And last year, the release of Chicken Little, which they promoted like crazy for months in advance, seemed to vindicate their decision. True, the film’s ultimate gross of $135.4 million was less than that of every computer-animated Pixar or DreamWorks or Blue Sky cartoon ever made except for Antz (1998; $90.8 million) and Robots (2005; $128.2 million), but it was also better than that of every Disney film of the past decade, except for Tarzan (1999; $171.1 million) and Lilo & Stitch (2002; $145.8 million).
So last year, it seemed like CGI might be the answer to Disney’s problems. But now, The Wild has brought the studio back down to earth. Disney’s second CGI cartoon is estimated to have opened with a mere $9,559,000, and if the estimate holds when final figures are released tomorrow, it will be the lowest box-office take for the wide release of any Disney cartoon since The Rescuers Down Under opened with $3.5 million in November 1990 — not counting Fantasia 2000, which played only in IMAX theatres for its first few months and is thus something of a special case.
Anyway, The Rescuers Down Under grossed a mere $27.9 million when all was said and done; and the worst Disney box-office performer since then is Treasure Planet (2002), which grossed a mere $38.2 million despite being released over the American Thanksgiving weekend; and the next-worst is Home on the Range (2004; $50 million), which was Disney’s last hand-drawn cartoon and the only other Disney film of the past 30 years, besides The Wild, to be released in April. Clearly, this ain’t their month.
Indeed, given that Disney and Pixar recently merged and they have Cars coming out in just two months, it almost seems as though Disney released The Wild now, in April, two weeks after the surefire-hit Ice Age sequel, just to get it out of the way.
APR 17 UPDATE: Turns out The Wild grossed $9,684,809 in 2,854 theatres — which puts it just a hair above the $9,624,149 earned by Beauty and the Beast in 977 theatres in November 1991.