Is Pixar really the best computer animation studio?
Pixar's 11th feature film, Toy Story 3, arrives in theaters on Friday, hoping to continue one of the more amazing streaks in movie history. The new film -- which returns stars Tom Hanks and Tim Allen in a story set over a decade after 1999's previous installment -- is the second sequel to Pixar's debut, 1995's Toy Story. That movie, and all subsequent releases, have been critical hits, with not a single dud among them. In fact, most of the films have earned glowing reviews, and five of them collected Academy Awards in the best animated feature category. Even more incredibly, every one of Pixar's 10 releases has been a box office smash, averaging over $550 million in worldwide grosses per film. Add in merchandising and home video revenues, and it's enough almost to make you forget that one-time Pixar owner Steve Jobs has another company.
But the Disney-owned Pixar is not the only game in town when it comes to computer-animated feature films. While animation houses such as Blue Sky Studios (part of Fox) and Sony Pictures Animation have made a mark in recent years (at least at the box office; reviewers have been less excited about their films), Pixar's largest competitor by far is DreamWorks Animation, which entered the scene with 1998's Antz and hit box office gold with 2001's Shrek. In fact, DreamWorks is now the all-time box office champion when it comes to CGI features, collecting over $6.4 billion in worldwide grosses.
How does DreamWorks Animation compare to Pixar? Beginning in 2004, DreamWorks has produced two computer-animated films for every one Pixar release. But, as you can see from the head-to-head comparison below, Pixar's less-ambitious release schedule seems to have paid dividends both in terms of quality and per-film box office performance, with Pixar dominating nearly every category.
|DreamWorks Animation *||Pixar|
|14||CGI Films Released||10|
(Best Animated Feature)
|7.2||Average User Score||8.5|
|7%||Great Films (81 or higher)||70%|
|57%||Good Films (61 or higher)||100%|
|43%||So-So Films (40 - 60)||0%|
|0%||Poor Films (39 or lower)||0%|
|Shrek 84 (2001)||Best-Reviewed Movie||Ratatouille 96 (2007)|
|Shark Tale 48 (2004)||Worst-Reviewed Movie||Cars 73 (2006)|
Worldwide box office performance (in millions):
|$6,451.8||All-Time Cumulative Grosses||$5,573.4|
|$460.8||Average Gross Per Film||$557.3|
|36%||% of Films Grossing > $500 mil||60%|
|Shrek 2 (2004), $919.8||Highest-Grossing Film||Finding Nemo (2003), $867.9|
|Antz (1998), $171.8||Lowest-Grossing Film||Toy Story (1995), $362.0|
Film by film comparison
Here's another look at each studio's releases to date. The graph below plots each movie's Metascore and domestic box office performance (all grosses below are adjusted for inflation, to allow for a better comparison between films). Interestingly, audiences seem to be responding (at least in part) to the quality of these films; the higher-grossing releases tend to be the ones with better reviews.
Box Office Performance vs. Metascore
Here are each of the films plotted in the chart above (Pixar films are in the shaded rows):
|Year||Title||Metascore||Users||Inflation-Adjusted Domestic Gross|
|1998||A Bug's Life||77||8.6||271.4|
|1999||Toy Story 2||88||8.7||380.3|
|2006||Over the Hedge||67||8.2||188.2|
|2007||Shrek the Third||58||5.6||372.9|
|2008||Kung Fu Panda||73||7.9||238.5|
|2008||Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa||61||7.3||199.3|
|2009||Monsters vs. Aliens||56||6.8||211.4|
|2010||How to Train Your Dragon *||74||9.2||214.5|
|2010||Shrek Forever After *||58||7.4||211.9|
|2010||Toy Story 3|
An animated discussion
What is your favorite Pixar movie? Do you prefer DreamWorks movies instead? Have you liked any of the recent films produced by some of the other computer animation houses? Let us know in the comments section below.