Saturday, June 17, 2017

Moana

Ron Clements and John Musker have directed some of the greatest Disney movies of all time, including The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. They have also directed some of my personal favorites, Hercules and Treasure Planet. They have a great track record, and Moana is no different. After they finished The Princess and the Frog, they wanted to adapt Terry Pratchett’s Mort, but necessary film rights kept it from happening. To avoid this, they pitched three original ideas, one of which was a movie based around Polynesian culture. Musker had started reading about Polynesian history and the god Maui, and he thought it would make a great movie. Musker and Clements traveled to many different islands in the Pacific to learn as much as they could, with the plan that it would be a movie solely about Maui. After the initial trip, however, Clements pitched that it should instead focus on the daughter of a chief. They learned during their trip that Polynesians had stopped voyaging about three thousand years ago, then picked it back up again a thousand years later. No one is really sure why that is, so Clements and Musker saw this as a great story background and set it at the tail end of that non-voyaging era. The film itself took about five years to develop, partially due to re-writes. Clements and Musker recruited people from all over Oceania to consult on the film and make sure it was as accurate as possible and would not offend anyone from the film’s locale. Moana became the duo’s first CG movie, having only worked with traditional animation before. Disney stopped doing traditional animation after Winnie the Pooh and the water animation would have taken forever if done traditionally.

Moana’s story evolved over time to become what we know today. Originally focusing on Maui, it shifted to Moana. Moana originally had five or six brothers, with her being the youngest sibling and her dealing with issues of gender. While there is a rough animated sequence in the special features of the video release, this story-line was quickly abandoned, with the directors feeling the movie should be about Moana finding herself. Another draft of the story had Moana’s father as the one who wants to start voyaging again, but they eventually found that it cast a shadow over Moana, so instead they created Moana’s grandmother. Her grandmother would encourage her to voyage, while her father would try to keep Moana on the island at all costs. Another story idea focused on Moana going to rescue her father who was lost at sea. The only part of that idea that stayed was a small part of Moana’s father’s backstory involved having an incident at sea which caused him to ban voyaging. Production started in earnest and it wasn’t until 2015 (a year before it was supposed to be released) that the team realized there were major story problems. Don Hall and Chris Williams, who had just finished directing Big Hero 6, were brought in to help iron out the story at the late stage in development. Musker and and Clements were already working 12 hour days, 6 days a week, so the help was welcome. Luckily, production wrapped in time for the late 2016 release.

The entire cast of Moana is from somewhere in the Oceania, like Samoa, New Zealand, and Hawaii, except for current Disney mainstay, Alan Tudyk. Tudyk is from Texas. Close enough? With representation becoming more and more important in movies, it was a no-brainer for Disney to go after people who are actually from the locales they are representing. The filmmakers went through hundreds of auditions to find the perfect Moana, ultimately finding it in 14 yr old high school freshman, Auli’i Cravalho. Production had already modeled Moana’s character, so the fact that Cravalho looks like Moana was pure coincidence. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was an obvious choice for the cocky and seemingly selfish demi-god Maui. While he pulled off the character well, his singing sort of leaves something to be desired, but it’s not Russell Crowe levels in Les Miserables. The only other “stars” cast were Jermaine Clement as hoarder coconut crab, Tamatoa, and Alan Tudyk as Moana’s unwitting stowaway, Hei Hei. Yes, Disney paid Tudyk to just make a bunch of chicken noises. Genius, right?

