Now that Buzz Lightning landed on Disney+ in the United States, we can officially say that the spin-off of Toy Story is Pixar’s biggest failure and that Disney looked for it.
After operating mown downAhead at the start of the pandemic and the exits from Drunk, Luke and Red alert directly on Disney+, Buzz Lightning was to bring Pixar and its audience back to theaters, in addition to launching a new saga derived from the studio’s precious toy box. The film directed by Angus MacLane did everything to summon the nostalgia of the thirty-somethings who grew up with the first part of 1995, while presenting the Space Ranger to a new generation (the one who did not know The Adventures of Buzz Lightyear).
But the company overestimated the project, whose the cosmic crash puts the future of the franchise in jeopardy as much as that of the studio with the lamp.
FROM HEROES TO ZERO
On their own, the four parts of the saga Toy Story grossed nearly three billion dollars. The last two films released in 2010 and 2019 both exceeded one billion at the global box office and became among Pixar’s biggest hits ahead of Finding Dory and behind The Incredibles 2. Although it was thought of as an ambitious blockbuster and is one of the studio’s most expensive films with a 200 million non-marketing budget, the spin-off on Buzz Lightning is light years away from its elders.
“Logbook at Star Command is crap”
The film only took in the meager sum of $214 million at the worldwide box office and therefore did not reach its break-even point. Excluding inflation, it made $180 million less than the first installment, nearly $283 million less than Toy Story 2 and about 785 million less than Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4. The comparison with the rest of the Pixar productions is also not very glorious. Until now, the ugly duckling was Arlo’s Journey which today could almost strut its stuff with its $332 million in worldwide receipts.
More globally, every Pixar released on the big screen has done far bettereven the less popular ones like Cars 2 (559 million), Rebel (538 million), Monsters Academia (743 million) or 1001 Paws (363 million). The case ofAhead – the penultimate Pixar released in cinemas – is more particular and difficult to compare. The 2020 feature earned just $141 million at the global box office, but its theatrical career was torpedoed by the onset of the pandemic.
The film had to urgently fall back on VOD operation only two weeks after its home release, to finally arrive on Disney + less than a month after its launch on the big screen. Buzz Lightningwhich should benefit from the recovery and a much more favorable context, is therefore well Pixar’s biggest business failure to date.
Beyond Pixar, Buzz Lightning was less profitable than The Bad Guys Dreamworks (245 million for 80 million budget), Encanto of Disney which was nevertheless a financial disappointment (256 million for 150 million budget) or sonic 2 (401 million for 110 million budget). Even sequels to less popular anime franchises like All on stage 2 (407 million) or like beasts 2 (430 million) can watch the latest Pixar top.
nothing to be proud of
IN THE WRONG PLACE AT THE WRONG TIME
The failure was announced as of the weekend of opening to 50 million dollars, that is to say 20 to 30 million less than the forecasts. If the start isn’t the lowest or catastrophic, it’s still less than the national launch of most Pixar sequels: Toy Story 2 (57 million and 81 million over the entire Thanksgiving weekend), Toy Story 3 (110 million), Cars 2 (66 million), Monsters Academia (82 million), The MDory wave (182 million), The Incredibles 2 (182 million) or Toy Story 4 (120 million).
As for the domestic box office, Buzz Lightning is an even bigger massacre. The film only took in 117 million in North Americaagainst 123 million for Arlo’s Journey191 million for Cars 2152 million for Cars 3162 million for 1001 legs or 223 million for Toy Story (to name only the weakest). No need to dwell on the rest of the catalog, it would be like comparing a pebble to a mountain.
Buzz Lightyear vs the Rest of Pixar
In addition to being a harder-to-sell project than usual – a meta and highly referenced spin-off billed as the movie Andy saw before Toy Story –, the film also got rolled over by other blockbusters. Jurassic World: The World After landed in theaters a week prior and banked over $58 million by the time of release. Buzz Lightningwhile Top Gun: Maverick (which was already in its fourth week of operation) grossed over 44 million.
The other competitor Disney underestimated is Minions 2: Once Upon a Time Gru. The Illumination sequel came two weeks later. Buzz Lightning and earned more than $107 million for its opening weekend, leaving Pixar just six million. In just 15 days, the spin-off of Me, ugly and mean surpassed $210 million at home, almost as much as Buzz on its entire global operation. The victory is overwhelming: the yellow critters are currently grossing more than $717 million at the global box office, while Jurassic World 3 is at the gates of the billion and that Top Gun 2 easily passed it.
Getting busted by this is still a shame
This massive competition partly explains the vertiginous fall of Buzz Lightning which lost nearly 65% of attendance in its second week of operation (against only a 22.3% loss for Top Gun 2 and 59.6% for Jurassic World 3). In comparison, Toy Story 4 had suffered only a drop of 52.1%, Finding Dory 45.8% and The Incredibles 2 by 55.7% (the latter having been a hit when it was launched).
Even if it is far from the 4.5 million admissions of Toy Story 4 in France, Buzz Lightning fared relatively well in France (1.3 million admissions), but that was not enough to fill all the cracks. Internationally, Pixar could not count on China to boost its box office. The Chinese market alone brought in more than $189 million to coconut51 million to Incredibles 2and about 30 million for Monsters Academia and Toy Story 4. These aren’t as large sums as for a Marvel, but at such a pitiful stage, all the losses are substantial.
Pixar’s distress signal
THE SPRINKLER WATERED
If Pixar has already experienced some disappointments, the failure of Buzz Lightning will have more repercussions than that of Arlo’s Journey given that he was to launch a new big budget franchise and surely other spin-offs of Toy Story. The end and the post-credits scene clearly announced a sequel which is inevitably compromised by the reception of this first part. But the Space Ranger may find more success in the near future.
When arriving on Disney+, Buzz Lightning should find the public who shunned him on the bill and could well panic the counters of the streaming service. In which case, it would be further proof that spectators and fans of the license are still there, but no longer in cinemas, for which Disney has some responsibility. At the height of the health crisis, the studio bet on the development of its platform, assuming to move away from cinemas to offer more content and bring back subscribers.
To infinity and agony
After Mulan, Raya and the last dragon, Jungle Cruise and cruella have been released exclusively or in part on Disney+ in the United States in Premium access (therefore with a supplement to pay), the latest Pixar Drunk, Luke and Red alert were sold off and offered on classic VOD, that is to say at no additional cost. On the other side, the release windows have been reduced to 30 or 45 days before the films switch to Disney+. Necessarily, new consumption habits have taken hold and Buzz paid for it. Disney seems to be caught in its own trap, with viewers and more particularly American families abandoning the theatrical experience to wait for the film to be released “for free” on the platform.
Whether Buzz Lightning which relied on a popular license failed to bring the public back to theaters despite the means deployed, the studio could be quite cautious about releasing the next original film, elementalon the big screen. As at the height of the crisis, the future of Pixar is therefore still uncertain, even if it seems less and less likely that the studio will one day be able to regain its letters of nobility or its event character. And after the useless Welcome to Dougthis is not the next series Cars which should prove the opposite.