A totally different kind of COVID test arrives in theaters March 5 with the release of Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon. It’s the latest traditionally animated feature from the Mouse Factory and it hits multiplexes and Disney+ on the same day. The fantasy adventure is co-directed by Don Hall (who made Big Hero 6 for the studio) and Carlos Lopez Estrada (maker of the decidedly non Disney pic Blindspotting). The predominately Asian-American voice cast includes Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh, Benedict Wong, and Alan Tudyk.
Raya marks the highest profile release of 2021 thus far on the big screen. The question is whether family audiences will mostly opt to shell out thirty bucks to watch it on the tube. All things considered – that’s probably less money than a night out for a clan of four to view it. And the Disney+ model is already familiar to subscribers with recent products such as Mulan and Soul.
In these uncertain pandemic days, it is difficult to find any real comps for opening weekend estimates. The Croods: A New Age debuted over Thanksgiving weekend and took in a better than anticipated $14 million over the five-day frame with nearly $10 million of it from the traditional Friday to Sunday portion. Yet that’s not exactly a reliable comp as Croods was a sequel to a well known property out during a holiday period. Still… this is Disney…
As I’ve said repeatedly with any box office guesstimates for nearly a year, we are in unpredictable territory. However, I’ll say Raya makes between $7-$11 million and I’ll go a bit on the low end of that range.
Raya and the Last Dragon opening weekend prediction: $8.4 million
Seven and a half years after DreamWorks Animation had a prehistoric animated comedic hit on their hands with the original, The Croods: A New Age hits theaters this Wednesday. It will surely be a different box office story in these COVID times as part 2 will follow with its PVOD unveiling in time for Christmas. The toon is directed by Joel Crawford and returns the vocal stylings of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, and Cloris Leachman. New faces behind the mics include Peter Dinklage, Leslie Mann, and Kelly Marie Tran.
The review embargo ended today and the results are mostly positive with a 75% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s in line with the 72% achieved by its predecessor. In 2013, part 1 managed a Best Animated Feature nod. It was defeated by a massive Pixar front runner by the name of Frozen.
2020 could see history repeat itself with the caveman family. One could argue that it’s easier to slide into the final five this year and A New Age looks to do so. Yet there is once again a heavy favorite to win the prize and that is Soul from (you guessed it) Pixar. Other acclaimed titles such as Wolfwalkers and Over the Moon appear to be likely nominees and Pixar has another hopeful with Onward (though after the snub of Frozen II from last year, it’s not a guarantee that one makes it in).
Croods could easily fill the fourth or fifth slot come nomination time, but I wouldn’t chisel its inclusion in pen just yet. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Disney/Pixar’s second 2020 release Soul has long been seen as their most viable Oscar contender over this spring’s Onward. Today’s buzz after it held the first screening at the London Film Festival confirms that. The jazz infused tale from Pete Docter and Kemp Powers is being called two familiar adjectives in the studio’s lexicon – heartfelt and crowd pleasing. Soul, after experiencing delays due to the COVID pandemic, is slated for a Disney+ debut on Christmas Day.
Featuring the voices of Jamie Foxx, Tina Fey, Questlove, Phylicia Rashad, Daveed Diggs, and Angela Bassett, several reviews are already claiming it’s in the upper echelon of Pixar pics. Docter is no stranger to Academy love. All three of his directorial efforts – Monsters Inc., Up, Inside Out – were nominated for Best Animated Feature. The latter two emerged victorious and Up is one of three animated flicks to achieve a Best Picture nomination.
The question is not whether Soul will make the final cut in Animated Feature. It absolutely will and it’s absolutely the strong front runner to win. A better debate is whether this is the fourth animated effort to contend for the big prize. I don’t believe that’s automatic. Inside Out also garnered sterling critical reaction in 2015 and fell short of that achievement. However, Soul has solidified its position as a legit hopeful.