Something that got people’s attention early in Moana’s development was the inclusion of Lin-Manuel Miranda for the film’s music. This was announced right in the middle of Hamilton-mania, so people legit freaked out, as they should have. Incidentally, Miranda was hired on before Hamilton became big, and instead was brought on for his work on In The Heights. Not everything was done by Miranda, as Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i were also brought on to round out Moana’s songs, with the score being done completely by Mancina. Songs in the movie range from English, to Samoan, to the little spoken Tokelauan. How Far I’ll Go is the movie’s “I Want” song, and clearly shows that the filmmakers were going for traditional music mixed with Broadway sensibilities. Songs that are completely in Samoan or Tokelauan were done by Foa’i with Miranda and Mancina doing most of the rest in conjunction. One song done completely by Miranda, Shiny, was inspired by a Flight of the Conchords tribute to David Bowie at the Aspen Comedy Festival in 2004 and Miranda listening to Bowie non-stop after the artist’s untimely death. How Far I’ll Go was nominated for Best Original Song at the Oscars, but ultimately lost to City of Stars from La La Land. If Miranda had won, he would have achieved an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) at the young age of 37. To put that in perspective, only 12 people have achieved this feat, and it took some of them over 40 years to do it. Miranda has won all the others in less than ten. What I’m trying to tell you is that Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius and everything he touches is gold. I’m fully on the Miranda hype train, so I’m admittedly a little biased. Getting back to the soundtrack, it’s very good. Good enough that I’ve listened to it at least 100 times and haven’t gotten completely sick of it. My son is obsessed with Moana and demands to listen to it everyday, and my wife and I usually don’t mind going along with it.

Moana was a smash success for Disney, and along with Zootopia, made 2016 a very good year for Disney in general. The film grossed $642 million against an estimated $150 million budget, marking the fourth straight Disney animated film that went over the $500 million mark. The movie was a hit with critics, garnering a 96% on rotten tomatoes. Critics were happy to see a powerful female lead and good story to back it up. The animation was also lauded along with the character development. This is a solid Disney musical, on par with the Disney Renaissance and is up there with Tangled for me in terms of newer Disney musicals. Disney has continued their trek to create a strong female character that isn’t defined by the men around her. As far as I’m concerned, this is the best they’ve done in that respect. Moana feels like a real person, not a caricature or a character without fault. Moana makes mistakes and she even gives up hope at one point. Moana is led to believe that Maui is the only one that can restore the heart to Te Fiti, but in the end she realizes that it is up to her to restore the heart and save her people. She cannot and should not depend on Maui for that. Maui is an integral part of saving the day, but if you think about it, there is a way that Moana could have achieved everything she needed to do without him. It would help that she knew how to sail, though. Moana serves as Maui’s redemption, allowing him to realize that he is more than just his hook. The Ocean (yes, it is a character in this film) chose Moana to not only to restore the heart, but to also save Maui. Also something that is refreshing is that Moana isn't the same as Ariel, who is trying to be somewhere else. Moana is going outside the reef to save her people. She leaves and doesn't badmouth where she came from. She loves her island, her people, and still wants to be their leader someday. Getting off the island had nothing to do with just getting away or just to disobey her father.


The movie is not without its faults. Pua, Moana’s pet pig, kind of gets the shaft in this movie. He’s in the very beginning and then disappears until the very end. It doesn’t hurt the movie that much, but it just makes it seem like the character is just around to sell toys. Hei Hei turns out to be integral to the plot, but a funny looking chicken will sell a lot less than a cute piglet. The second gripe I have with this movie is that sometimes the jokes fall flat. This has been a problem with Disney since the 2000’s, with a few movies escaping it, but most have a few moments that just make me cringe, and I can’t explain why. Maybe I’m just getting older, maybe I’m looking too hard at movies that some would consider are made for kids. I’m talking about any moment that took me out of the movie, including the “tweeting” joke and Moana eating the pork in front of Pua. They didn’t do it for me, that’s it. These are nitpicks in an otherwise excellent movie. If you’ve been out of Disney for a while and are wondering if the movies have gotten better since the 2000’s, yes they have. Disney has been on a roll since around 2008 or 2009, depending on who you ask. I’m sure it won’t last forever. Every animation company goes through some lulls and Disney is no different. Disney took a break for 2017 and will be returning in 2018 with Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2. This is followed by Frozen 2 in 2019 and Gigantic in 2020. If you’re keeping score, that’s two sequels in a row for a studio that has rarely done official sequels. Sure most of the Disney movies have a sequel, but they are released on video only and are not part of the canon. Before Ralph Breaks the Internet, Disney had only three sequels released in theaters as part of the canon: Rescuers Down Under, Fantasia 2000, and 2011’s Winnie the Pooh. This is a disappointing trend for Disney. Pixar has fully committed to doing sequels so it’s too late for them, but hopefully Disney realizes quickly that people want original material, not re-treads. I’m looking at you live-action remakes!

