'Good Dinosaur': Analyzing Pixar's First Box-Office Disaster

The Good Dinosaur still 3 - H 2015
Courtesy of Disney/Pixar

The animated movie looks to top out at $300 million, the first of Pixar's releases to lose money for Disney.

A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 29 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

The Good Dinosaur is facing extinction.

The animated pic, released Nov. 25, now looks to top out at $300 mil­lion globally, worst among Pixar's 16 releases and the first to lose money for the storied animation company and parent company Disney, say sources. (Its $350 million production and marketing budget far outpaces the studio's 50 per­cent or so share of total box office, meaning red ink even after home video and TV sales are included.)

Audiences failed to warm to the story, about the adventures of a young dinosaur and boy who meet in prehistoric times. The good news: Parent company Disney can weather the hit, thanks to a record 2015 year at the box office, capped by goliath Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which has grossed north of $1.8 billion globally to date.

And Pixar’s other 2015 offering, Inside Out, earned an impressive $856.1 million worldwide, the best showing for an original Pixar title and the third best for any Pixar film behind Toy Story 2 ($1.069 billion) and Finding Nemo ($936.4 million), not accounting for inflation.

Pixar knew Good Dinosaur was headed for trouble in 2013 and brought aboard a new director (Peter Sohn) to replace Bob Petersen, but delaying the film a year didn't work and the budget bal­looned. Still, analyst Eric Handler of MKM Partners says Disney's stock will not be affected: "Star Wars helps to make up for other sins." And Wunderlich's Matthew Harrigan believes Disney will have another banner year in 2016, fueled in part by Pixar's Finding Dory.

The Good Dinosaur is Pixar’s first misfire. It’s not a disaster but certainly a lesson learned for the company. The truth is, they knew a long time ago there were problems. However, it still didn’t fix the fact that this was a story that felt very derivative and contrived by Pixar standards,” says box office analyst Jeff Bock.

"Pixar's films are usually the gold standard when it comes to animation, and that's a difficult perch to attain, and an even tougher place to build your nest indefinitely," Bock continues. "Pixar will lick their wounds, which are really minor scratches, and rebound this summer with Finding Dory, which is one of the handful of films pegged to surpass $1 billion worldwide in 2016."