Monday Morning Quarterback Part I
By BOP Staff
June 27, 2011

By default, Cleveland fans love him night and day more than LeBron.


Kim Hollis: Cars 2 opened to $66.1 million. Do you consider this to be about the result a Pixar film should expect, or is it a step back from Toy Story 3?

Bruce Hall: Financially, it's clearly a step back and by a lot, too - if you're going to compare it to Toy Story 3. There will be a lot of talk about this, but more glaring in my mind was that it was an inferior product to what we're used to seeing from Pixar. Animation has had a good year overall, but on an individual level the quality of the fare so far is debatable. Cars 2 will do nothing to dispel that perception.

Joshua Pasch: Look, right now everything is rosey. $66 million comes in the top-tier of Pixar films when you strike TS3 from the record, falling almost exactly in step with Up. But as a sequel, and a badly reviewed one at that, I don't expect this one to have the standard Pixar legs. Cars 2 should end up throwing under Cars domestically. But as has been said before, the domestic box office is really just a small consideration for this franchise.

Matthew Huntley: A step back for sure, but not when compared to Toy Story 3, but rather when compared to the original Cars. The sequel had five years of inflation, 3D ticket prices and a broadened fanbase, so Disney/Pixar must be slightly disappointed it could only gross $6 million more than its predecessor. That's not to say it still won't be a massive hit when you take into account foreign and ancillary markets, as well as merchandising, but the movie didn't explode during its opening weekend like many, including myself, were expecting.

Tom Houseman: Cars 2 is going to make boatloads of money, domestically, internationally, and on video, not even taking into account merchandise. Nothing else really matters. Even if Cars 2 has a 3.5 overall multiplier, which is lower than any other Pixar film to date (surprisingly, WALL-E is the lowest with 3.53) it will still make $238 million, good for eighth all time and only $6 million behind the original. The fanboys can bitch all they want about this being subpar Pixar, but it's still clearly better than most other animated films, and it will, if anything, only barely tarnish the Pixar brand. If Brave and Monsters U are back up to Pixar's standard, Cars 2 will only be remembered as one of the few non-Oscar winning Pixar flicks.

Tim Briody: Cars 2 was never going to even approach Toy Story 3's opening and anyone who thought it might needs to share the drugs they're on. Dubious quality aside, it's right in line with what a Pixar movie should open to, and that sound you hear is yet another $100 of merchandise with Lightning McQueen on it being sold.

Edwin Davies: Toy Story 3 really needs to be considered the anomaly in this discussion, rather than the standard to which all future Pixar releases are compared. In that instance, you had the third film in a beloved series that had 11 years of build up and anticipation to send it into the box office stratosphere. Here, we have a follow-up no one was clamoring for to a film that no one was that interested in in the first place. In that respect, $66 million's a pretty good start, even if (when you factor in inflation and 3D prices) it suggests that the audience for this film was about the same size as, if not smaller than, that of the first film. But, as everyone has been saying, Cars 2 exists to sell toys and merchandise, so any money it makes in theaters is kind of besides the point.

Shalimar Sahota: In line with expectations to me. Sure, it's lower than what Toy Story 3 opened to last year, but that had a built in audience that had been growing for over a decade. I'd be more worried if Cars 2 opened below $60 million. Even with the overly negative reviews, this is still going to end up a winner for Pixar.

Jim Van Nest: Of the Pixar films, Cars is the one (well, 2 now) that is specifically geared toward the kids. $66 million for a kid flick is outstanding, no matter how you look at it. I don't think you can compare to Toy Story 3, just because they're from the same studio. They're not the same film and they're not trying to be. I don't see how Pixar can be anything but thrilled with this result, especially considering the fact that it's been slammed pretty hardcore from the day it was announced.

Reagen Sulewski: The narrow band that Pixar releases exist in for opening weekend is remarkable for its consistency, and puzzling in that it's held more or less fast for 12 years while ticket prices have gone through the roof. So when we're talking about a film that few adults felt any passion for, and perhaps felt some dread over for all the toys they'd have to buy as a result, you can't help but conclude that this is right on the money for them. This will all end up being a rounding error once the merchandising money rolls in, though. Congratulations, Pixar, you are now George Lucas.

David Mumpower: Tim and Edwin are absolutely correct when they state that Toy Story is the anomalous franchise. Toy Story 2 was a record setter for its time and Toy Story 3 is the outlier in terms of opening weekend box office, final domestic box office and overall global take. Toy Story is the defining license in the Pixar catalog. The surprise is that Cars has become 1A to Toy Story in terms of revenue generation. The difference is that the box office capital earned by Cars 2 is almost insignificant to the bottom line for this franchise. The original Cars earned $461 million worldwide. That's roughly 7% (!) of the total earnings of Cars to date; the other 93% comes from merchandising. So, whatever Cars 2 did this weekend is a curiosity more than anything else. The one aspect of this that bears consideration that Kim Hollis pointed out to me is how many children's tickets factor into this, even by Pixar and other animated children's films. Boys under 10 comprised 30% of our viewing audience. That's probably a larger skew than the national average, but the target demographic for Cars 2 is quite possibly the younger ever for a movie earning north of $50 million. I am reminded of the opening weekend of Pokemon in this regard. Is $68 million a good enough result given these considerations? Clearly yes.

Do you like cash? Sure, we all do.

Kim Hollis: Are you okay with Pixar doing a blatantly commercial film like Cars 2 if its merchandising pays for much more ambitious projects like WALL-E, Up and next year's Brave? Or do you think they damage the brand with such a transparent sell-out film?

