Animated Action Movies vs Box Office

PicardMan

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I was thinking about how Demon Slayer is only getting a limited release, but then I remembered that it's not just because anime is niche, animated action films themselves have a long history of box office failure going all the way back to 1985's The Black Cauldron. The list is pretty immense, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Titan AE, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Sinbad, Treasure Planet, Battle for Terra, Delgo and probably many more have been box office catastrophes. I've been pondering why this is so and how the few success stories succeeded. The first two Pokémon movies did okay, but diminishing returns made the fourth one onward limited releases. The first major success I can think of is The Incredibles, but I think the main reason it succeeded is because Pixar is such a beloved brand and they seemed to market it as a spoof of superhero movies, when it played itself a lot more straight and seriously than the advertisements implied. Emphasizing comedic elements of action animated movies seems like a common tactic as Kung Fu Panda was in a similar situation. Most of the catastrophic failures were ones that advertised themselves as serious action movies with little humor in them. I wonder if adding fart jokes in the trailers would have enticed people to see Battle for Terra.

It just seems like there's this expectation that animation has to be humorous to succeed and serious animation fails. I just noticed a Big Bang Theory rerun playing at the breakroom of my workplace and just realized that the show portrays action cartoons as nerd stuff only losers like, specific targets being Transformers, Thundercats, and Sailor Moon. Action cartoons seem to have this big nerd stigma for some reason and that's probably why they fail at the box office. Said niche for action cartoons is obviously met on television and streaming, where there have been lots of success stories over the decades, but you need a much wider audience to recoup a massive feature film budget. Is emphasizing comedy the only way to go? Of course, the elephant in the room are the twin successes of Into the Spider-Verse and Big Hero 6, but considering how big the superhero boom is, superhero titles seem to be the only ones primed to succeed, and even then the marketing made sure to emphasize the comedic stuff, like the cartoon pig Spider-Man, and deemphasize any dramatic scenes in the movies.
 

pacman000

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Hmmm... I think the movies you listed as failures had some significant story problems; I’d blame those problems for their failure, not the fact that they’re action-oriented.

Also, how are we defining action-cartoons? Aladdin had about as many action scenes as The Black Cauldron, & it was successful.
 

powerjake

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Just got to except that in the american box office those hardcore animated serious action movies fail everytime as people only want to watch generic LOL random comedy CGI movies.
 

PicardMan

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Hmmm... I think the movies you listed as failures had some significant story problems; I’d blame those problems for their failure, not the fact that they’re action-oriented.

Also, how are we defining action-cartoons? Aladdin had about as many action scenes as The Black Cauldron, & it was successful.

Aladdin is general thought of as a princess movie with singing and Robin Williams being silly, plus the squeaky clean G rating. It's hard to find people who consider Aladdin an action movie.

Yes, most of the American action movies I listed got absolutely blasted by Rotten Tomatoes, in contrast to acclaim of Japanese animated action films like Akira and Ghost in the Shell. Still, you find people who believe that Titan AE and Atlantis are misunderstood masterpieces. These films are able to obtain niche appeal, but mainstream appeal is hard to reach for some reason. Of course, making a cerebral, complex American animated action movie in the vein of Ghost in the Shell might get a 96% Rotten Tomatoes score, but such a film would surely be box office poison. It's probably being excessively serious, not having action scenes that make dramatic animated action films flop. All the success stories of American animated action movies had plenty of comedic elements to market and the more serious movies without as much comedy flop hard. Serious action animation has been able to succeed on television, starting with pioneers Batman: The Animated Series, Gargoyles, and X-Men: The Animated Series, but mainstream success has eluded any big screen equivalents. DC markets their serious PG-13 to R animated movies to a niche direct to video market. Dramatic action animation is just too niche for the big screen.
 

PicardMan

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To be fair, I think that a reason why a lot of these movies fail at Box Office is because they aren't marketed well/weren't given enough promotion.

