The words ‘Pixar’ and ‘flop’ are two words that have rarely
been seen in the same sentence, unless of course it was discussing how the
studio managed to go decades without creating one. That’s all changed however,
as The Good Dinosaur limps towards the end of its release without recouping its
estimated $350 million cost. Such an unprecedented failure usually gives a
studio a black eye, but Pixar seems to be happy to dodge the punch by letting
the film quietly fade out of the public’s view.
The Good Dinosaur never seemed to get off on the right foot.
Despite an experienced team behind it, and a talented director in Bob Peterson,
the film struggled on its way through production. So much so that Peterson was
eventually removed from the project and replaced by another talented director,
Pete Sohn. After a year’s delay, the film was finally released to
overwhelmingly middling reviews from both critics and audiences alike despite
high praise for the hyper-realistic scenery.
The other Pixar film from last year, Inside Out, blew
everyone away with its sheer originality and emotional themes and quickly
became a favorite. It is currently sweeping all awards before it and is well
on it’s way to the status of a classic film.
After that film’s initial release, attention turned to The
Good Dinosaur. Despite similar levels of anticipation, the film was released at
Thanksgiving and failed to secure the number 1 slot at the box office that
weekend despite The Hunger Games being in its second week. That proved to be an
ominous sign of things to come as its second week saw the take drop over 60%; a
new low for the studio. Critic’s reviews didn’t help matters either;
alternating between faint praise and benign apathy with many lamenting how
derivative the film is, even in a general sense. Audiences seemed to take the
hint both at home and abroad.
The arrival of the film that would become Pixar’s first flop
in a critical and commercial sense has been anticipated in some quarters for
years. Numerous films have been presumed to be the one which would be donned
with the dubious accolade, but every single one proved the pessimists wrong.
That is, until Cars demonstrated that Pixar could put out a film that had a
less than perfect sheen. Even then, audiences lapped it up, and that film went
on to launch a multi-billion dollar line of merchandise. More sequels were to
follow, and even Cars 2 with its dismal reviews by critics failed to convince
audiences that their money was better spent elsewhere.
The Good Dinosaur is Pixar’s first bone fide flop
with both critics and audiences alike and one would think that after years of
anticipation, the knives would be out in force with all the naysayers crowing
about how they knew it was bound to happen. That hasn’t been the case at all
though. There have been a few rumblings in the press and on the internet, but
nothing approaching the torrent of commentary that always seems to accompany,
say, a DreamWorks film.
There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, The Good Dinosaur
isn’t the more sensational kind of box office ‘bomb’; where a film doesn’t come
even close to making its money back. The Good Dinosaur will lose money, but the
amount will be measured in percentage terms, not career-ending hyperbole. That
doesn’t make for great attention-grabbing headlines.
Secondly, Inside Out is overshadowing it completely in just
about every way. It’s the one Pixar film that people recall from 2015, and the
one that clearly made the biggest impact. The Good Dinosaur simply doesn’t
factor in people’s recollection and now that awards season is underway, that’s
Naturally, all of this suits Disney and Pixar down to a T.
Talk of their first flop would certainly create plenty of probing questions
that they would rather not answer, and would also seriously weaken the
perception that Pixar’s creative regime is incapable of producing a flop. Yet
for every film they so publicly send back for retooling, they seem to let one
slip through the net.
The Good Dinsosaur also disproves many theories and opinions
that people have about Pixar. Its continued existence doesn’t bode well for the
studio, but what better way to minimize its effects than to simply sweep it
under the rug? Disney/Pixar can confidently continue to give the film the usual
home media release and upbeat spin, but they don’t have to trumpet them like
they usually do.
In an age where fame is infinitely fleeting, attention spans
are just as short, and where there are new animated films being released
year-round, The Good Dinosaur can (and will) be left to fade into the
background as if it never existed. Oh it will still exist of course, it won’t
be locked away like Song of the South, but don’t expect a sequel, or even an
entry in any official history that’s as long as the other films. Such a fate
has practically befallen A Bug’s Life, which seems to remain in the public
consciousness only because it was the film that immediately followed Toy Story.
All in all, it’s a shame, because studios shouldn’t be
afraid to own up to their mistakes. Pixar will do some internal soul-searching
to find out what went wrong, but by doing so behind the scenes, they won’t
repair the cracks in their previously faultless facade.