Pixar's latest animated feature hits a multiplex near you today, and it's easy to wonder if audiences will gravitate to Disney's (NYSE:DIS) latest release. The Good Dinosaur offers an alternative reality premise where dinosaurs are still alive today because the asteroid that made them extinct just missed hitting the planet.
The new movie seems to have all of the right ingredients for box-office gold. It's a Pixar-rendered release, and the computer animation studio that Disney fully acquired in a deal valued at $7.4 billion nearly a decade ago rarely falls short. It also has dinosaurs, and I don't think I need to remind you that this year's highest-grossing theatrical release -- Jurassic World -- is also all about dinosaurs.
However, there are two reasons to be concerned. The first potential pressure point is that the movie was supposed to come out last year. Creative differences resulted in a director change and story tweaks, and a movie that was originally slated to roll out early last year was pushed a year and a half into the future. There's been plenty of buzz about this being the first year to have two Pixar releases. Inside Out was a box office smash this summer. However, that was only possible because Pixar's 2014 release got pushed out to today. That's not typically a good sign. Having two Pixar releases come out organically in the same year won't happen until 2017 when Cars 3 and Coco see the light of day at your local multiplex.
The other potential hiccup is that reviews haven't been as glowingly favorable as most of Pixar's previous original works. The Good Dinosaur had a Rotten Tomatoes score of 88 as of last night, translating into 88% of the critics that have screened the movie recommending it to their readers. That may seem like a great score, but let's go over all of Pixar's earlier releases scored on RottenTomatoes.com. (I'm leaving out the sequels because critics tend to generally view them in a disparaging way.)
- Inside Out-2015-98%
- The Incredibles-2004-97%
- Finding Nemo-2003-99%
- A Bug's Life-1998-92%
- Toy Story-1995-100%
Pixar has now put out a dozen original properties, and only two -- Brave and Cars -- have received a lower Rotten Tomatoes score. Making matters worse, even some of the positive reviews aren't as high on the movie as you might think. These are comments from some of the critics that are in the 88% camp of positive reviews.
- "On its own, it seems fine; just don't compare it to its capable siblings." --The Washington Post
- "But when it comes to leaping to the top of the Pixar heap, The Good Dinosaur, like its asteroid, just misses." --San Jose Mercury News
- "The Good Dinosaur is Disney-Pixar's obligation gift for the holidays, hoping moviegoers remember it's the thought that counts." --Tampa Bay Times
Keep in mind that these are the positive reviews. Then again, a movie doesn't have to be perfect to succeed. Case in point: Jurassic World had just a 71% Rotten Tomatoes score. Between the proven subject matter of dinosaurs and the timing of the Thanksgiving holiday, it's hard to bet against the flick not being a big hit at the box office.
Critics don't seem to think it's Disney-Pixar at its best, and audiences may walk away from the movie theater feeling the same way. This doesn't mean that they won't be satisfied, and it doesn't mean that Disney isn't going to cash in on the opportunities that another animated hit will bring.
Rick Munarriz owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.