It does seem like studios have ridiculously little faith in more serious animated action movies. I remember when I saw ads for Titan AE way back when, the ads refused to show traditional animation and only the CGI spaceships. I assumed this was a live action movie and the ads did little to convince 8.5 year old me to watch it. It was as if Fox had little faith that audiences would want to see a traditional animated space opera. A lot of those other box office failures I mentioned, like Battle for Terra, is probably a title the vast majority of the human race didn't know existed outside of hardcore animation fans because there was very little effort to market it. 9 seemed to be the only heavily marketed animated action film, and it made a mere $48.4 million, which pales compared to lighter animated fare. I guess serious action animation is destined to be cult material at best and never mainstream.
 

harry580

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well there are two action animated films that I liked that killed animated studios due to box office which are titan ae (that killed fox animation studios) and spies in disguise (that killed blue sky studios)
 

pacman000

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Aladdin is general thought of as a princess movie with singing and Robin Williams being silly, plus the squeaky clean G rating. It's hard to find people who consider Aladdin an action movie.
So, action-oriented, but not action comedies, but the early Pokémon movies count...

Wouldn’t “How to Train Your Dragon” be an action series? There’s comedy in them, but not much more than the early Pokémon movies.
 
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PicardMan

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That movie Spes in Disguise is a wacky LOL so random movie. I wish the north american theaters would have mature serious animated action movies instead of always comedy being released.

Well, serious animated action movies have been made, but the vast majority of them seem to flop.

Wouldn’t “How to Train Your Dragon” be an action series? There’s comedy in them, but not much more than the early Pokemon movies.

I think How to Train Your Dragon would fit with the Incredibles/Kung Fu Panda category as animated action film marketed as a comedy film. That's the common trend of all the success stories I can think of. Action comedies can do well as long as the marketing emphasizes the comedy.
 

pacman000

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True; How to Train Your Dragon's marketing did seem to emphasize comedy.:


To some extent you must give an audience what it wants, & marketing just emphasizes what the audience wants. So the question really should be, "why do American audiences want animated comedies instead of animated action movies?"
 

The Overlord

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I was thinking about how Demon Slayer is only getting a limited release, but then I remembered that it's not just because anime is niche, animated action films themselves have a long history of box office failure going all the way back to 1985's The Black Cauldron. The list is pretty immense, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, Titan AE, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, Sinbad, Treasure Planet, Battle for Terra, Delgo and probably many more have been box office catastrophes. I've been pondering why this is so and how the few success stories succeeded. The first two Pokémon movies did okay, but diminishing returns made the fourth one onward limited releases. The first major success I can think of is The Incredibles, but I think the main reason it succeeded is because Pixar is such a beloved brand and they seemed to market it as a spoof of superhero movies, when it played itself a lot more straight and seriously than the advertisements implied. Emphasizing comedic elements of action animated movies seems like a common tactic as Kung Fu Panda was in a similar situation. Most of the catastrophic failures were ones that advertised themselves as serious action movies with little humor in them. I wonder if adding fart jokes in the trailers would have enticed people to see Battle for Terra.

It just seems like there's this expectation that animation has to be humorous to succeed and serious animation fails. I just noticed a Big Bang Theory rerun playing at the breakroom of my workplace and just realized that the show portrays action cartoons as nerd stuff only losers like, specific targets being Transformers, Thundercats, and Sailor Moon. Action cartoons seem to have this big nerd stigma for some reason and that's probably why they fail at the box office. Said niche for action cartoons is obviously met on television and streaming, where there have been lots of success stories over the decades, but you need a much wider audience to recoup a massive feature film budget. Is emphasizing comedy the only way to go? Of course, the elephant in the room are the twin successes of Into the Spider-Verse and Big Hero 6, but considering how big the superhero boom is, superhero titles seem to be the only ones primed to succeed, and even then the marketing made sure to emphasize the comedic stuff, like the cartoon pig Spider-Man, and deemphasize any dramatic scenes in the movies.

Well superhero films outpace everything in terms of films period, you don't get the lower budget action films from the 80s and 90s.

What does Hunchback of Notre Dame count as? It has one comedic element in it and the rest is deadly series, it may more of a drama than action film, but it's comedic elements were minor.

Lion King had a few comedic elements, but the villains were played straight, Pocahontas has a lot of problems, but it dud try to play the drama straight.
 

pacman000

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I'd say most classic Disney films were melodramas, with music & comedy added to provide emotional variety.
 

The Overlord

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I'd say most classic Disney films were melodramas, with music & comedy added to provide emotional variety.

I think that is a good take, so would we count a melodrama as an action film or not?

