Pixar’s ‘Elemental’ Likely Won’t Fix Disney’s Animation Problem

(Photo Credit: Seif Ak/Unsplash)
(Photo Credit: Seif Ak/Unsplash)

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The Magic Kingdom has an animation problem that can’t be solved by another Buzz Lightyear sequel.

As it faces competition from more innovative studios, Disney is losing its grip on animation, and it looks like its latest Pixar project Elemental, a Romeo and Juliet-esque story between sentient water and fire creatures, isn’t going to make a big splash among audiences.

No Longer a Hit Factory

From the 1990s to the early 2010s, Pixar was Disney’s crown jewel, consistently delivering gut-wrenching and visually stunning films enjoyed by all. But after one too many unnecessary sequels, lame cash grab spinoff series on Disney+, and animation that while smooth as heck refuses to try something new, Pixar has been on a long stretch of mediocrity. The Wrap reported that Elemental is on track to make below $40 million in its opening weekend, one of the lowest in Pixar history.

And that’s not because people aren’t going to the movies. Universal/Illuminations’ The Super Mario Bros. Movie earned more than $1.3 billion at the box office, and Sony’s Across the Spider-Verse, whose visual language feels like a rollercoaster ride through various eras of comic book art styles, has already raked in $405 million in just two weeks. Compare that to Disney and Pixar’s latest animated offerings — Strange World and Lightyear — which made roughly $300 million combined. Disney was founded on quality animation and storytelling, but when that fundamental element is neglected, issues can be found throughout the rest of the company:

  • The recently released The Little Mermaid live-action remake is likely to top out at around a $500 million worldwide box office haul, well below the $1 billion mark crossed by other recent remakes like The Lion King, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast. Meanwhile, Disney’s Marvel slate has proven less potent so far this year than usual, and the company just announced a series of major delays in its release schedule for Marvel, Star Wars, and Avatar sequels.
  • Worse, Disney reported that Disney+ lost 4 million subscribers in Q2, following a 2.4 million dip in Q1. And while Disney World’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando topped the list as the world’s most-visited theme park in 2022 with 17.13 million visitors, it’s still down from 2019’s 20.96 million.

A Whole New Expensive World: For superfans, the ultimate Disney experience just got a little more expensive. The “Adventures by Disney” travel package offers 75 guests an all-inclusive, 24-day trip around the world visiting Disney theme parks and other sites like the Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramids, and the Eiffel Tower. It used to be $110,000, but as a returning Bob Iger looks to clean up Bob Chapek’s mess and cut costs, the price has been bumped up by another $5,000.