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 undoubtedly true.
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.