NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell thinks his company’s animation business is more promising than Disney’s, and looking at this year’s box office returns it’s hard to argue with him.
All things considered, it’s hard to argue against Shell’s point. Harder still when considering the disastrous first two weeks in theaters for Disney’s Strange World, only months after Pixar’s big theatrical bet of the year, Lightyear, underachieved while in theaters. The timing of Shell’s boast hardly seems a coincidence.
Whether the Netflix boss was being humble or really did think Netflix was still far behind Disney, his company has certainly come a long way since those comments. It’s harder to judge Netflix’s success in animation as there aren’t box office receipts we can use to compare results, but in terms of output, the streamer’s original animated feature slate has certainly made great strides towards catching up with Disney, if it hasn’t already. One can only wonder what films like The Sea Beast and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio could have achieved with a wide theatrical release.
Illumination is responsible for Minions: The Rise of Gru, 2022’s biggest animated hit at the box office, and has a potential blockbuster waiting in the wings with The Super Mario Bros. Movie, coming out in April 2023. The studio also recently launched a dedicated adult animation company, Moonlight, and looks primed to make moves into that space. And there is an terrific buzz for Dreamworks’ upcoming feature Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, which has received praise from critics and preview audiences alike.
For those who need a refresher, we have a list of what animation assets NBCUniversal’s parent company Comcast owns, but Shell is specifically referring to Dreamworks and Illumination.
We’re very fired up about catching them [Disney] in family animation, maybe eventually passing them,” he said, also admitting that the streamer had “a long way to go just to catch them.