Is Disney's (NYSE:DIS) next star a robot?

Wall-E hits a multiplex near you tomorrow, and the galactic tale of a misplaced robot couldn't come at a better time for Disney.



Domestic Box Office

1. Shrek 2


$441.2 million

2. Finding Nemo


$339.7 million

3. The Lion King


$328.5 million

4. Shrek the Third


$322.7 million

5. Shrek


$267.7 million

6. The Incredibles


$261.4 million

7. Monsters, Inc.


$255.9 million

8. Toy Story 2


$245.9 million

9. Cars


$244.1 million

Source: Box Office Mojo.

The list of the highest-grossing animated films of all time tells plenty, and not all of it's good.

  • With the exception of Disney's own The Lion King and DreamWorks Animation's (NYSE:DWA) Shrek franchise, the biggest animated blockbusters have been the handiwork of Pixar, which Disney brilliantly acquired two years ago. Wall-E is a Pixar flick.
  • Pixar's most recent flick, Ratatouille, didn't crack the list. It sits at the 11th slot with its $206.4 million in domestic ticket sales last year.  
  • With the exception of Shrek the Third, you have to go all the way back to 2004 to find the last rendered flick among the eight top performers.

In other words, the industry is longing for a non-sequel hit. Even the mighty Pixar could use a hit, since each of its past three flicks have generated fewer box-office receipts than the one before it.

Wall-E seems to have all of the right ingredients to get Disney, Pixar, and the computer-animation niche back on track. Robots are cool, and not just because they are finally becoming a mainstream reality, thanks to the consumer robotics of iRobot (NASDAQ:IRBT) and the operating table evolution of Intuitive Surgical's (NASDAQ:ISRG) surgical robotic arms.

The initial buzz is also strong, but the same can be said of essentially all of Pixar's films. The key ingredients will also make for great merchandising opportunities and even a killer Disney ride or two, if the film proves popular.

So what are you waiting for, Wall-E? The world is counting on you.

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