Zootopia

Co-director of Zootopia, Byron Howard, has been with Disney for quite some time. He first served as an inbetweener for the Pocahontas production, then animator for Mulan, before becoming supervising animator for the short John Henry, Lilo & Stitch, and Brother Bear. He then graduated to co-directing, working on Bolt and Tangled before working on Zootopia. He was pitching ideas for a new movie to John Lasseter, and three of them happened to be about anthropomorphic animals. The first was an adaption of The Three Musketeers, the second, a 60's themed story about a mad scientist cat that turned kids into animals, and a bounty hunter pug in space. None of those ideas worked out, but the animal theme was consistent. Howard wanted to create a movie in the same vein as Robin Hood. It's a story filled with animals, but the animals aren't living in the human world, its their own world. Lasseter encouraged him to make something that kind of combined the 60's theme from the mad scientist cat story with talking animals. Out of that, Howard pitched the story titled Savage Seas, a spy film centered around a rabbit named "Jack Savage" who was somewhat like James Bond. Jared Bush joined on to help write the story, and they tried to flesh out more of the details of the movie. They soon learned that the most interesting part of their proposed movie was the city that was filled with animals, and over time the 60's were dropped for present day, and the spy story was changed to a police procedural. Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps were created at this point, but both were cops from the get-go and Nick was the main character, not Judy. They had started work on that version of the story, but again, they changed it to reflect on Judy Hopps instead of Nick Wilde, as that would create a better dynamic. What we ended up with was a story about a bunny cop that has to solve a mystery with the help of a grifter fox.

The animators took a lot of care in creating a world that is populated by talking animals. Zootopia is laid out in different districts, for the most part, and contains areas that any animal would be comfortable in. Like all films with animals, animators traveled the world to get inspiration on how to properly animate the inhabitants of Zootopia. Zootopia itself was modeled after several different major cities, including New York City, Shanghai, Paris, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Brasilia, and Las Vegas. Animators had to create a whole new piece of software to create the fur for all the animals, as they hadn't had a CG film with animals since 2008's Bolt. The IT engineers created iGroom, which gave character designers precise control over the brushing, shaping and shading of fur and made it possible to create a variety of eccentric character styles for each animal.


The cast of Zootopia is headed by Ginnifer Goodwin as Judy Hopps, and Jason Bateman as Nick Wilde. They could not have cast this better. Bateman plays a smart aleck very well, and Goodwin plays Hopps well as a somewhat naive, yet determined, cop. The rest of the cast includes Idris Elba (he is in everything these days!) as Chief Bogo, Jenny Slate as Dawn Bellwether, Bonnie Hunt as Bonnie Hopps, JK Simmons as Leodore Lionheart (pssst...he's a lion), Octavia Spencer as Mrs. Otterton, Alan Tudyk as Duke Weaselton, and Shakira as Gazelle. There are two things I really like about the naming of characters in this movie. The first is that the missing otter, Mr. Otterton, is named Emmitt. If you happened to watch obscure Christmas specials from the 70's, you may recognize the name as an homage to Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas, a Jim Henson TV special from 1977. The second thing is Alan Tudyk's character being named Duke Weaselton, an obvious joke about another character Tudyk voiced in Frozen, the Duke of Weselton. 