Does an action film have to be just action?
 

powerjake

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It's like people in north america are just afraid of the idea of serious grim dark animated theatrical movies. What is wrong with variety?, Sad how those have no place in the market to even survive.
 

pacman000

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I think that is a good take, so would we count a melodrama as an action film or not?

Does an action film have to be just action?
Melodrama & action are separate things, tho a melodrama may contain an action scene or two, & an action-oriented story may have a melodramatic plot.

Examples of Melodramas with action scenes:

Gone with the Wind, The Burning of Atlanta
Ben-Hur, The Pirate Attack, The Chariot Race
Snow White & the Seven Dwarves, The Dwarves chasing the Witch/Queen

Examples of action movies with melodramatic plots:
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) - Robin Hood must get back his stolen lands, to do so he's forced to take up a life of crime. This leads to lots of action.
Captain Blood - A young man is stolen by slavers. He escapes & becomes a pirate, leading to action.

Walt Disney relied on Melodrama to help him extend his cartoons beyond the standard 5-10 minute short film length; he felt feature films needed more than 70 minutes of goofy gags to keep an audience's attention. His studio kept the same philosophy till the mid-90's, with a few exceptions. (Sleeping Beauty was mostly comedy, with an action-oriented ending, for example.)
 

The Overlord

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It's like people in north america are just afraid of the idea of serious grim dark animated theatrical movies. What is wrong with variety?, Sad how those have no place in the market to even survive.

So what does Hunchback of Notre Dame fall under? The villain is a creepy, genocidal religious zealot, the only comedic element is the gargoyles, everything else is played straight.

Melodrama & action are separate things, tho a melodrama may contain an action scene or two, & an action-oriented story may have a melodramatic plot.

Examples of Melodramas with action scenes:

Gone with the Wind, The Burning of Atlanta
Ben-Hur, The Pirate Attack, The Chariot Race
Snow White & the Seven Dwarves, The Dwarves chasing the Witch/Queen

Examples of action movies with melodramatic plots:
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) - Robin Hood must get back his stolen lands, to do so he's forced to take up a life of crime. This leads to lots of action.
Captain Blood - A young man is stolen by slavers. He escapes & becomes a pirate, leading to action.

Walt Disney relied on Melodrama to help him extend his cartoons beyond the standard 5-10 minute short film length; he felt feature films needed more than 70 minutes of goofy gags to keep an audience's attention. His studio kept the same philosophy till the mid-90's, with a few exceptions. (Sleeping Beauty was mostly comedy, with an action-oriented ending, for example.)

My point is there are genres blend together.

People may say X-Men is an action series, but there is a lot of melodrama in that story. Movies like Commando and Robocop may be considered action films, but they have a lot of humor in them, ditto with most Marvel films. Heck most Star Wars films break up the action with comedy.

Most movies blend genres. So I think the answer to this question is what are we counting as an action film?
 

pacman000

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^ That's kinda what I was wondering too.

To answer the question, we might need to ask another question: Why does someone see this movie? What is the main emotion they experience when watching said movie?

Outline of emotions, followed by Genres which may cause them.

Sadness/Catharsis - Drama, Melodrama, Tragedy
Laughter, Joy - Comedy
Excitement, Thrills - Action
Wonder from new experiences - Adventure
Fright - Horror, Terror
 

Mostezli

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I think How to Train Your Dragon would fit with the Incredibles/Kung Fu Panda category as animated action film marketed as a comedy film.
There are still way more intended jokes & baby pacifiers injected into The Incredibles/Kung Fu Panda than the HTTD film series (especially the HTTD sequels). Almost none of the other animated movies that are aiming for broad/mainstream/4 quadrant blockbuster appeal are mostly action drama including the very recent comic book licensed superhero movies. The same applies to live-action. Action comedies reign supreme.
That going against the grain thinking only ever pays off in live-action/animation filmmaking if you're offering something so unique yet still easy enough for those same audiences to follow along & be thrilled by.
Doing an action drama runs the risk of getting too bogged down in lore or troubling psychological situations, which runs the risk of affecting the rating.
 

powerjake

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So what does Hunchback of Notre Dame fall under? The villain is a creepy, genocidal religious zealot, the only comedic element is the gargoyles, everything else is played straight.

I'm not talking about a kid friendly family movie like that, I'm talking about serious mature grim dark animated action movies aimed more at adults.
 

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