Additionally, expect Best Sound and the Original Score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross to be in the mix. Bottom line: Soul helped it cause to play beyond Animated Feature. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Glen Keane is a bit of a Disney legend having served as a character animator for classic titles including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Aladdin. He’s also no stranger to Academy attention. Three years ago, he won an Oscar alongside collaborator Kobe Bryant for the short film Dear Basketball. On October 23, Netflix debuts his feature length directorial debut Over the Moon. The computer drawn musical features the voices of Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong, John Cho, and Sandra Oh.
Early reviews are pretty encouraging. That said, Keane’s most notable competition comes from his former employer. Disney/Pixar’s Soul (which just announced a Disney+ streaming bow on Christmas Day) is rumored to be special and it’s been the strong front runner for Animated Feature for some time. That hasn’t changed and the real question is what’s the current runner-up.
Over the Moon could be it, but I’m beginning to believe Wolfwalkers might be in second position based on its fantastic critical reaction. Bottom line: expect Moon to be in the final five for animated fare. A win is far less likely. Also look for its Original Song titled “Rocket to the Moon” to get some attention in that category. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Disney/Pixar isn’t the only entity with a sterling track record in the Best Animated Feature race at the Oscars. Irish outlet Cartoon Saloon has seen all three of their features nominated in the category. In all these instances, their product lost to a film with Disney and Pixar stamped on the credits.
Saloon’s fourth title is the environmentally conscious adventure Wolfwalkers, which screened at the Toronto Film Festival over the weekend. It is Saloon’s third collaboration with filmmaker Tomm Moore (who co-directs alongside Ross Stewart). His 2009 effort The Secret of Kelis scored a nod and lost to Up. Follow-up Song of the Sea fell short to Big Hero 6. The studio’s third feature – 2017’s The Breadwinner – made the final five with Coco emerging as the victor.
Early reviews from Toronto indicate that Wolfwalkers is another winner and it seems bound for nomination #4 for the Saloon. The pic is slated for stateside distribution later this year via Apple TV. Yet Pixar awaits with the impending release of Soul, which is currently seen as the favorite to take the gold.
Bottom line: Cartoon Saloon should make it 4 for 4 in Best Animated Feature. Beating the Mouse Factory looks to be its ongoing challenge. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Well… it feels a little strange to be back doing an Oscar Watch post, but here we are! The coronavirus pandemic has changed our lives during this time and that certainly has impacted the release of films as movie theaters are shut down.
Studios have had to be creative lately and the animated sequel Trolls World Tour became available for digital distribution today in lieu of a theatrical bow. The DreamWorks Animation flick is a follow-up to the hit 2016 musical and features the voice work of Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, James Corden, and Ozzy Osbourne.
Four years back, the original Trolls broke through with audiences and most critics with a 76% Rotten Tomatoes score. Part 2 is a notch below that with a still solid 71%. That said, the predecessor failed to nab a Best Animated Feature nomination and I wouldn’t expect this to grab one either.
Of course, there is the genuine question of shifting release dates with various titles already pushed to 2021. That could potentially increase the chance for a nomination, but I wouldn’t count on it.
In 2016, Trolls did achieve one nomination. That was for Justin Timberlake’s hit song “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”. It lost to “City of Stars” from La La Land. Mr. Timberlake has teamed with SZA for “The Other Side” and that seems to be the track that DreamWorks might campaign for an Original Song nod. However, “Side” has currently peaked at 17 on the Billboard Top 40. Its road to a nomination is certainly less assured than the massive “Feeling!”.
The 22nd Pixar pic in the past quarter century debuts next weekend with Onward. The fantasy flick comes from director Dan Scanlon, who also made the sequel Monsters University in 2013. Tom Holland and Chris Pratt lead a voice cast that includes Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Octavia Spencer, Ali Wong, Lena Waithe, Mel Rodriguez, Wilmer Valderrama, Tracey Ullman, Dave Foley, and John Ratzenberger.