Zootopia continues Disney Animation's recent domination, honestly putting Pixar to shame. Considering that John Lasseter runs both, I'm sure he's doing just fine. Financially, they are both doing great, but critically, I feel that Pixar hasn't put their best foot forward in quite a few years. Inside Out is their only certifiable hit critically, but it's a movie that is surrounded by sub-par sequels and a dinosaur movie nobody watched. Both Finding Dory and The Good Dinosaur were not even nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards. Zootopia has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and has been praised as an important movie in the Disney canon for its message (more on that later). Financially, the movie grossed $1.024 billion dollars against a $150 million budget. I'd say they made quite a bit of money. It is currently sitting at 5th for highest animated film gross (not adjusted for inflation) just below Finding Dory, Toy Story 3, Minions, and the mighty Frozen. Zootopia went on to win Best Animated Feature Film from the Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, the Annie Awards, and the Critic's Choice Awards. It was nominated at the BAFTA's but lost to Kubo and the Two Strings. 

While not a perfect allegory for how we are dealing with bigotry and prejudice in present day, Zootopia attempts to show what can happen when our fears get the better of us. In present day Zootopia, mammals all live in harmony, but it wasn't always this way. In the distant past, predators hunted and ate their prey, hearkening back to a more savage time for animal kind. Times have changed an all seem to live in peace, though it doesn't take much for a large amount of the population, animals that would traditionally be considered prey, to begin to fear predators again when they think they are going feral. Things get worse when it is incorrectly surmised that it is in the predator's DNA to be savage and violent, and therefore they could snap at any moment. It is only when Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde uncover a larger conspiracy that everyone realizes how silly they've been acting, including Judy herself. This film has humor, mystery, action, and some of the most nuanced characters to come out of Disney in a while. This is definitely a new Disney favorite of my family and I couldn't recommend it more. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Low-Output Animation Studios

There were a few studios that had only one, or very few movies and I didn’t want to write them all separate and have them be really short, so I just combined them into one post. Some of these studios are just starting out, some just couldn’t hack it, but for whatever reason, they haven’t produced much yet.


ToonBox Entertainment

Animation studio that got its start in 2008 and is headquartered in Toronto. The studio started out by doing TV shows, namely Bolts and Blip and The Beet Party. They have two movies under their belt currently and are working on one more. Their first, and most well known is The Nut Job. Boasting a cast including Will Arnett, Brendan Fraser, Maya Rudolph, and Liam Neeson, it focuses on woodland creatures trying to steal some nuts. If the premise sounds thin, critics thought so too. The film was panned by critics, but grossed a serviceable $120 million against a $42.8 million budget. A sequel, The Nut Job 2: Nutty by Nature will be out this August. Their second movie, Spark: A Space Tail, steals An American Tail’s pun and for that, this movie should be punished. Punished it was, making only $196,458 in theaters. Coming out just two months ago, it didn’t get a wide release and was not advertised, so that most likely doomed the movie from the start. Reviews were even worse than The Nut Job, so I guess the movie got its due. Unless Nut Job 2 ends up being a complete reversal from their fortunes, I don’t see ToonBox lasting very long.

Assemblage Entertainment

Assemblage, along with Splash Entertainment, released 2016’s Norm of the North. It’s Rob Schneider voicing a Polar Bear that goes to New York City. It has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. There is nothing else that needs to be said about this movie.

Tim Burton Productions

Again working with Disney, Tim Burton wrote, produced and directed Frankenweenie, the remake of his infamous live action short from the 80’s. The movie wasn’t released until 2012, but it had been planned since 2005. Burton took many of the animators from The Corpse Bride crew and used them for Frankenweenie, another stop-motion film. Burton was able to take a short story and add to the story without making it feel tacked on or making the plot seem too thin. The cast was rounded out by actors that had previously worked with Burton, including Martin Landau, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, and Martin Short. The film was critically praised, and it managed to make a little over twice its budget, which is probably all that Disney could have hoped for.

