In the race toward the checkered flag, a strong start always helps. Now that Disney's (NYSE:DIS) Cars rang up just $60.1 million in domestic ticket sales during its opening weekend, it's important to preface any use of the word disappointment with the word relative.

Most animation studios would love to round up nearly 10 million moviegoers in three days. The problem is that as a Pixar project -- the first now that Disney has completed its buyout of the computer-animation pioneer -- investors have been treated to better in the past.

Pixar's last two films, Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, each took in more than $70 million during their initial weekend runs at the multiplex. There are two logical explanations for this. The first is palatable: As a movie geared around what has traditionally been a boy's plaything, the subject matter alienated young girls from pleading with their moms for a cinematic day out.

Feel free to shoot that theory up with holes, if you wish. It still goes down easier than the possibility that we really are suffering from an overload of computer-rendered animation. That would be troublesome to companies like DreamWorks Animation (NYSE:DWA) and even Disney, as its deal that was worth $7.4 billion when it was first announced to be ratcheted up to roughly $8.3 billion by the time the deal closed, in part because of buoyant expectations for Cars to be the runaway blockbuster of the summer.

Not quite. Not yet. Less than three months ago, News Corp. (NYSE:NWS) scored a hit when Ice Age: The Meltdown generated $68 million in domestic ticket sales in its first weekend. That's either salt in Disney's wound or vindication for the medium.

No matter where you stand on the long-term viability of the platform, it's safe to say that the marketplace has gotten awfully crowded lately. Computer animation used to be a rare treat; Pixar waited two and a half years between its first and second full-length features. A more ambitious DreamWorks Animation has moved to a slate offering up two new theatrical releases a year. Now it seems as if every few weeks introduces audiences to a new computer-rendered flick.

This isn't necessarily a deal breaker. Patrons have done a fairly good job of avoiding the second-rate releases, and that should keep the production schedules honest. Disney's next release out of the Pixar camp, Ratatouille, looks promising.

But what are we talking about here? Let's not bury Cars yet! A film's opening weekend is simply the beginning. DreamWorks' Madagascar took in only $47.2 million in its debut weekend but went on to rake what Ice Age: The Meltdown will ultimately take in throughout its run. One can even turn to Pixar, where just $200,000 separates the openings for The Incredibles from Finding Nemo, even though Nemo ultimately raked in $78 million more domestically.

Patience pays. If Cars has legs -- or wheels -- the film will play to healthy crowds throughout the summer. Disney's character lineup will also add some revved-up newbies, and it's really just a matter of time before the theme park speedways get retrofitted with movie-related cars. Heck, knowing Disney, they may even talk.

So let's not assume that Disney's latest film hit the skids. It's just off to a slower-than-expected start. but the race has a lot more laps to go before we hit the finish line.

In the summer of 2003, David Gardner recommended shares of Pixar to Motley Fool Stock Advisor newsletter subscribers. The shares have gone on to nearly double, and David continues to recommend the shares, now as part of Disney.

Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is still a kid at heart, smitten over the right kind of animation. He owns shares in Disney. The Fool has a disclosure policy. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early.