Per usual for Pixar, reviews are strong with a current 85% Rotten Tomatoes score. Some critics have said this isn’t quite in the league of their classics. Interestingly, this is the first selection from the studio not to open in either summer or fall (with the vast majority having premiered in June or November).
That could have the effect of making Onward not seem like the event debut that most Pixar offerings are. There is also some family competition from holdovers Sonic the Hedgehog and The Call of the Wild. Still, Disney knows how to market their product. Only three of the Pixar titles that had wide releases have made under $50 million out of the gate. I expect this will top that, but $60 million could be a slight reach. I’ll say mid 50s is the likely scenario – on par with non-Pixar Mouse Factory pictures such as Big Hero 6 and Ralph Breaks the Internet.
Pixar Studios is booking box office real estate early in 2020 with the release of next weekend’s Onward, which had its premiere at the Berlin Film Festival. The animated adventure follows two elf brothers voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. Early reviews have been mostly positive with a current Rotten Tomatoes score of 81%.
That said, many critics are saying that it’s not in the same league as other Pixar classics. And several of them have managed to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. So where will Onward stack up?
Since the inception of the category in 2001, Pixar has seen 13 of its 18 titles nominated for the award. 10 have emerged victorious, including Toy Story 4 two weeks ago. There have been two years where the studio has put out more than one feature. In 2015, Inside Out took the Oscar while The Good Dinosaur went without a nomination. The same happened in 2017 with Coco winning and Cars 3 missing a nod.
I say this because 2020 will also see a double release with Onward next weekend and Soul in June. It’s certainly possible that Pixar will save its awards campaigning for the latter instead. However, reviews for the former are decent enough that it could nab a slot among the five (depending on competition over the next ten months). Also worth mentioning is that Dan Scanlon, who directs here, made one of the other titles to go without a nomination with 2013’s Monsters University. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…
Opening on Christmas Day, Will Smith and Tom Holland lend their vocal stylings to the animated comedy Spies in Disguise. The pic comes from Blue Sky Studios, who have successfully distributed the Ice Age and Rio franchises. Nick Bruno and Troy Quane make their directorial debuts and supporting mic work comes from Rashida Jones, Ben Mendelsohn, Reba McEntire, Rachel Brosnahan, Karen Gillan, and DJ KHALED!!! (I think I’m contractually obliged to type his name in caps with exclamation points).
Blue Sky’s previous effort was two years ago and it also opened over the holiday season. Ferdinand dared to debut directly against Star Wars: The Last Jedi and managed a $13.4 million opening (lower than the studio is accustomed to). In 2019, competition for Spies is equally fierce. The Rise of Skywalker will be in its second weekend while Jumanji: The Next Level should still be raking in cash in its third frame.
The star power should help a bit and so should the fact that there’s plenty of money to be spent by family audiences over its five-day release. I’ll say a gross in the low to mid teens for Friday to Sunday and that should be matched by a roughly equal amount on Wednesday and Thursday.
Spies in Disguise opening weekend prediction: $13.6 million (Friday to Sunday); $27.4 million (Wednesday to Sunday)
In December of last year, the non Disney/Pixar animated hit Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse swooped in at the last minute to critical acclaim and took away Best Animated Feature from frontrunner Incredibles 2.
So it’s at least worth keeping an eye on Spies in Disguise, the comedic kiddie flick from Blue Sky Studios. Could another last minute entry pop up and steal the thunder from another Pixar sequel, Toy Story 4?
Short answer: nope. While the Will Smith and Tom Holland voice led pic has garnered some decent reviews (79% on Rotten Tomatoes), I don’t even feel it’s enough to compete with other likely nominees including Frozen II, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, and Missing Link. For that matter, I’d rank it behind potential contenders that I’m not projecting for the final five like Abominable and Klaus.
This marks Blue Sky’s 13th full-length feature. Only two (2002’s Ice Age and 2017’s Ferdinand) have gotten the attention of Academy voters. Don’t expect this to be the third. My Oscar Watch posts will continue…