C.O.R.E. Digital Pictures

Talk about a poorly timed movie. The Wild came out in 2006, just one year after Dreamwork’s Madagascar came out. According to some, it had been in development longer, but corporate espionage kept The Wild from coming out soon enough. Nevertheless, The Wild was not a success the same way Madagascar was, even if they do have a lot of similarities. Critics mostly didn’t like The Wild, though some said it was much better than Madagascar. It barely made more than its budget, so it was clear that audiences didn’t need more than one movie about talking zoo animals in New York. Let’s all keep in mind that both movies are terrible, so it doesn’t really matter who came out first. This is another film that people hem and haw over it being part of the Disney canon, but if it wasn’t made by Disney, it ain’t canon!

Cartoon Network Studios

While Nickelodeon has made numerous movies over the years, Cartoon Network didn’t go for that as much. They have released two movies theatrically, and the second was only in a few theaters. The Powerpuff Girls Movie came out in 2002 and served as a prequel to the television series. The movie got decent reviews, but was a box office disappointment, only grossing $16 million against an $11 million budget. Regular Show: The Movie is basically a TV movie, but they decided to release it in a few theaters. There is no critical reception or box office gross available.

Jumbo Pictures

Doug, first shown on Nickelodeon, was later taken to ABC, which is owned by Disney. The Disney version of the show proved to be very popular, so a movie was made. Doug’s 1st (and last) Movie was created by Doug’s animation company, Jumbo Pictures. Jumbo was founded by Jim Jenkins and David Campbell in 1990 and went on to create Allegra’s Window, 101 Dalmatians: The Series, and PB & J Otter. Jumbo went defunct in 2001, with Jenkins creating a new studio, Cartoon Pizza. It was thanks to The Rugrats Movie's success that Disney decided to release Doug’s 1st Movie in theaters as opposed to direct-to-video. They lucked out with that, grossing almost $20 million against a $5 million budget. Like all movies meant to be TV episodes or straight to video, critics blasted it for being too much like the show and not its own thing, animation and story-wise. If you’re going to make a movie out of your TV show, give it a reason to exist!
Big Red Dog Productions

Clifford's Really Big Movie was based on the Clifford the Big Red Dog TV show which ran from 2000-2003, with the movie being released in 2004. Made by the same animation studio that did the TV show, the movie grossed $3.3 million and got so-so reviews from critics. It was like a long TV episode and nothing more.

Toon City

Toon City is the overseas studio that works on most of Disney’s TV shows. They, along with Disney Television Animation created the Teacher’s Pet movie. Not sure why this show of all of Disney’s shows was made into a movie. I remember watching a few episodes, and besides having Nathan Lane voice the main character, there wasn’t anything particularly special about it. The movie served as a series finale for the show, being released a year after the show ended in 2002. While the movie received mostly good reviews, it failed at the box office, not even matching its budget.

Fathom Studios

Delgo, released in 2008 and directed by Marc Adler, held a record only recently broken. More on that in a minute. Adler was convinced that he had a masterpiece on his hands. This wasn’t a stupid animated comedy like Shrek. This was a serious drama for kids that dealt with real issues. It just happened to not deal with humans at all, but humanoid aliens. Fathom had been working on this movie since 1999 and were convinced that their animation was going to be the new benchmark. Adler was sure that his movie would be even bigger than Shrek’s gross. This wasn’t a typical Hollywood animated film, instead being made by a small CG animation studio and distributed by an independent film studio. Though it took forever, they finally released the movie in December of 2008. People had much better things to watch around Christmas that year apparently, because Delgo broke the record for least amount of money made when playing in over 2,000 theaters. The average was two audience members per screening. Yeah, that’s really bad. The record would be broken four years later by The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure. Delgo, in the end, grossed somewhere between $600,000-$900,000. The movie’s budget was $40 million and they didn’t even make it to $1 million. Ouch. Reviews were scathing, ultimately sweeping this into the dustbin of history. Heck, if I didn’t remember seeing ads for this, I wouldn’t have included it.

