s a little too treacly and childish in places, with a storyline that goes exactly where you expect. But those drawbacks are somewhat compensated for by a series of arresting set-pieces, each one taking us to a spectacular Far East location not yet visited by this kind of high-powered Hollywood cartoon.

Variety’s Amy Nicholson was a little less enthusiastic:

The journey is wondrous for the characters, less compelling for the audience, who take several mental detours when the film calls back other kids’ movies people would probably rather be watching, including a scene with giant blueberries straight out of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

Peter Travers in Rolling Stone found things to appreciate, but felt that the film didn’t live up to its full potential:

The first major co-production between DreamWorks and China’s Pearl Studio, Abominable — a warm and fuzzy animated guide book they could have titled How to Train Your Yeti — is good family fun as far it goes. It also could have gone further. The Chinese setting and characters are welcome and beautifully rendered, as is the film’s human protagonist, Yi (scrappily voiced by Chloe Bennett), a teen girl who’s been hit hard by the death of her father.… It’s not a total write-off: There’s a moment of surpassing loveliness when Yi plays her violin at the Leshan Giant Buddha in Sichuan. And you’ll laugh at the scenes with the whopping snakes and feel a touch of magic when Everest uses his vocal rumble to create visual wonders. Sadly, Abominable fails to carve out its own place in a crowded field. The movie huffs and puffs, but there’s no fear of any houses being blown down.

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