Tim Briody: It's fine, really. The Cars films to Pixar are like the crazy relative that nobody talks about when discussing the family. Sure, the Toy Story movies were fantastic and I'm personally partial to Finding Nemo, but it seems that Pixar's history and reputation are solid enough now that you can have a great discussion about the company and their films and never mention Mater.

Joshua Pasch: Tim's right in the sense that the public wont hold this one offense against Pixar. But they'd be wise not to make it a habit. If Monsters U isn't as strong as Pixar's typical fare, then I think people will start to take some level of issue. Moreover, I hope the creative teams at Pixar aren't changing their approach/values in crafting these films.

Bruce Hall: It's like Spielberg. We put up with crap like Hook and War of the Worlds because he makes films like Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan, too. On a personal level, I despise Jurassic Park (even more overrated than Jedi, if you ask me) and A.I., but it's okay; Spielberg also makes phenomenal stuff like Jaws and Close Encounters. I would rather not see Pixar get into this habit but let's not be unfair - they can't all be gems, even for Spielberg. Even for Pixar. I think people like us - who think about movies in greater depth than casual audiences - may have been spoiled by the consistently high quality of Pixar's output. And casual viewers are less likely to identify animated films with the studios that created them - like we do. So, I believe any harm done will be limited to the Cars franchise itself. I also think that Pixar proper will experience no long term damage provided they make an effort to continue creating the types of films that made movie geeks fall in love with them in the first place.

Matthew Huntley: No, I'm personally not okay with it, because a powerhouse production house like Pixar, with billions of dollars in grosses, doesn't need a blatantly commercial film like Cars 2 to pay for more ambitious projects. The much better received Toy Story 3 alone made over $1 billion, not to mention hundreds of millions dollars more in home market sales, so to excuse Cars 2 because it helps pay for higher quality movies doesn't seem right. They should be making good movies regardless. I agree with the rest of the group, though, that no long-term damage will come as a result of this latest blunder. The only thing we won't be seeing is the tagline, "From the studio that brought you Cars 2," when they promote their next movie.

Edwin Davies: In the short term, I can see it being damaging to Pixar in an intangible way since it represents their first serious mis-step. They've marred their perfect record, and they can't ever get that back. In the long term, though, anyone annoyed by this (like I clearly am) will learn that, hey, it had to happen sometime, and if they can keep the same ratio of 1 bad film for every 11 good or great films, then I can live with that.

I agree with Matthew that Pixar doesn't need to make blatant cash-grabs like Cars 2 because even films like WALL-E, Ratatouille and Up, which are far more ambitious and difficult than anything any other studio is putting out, make them a ton of money. Consciously aiming lower to make a quick buck is not something I am comfortable with Pixar doing.

Jim Van Nest: See, I still don't look at it as a blatant money grab. I can only assume that I'm the only one that feels this way. I just don't see the problem with making a movie to satisfy their youngest and most loyal fans. Seriously, just because we don't get it (and I'll admit, I didn't really care for Cars either), the kids do. And maybe after seven or eight years of working tirelessly to create Oscar worthy films like Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up and Toy Story 3...maybe they wanted to have some fun. Maybe they wanted to create a more popcorn-y flick just for the kids. And frankly, if people are going to start bailing on Pixar because of the Cars franchise, that's just freakin' ridiculous.

Reagen Sulewski: I think it's worrisome in that they're getting away from their key mission in telling original stories. If they go for Cars 2 now, who's to say they won't continue to get lazier and turn into DreamWorks, or God forbid, Fox Animation? Not to mention that if they keep cranking out these cash grabs, they may lose the people that made Pixar special to begin with, or may not attract that next generation of creators.

Brett Beach: To quickly answer the question, if Monsters U. and Cars 2 were to be followed by more sequels, and if they attempted to sequelize all existing properties, that would smack of desperation. I am not too concerned at the moment, and am focusing on the fact that Kelly Macdonald (le sigh) is doing the voice for the female lead in Brave. I have no doubt she will nail the part and I hope she can be embraced by girls (and boys) as all the Disney princesses.

To do a side note: I read an interview with John Lasseter where one of the questions was about the universe in which the Cars films are set (i.e. one with no humans, but cars anthropomorphized to take the place of humans) and it was the most dis-jointed, meandering kind of answer imaginable. Maybe the Cars universe just isn't as inherently well-thought out as WALL-E, et al and so the result is a product that seems much more blatantly product-like.

David Mumpower: Like anything else, the first step is to look at the numbers. Cars earned roughly $460 million worldwide. Putting that in perspective, Cars' global box office take reflects roughly 7% of the revenue earned with the Cars license. The other 93% comes from merchandising. If you worked at Pixar and saw those numbers, can you honestly say you would not be tempted to make another Cars movie? The revenue generated from this license is enough to pay for the next decade of Pixar titles. That's not even a hyperbolic statement. BOP loved WALL-E and Up, both of which we named as the best films of their years of release. They were paid for (at least partially) using revenue from Cars. The question becomes whether we enjoyed those movies enough to tolerate the existence of Cars. I am surprised to see people saying they do not.

What seems to be in play here is a larger issue. We are in the process of watching Pixar sell out a bit. They have always done this of course since any Toys R Us in the world is a de facto shrine to Woody and Buzz. They simply have not been as pointed about it. Cars 2 was created to build the Cars brand. There is no subtlety to this. The planes and boats in the film will eventually become new stories presumably entitled Planes and/or Boats. The thought process is that in doing so, they can stock the shelves of Toys R Us with...Planes and Boats. The hard part is in reconciling that a company capable of creating a story as daring as a master chef who happens to be a rat can also sell Cars alarm clocks for $29.95 MSRP. This question breaks down into a simple debate: Is shameless commercialism okay? I maintain that the ends justify the means just as I understand how many people reading this are offended that Pixar has placed monetary goals above idealism.