Sparx Animation Studios

Igor is Sparx Animation and Exodus Film Group’s only animated feature. Sparx, a French animation studio, has mostly worked on TV shows, including taking over Star Wars: Rebels. Igor, like most animated movies, has an all-star cast, including Steve Buscemi, John Cusack,
Eddie Izzard, Jay Leno, Arsenio Hall, Molly Shannon, and Christian Slater. Producer Max Howard remembers being surprised that so many stars signed on, as they were just a small independant studio. They sent the script out to a bunch of actors and Steve Buscemi signed on almost immediately. After that, all the other spots filled up quickly. Unfortunately, the film didn’t do well when it was released in 2008, grossing just $30 million against a $25 million budget. Critical reception was also not great, thus burying any hope Sparx had for continuing in the movie business.


That is my animation studio series! I had a lot of fun researching all of these, and it just shows how many people out there are trying to make it in this business. We are currently super flooded with animation studios right now, and there are plenty more outside the U.S. I did hit on a few in Canada, Europe, and Australia, but wanted to keep it to ones that had releases in the U.S. That is one of the reasons that Studio Ghibli wasn’t part of the series. I may still do a write-up on those movies, but I’d like to watch all of them first. I’ve seen a good portion, but not enough to feel I can write about Studio Ghibli as a whole. Hope you liked the series and let me know if there’s something you would like me to write about!

DisneyToon Studios

While I may have covered the Disney canon, I haven’t talked about other movies that Disney has released outside of the canon that they’ve produced. Generally these are all released under DisneyToon Studios or Disney MovieToons. This division was started in 1988 as a way for Disney to make straight-to-video movies and movies that aren’t part of the Disney canon. Many times the theatrically released movies are based on Disney TV shows. Their first attempt was Ducktales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. Animation took place in Disney’s Paris studio, and Larry Ruppel ended up being the only American animator to work on the film. Ruppel had worked on Disney shorts and movies before Ducktales, but many of the European animators were working on an animated movie for the first time. Quite a few of them went on to work at big animation studios like Dreamworks, and Industrial Light & Magic. The film came out shortly before the end of the TV series, though didn’t act as a series finale. While the movie did make its budget back, it wasn’t as big of a success that Disney thought it would be, so they shelved the several other Ducktales movies they had in the pipeline. Critical reception was great, however, and it remains a much appreciated addition to the Ducktales universe.

Their second theatrically released movie would be 1995’s A Goofy Movie. The movie is partially based on the Goof Troop TV series, but makes a few changes. Max and P.J. are high school aged instead of middle school, Pete’s wife and daughter are missing as are both of the family’s pets. Disney sought to make Goofy a more three dimensional character, giving him emotions and having him deal with strife, as opposed to just having him create antics. While the movie didn’t get great reviews, it’s one of those that any kid from the 90’s will fondly remember and will defend until their dying breath. This is definitely one of my favorite non-canon Disney movies. The movie was also a minor hit for Disney, grossing $35.3 million.

DisneyToons has made three Winnie the Pooh movies, though two out of the three don’t even mention his name. The Tigger Movie was the first of the trio, being released in early 2000. Meant to be a direct-to-video release, Michael Eisner, upon hearing the Sherman Brother’s score for the film, decided to release it theatrically. Paul Winchell, the original voice of Tigger, was meant to voice the character for the film, but when he came in to record, the producers found his voice too raspy. He was replaced by Jim Cummings, who was already doing Winnie the Pooh’s voice for the film. Cummings had voiced Tigger previously in the final two seasons of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Disney Imagineers were devastated when they heard what the producers had done to Winchell, so they had him voice Tigger for the Winnie the Pooh ride at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom. Critics liked the movie just fine, and it made $96.2 million against a $15-30 million budget. It is currently the most successful of the Winnie the Pooh movies. Coming out three years later, Piglet’s Big Movie had a bigger budget than The Tigger Movie, but didn’t quite earn the same. Grossing $62.9 million against a $46 million budget, this wasn’t a hit for Disney. Reviews were about the same for this one as they were for The Tigger Movie. Two years later, Disney made their latest in the DisneyToon Winnie the Pooh movies (2011’s Winnie the Pooh is part of the Disney canon), Pooh’s Heffalump Movie. Disney learned their lesson, only spending $20 million to make this movie. Grossing $52.9 million, Disney made a little bit of money on this one. Critical reception for this was the best of the three, but not quite the caliber of 2011’s Winnie the Pooh.

