I have not seen Disney‘s Winnie the Pooh yet, so I can’t comment on the quality of the film itself. What I can comment on is the film’s performance on its opening weekend. And unfortunately, it doesn’t look good. According to Box Office Mojo, the silly old bear’s newest adventure grossed just under $8 million in its U.S. debut, putting the film in sixth place right behind Disney and Pixar‘s own Cars 2 in its fourth week of release.
Factoring in worldwide earnings and future DVD sales, Winnie the Pooh will probably make back its estimated $30 million cost. But this is not good news for fans who were hoping to see Disney revive the languishing American hand-drawn feature. Well before the movie came out, I told my husband that if Disney couldn’t get people to come and see a Winnie the Pooh movie, then their hand-drawn features department was in big trouble. Now I’m hoping I was wrong.
Any number of factors could have contributed to Pooh‘s lackluster opening weekend. One of the most obvious is the bizarre decision to put the film up against the opening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. When such a huge event movie is debuting, the only films it makes sense to release on the same weekend are those that will appeal to people who have zero interest in watching the preordained blockbuster. Pooh and his friends may not have been different enough to draw in moviegoers who weren’t interested in seeing Harry’s final showdown with Lord Voldemort.
Another possibility is that Disney has overextended Pooh to the point where a new movie in theaters doesn’t seem like a big deal. Animation fans have wondered if, by pushing direct to home market releases and second string animated features, Disney has diluted its brand name with both fans and the mainstream public. The very fact that Pooh hit theaters barely a month after Cars 2 underlines how a new Disney film is no longer a big once a year event. Winnie the Pooh is a readily available commodity, and most people don’t really know the difference between the Pooh movie they have to go to theaters to see and the ones they can currently watch in the comfort of their homes.
A third potential problem is that the film’s own marketing campaign doesn’t sell the idea that this is a new and different Winnie the Pooh movie. Though I haven’t read up on the specifics of the plot, I know that this is a new movie. But when I watch the trailers, all I get is the same old business that I’ve seen a hundred times before with these characters. Here’s Eeyore being gloomy and Tigger bouncing around trying to cheer him up. Piglet’s nervous and did you know that Pooh loves honey? Again, I haven’t seen the movie yet, so for all I know it could present some great new material while still remaining true to these characters. But I can’t tell if that’s the case by watching the trailers. I hate it when trailers give away the entire plot of a movie, but I don’t like trailers that give you no sense of the plot either.
Looking at Pooh‘s box office performance, I’m worried that Disney executives will get the same message I feared they would take away from the comparative earnings of The Princess and the Frog and Tangled: that audiences just aren’t interested in hand-drawn animation anymore. I don’t believe that’s true, but I also thought that playing to their strengths with a princess movie and a Winnie the Pooh film was a smart move on Disney’s part. I hope that hand-drawn features from Disney aren’t gone for good. I just don’t know what it’s going to take to bring them back.
What do you think? Have you seen Winnie the Pooh or are you skipping it? What should Disney’s next move be if they want to revive the hand-drawn feature film?
Image in this article is copyright Disney