The first Peter Pan movie theatrically released by DisneyToon was actually the sequel to the 1953 classic. Based on J.M. Barrie’s novel, Peter and Wendy, the film had been in development for years at Disney Animation Canada. That division was closed and the movie was shifted to Disney Animation Japan and Australia, then becoming a theatrical film instead of a straight-to-video. While critics were not impressed with the movie, it made Disney some money, grossing $109.9 million against a $20 million budget. It seems the movies that are originally meant to be straight-to-video have a much lower budget. Disney realized that no one really cared about most of the characters except for Tinkerbell, so they spun the character off for her own movies. Starting in 2008, Tinker Bell started with some straight-to-video movies, but by 2012 Disney pushed the button on making theatrical movies for this popular franchise, Disney Fairies. The three Disney Fairies movies were all released in a limited amount of theaters, which seems weird since the characters are marketed so well. All three, Secret of the Wings, The Pirate Fairy, and Legend of the NeverBeast, all made around $65 million and were moderate successes for Disney, but it seems with the limited release that these were meant to be just straight-to-video.

Disney’s other DisneyToon sequel to come out theatrically was 2003’s The Jungle Book 2. Why release Return to Neverland and Jungle Book 2 in theaters and not all the recent movie’s sequels? I have no idea. I’m sure there was a method to Michael Eisner’s madness. For whatever reason, they released Jungle Book 2 theatrically, and it didn’t do too bad commercially, grossing $135 million against a $20 million budget. Like most of the Disney sequels made by DisneyToon, however, it was trashed by critics. I’ll admit that the only Disney sequels outside of the canon that I have seen are the Lion King and Aladdin sequels.

Disney/Pixar knew with Cars that they had a winning franchise. That’s why they decided to start the second set of Pixar sequels with Cars 2. While Cars 2 was a burning dumpster fire, Disney/Pixar made a lot of money off of it, so they decided the next best thing to another Cars movie, as a movie in the same universe based around planes. The two Planes movies, Planes and Planes: Fire & Rescue were not made with Pixar, but were co-written and executive produced by Pixar boss, John Lasseter. Lasseter also directed both Cars movies. Like most of the theatrically released DisneyToon movies, they initially wanted to release it straight to video, but decided they could make a lot more money this way. Both Planes films did not do well critically, with Fire & Rescue performing a little better. Disney was smart to release both theatrically, as the first grossed $239 million against a $50 million budget and the second grossed $151 million against a $50 million budget. Disney also sold a whole bunch of merch. I like John Lasseter a lot, but I can’t tell if he genuinely likes making these movies, or if he just knows that Disney/Pixar will make tons off of them.

DisneyToon continues to crank out movies, though they have slowed down as of late. There is a planned second sequel to Planes and I can’t imagine that they are done with Disney Fairies. Since 2008, the studio has ceased making anything besides Tinkerbell and Planes movies, so we’ll see if they go back to making sequels to all their movies or not. It’s going to thin out in that department, I believe, since Disney is actively allowing their main studio to make sequels, like Wreck-It-Ralph, or Frozen. It pains me to see all these sequels, but they apparently make money, so that’s where Disney is at right now.