I was checking the results of the weekend box office this past Monday on boxofficemojo.com and saw that Disney's (NYSE:DIS) new film featuring Winnie the Pooh (Pooh'sHeffalump Movie) didn't come in at No. 1 -- instead, it came in at No. 5. That's right, No. 5!

Well, now, that isn't very magical, is it? If you're a shareholder in Disney or TimeWarner (NYSE:TWX) or Viacom (NYSE:VIA), you want their movie properties to come in as close to the pole position as possible. Fifth place just doesn't cut it.

Or does it?

I suddenly remembered what time of year it was -- February. Then I sighed with relief. After all, this isn't the big summer releasing period, where movies are usually bogged down with budgets so rich that expectations for the opening weekend are set at critically high levels. Indeed, the new Pooh movie is a relatively cheap exercise in animated cinema, coming in at a reported cost of $20 million or so. While the $5.8 million the film took in doesn't point to an all-out theatrical bonanza, it represents a passable performance in my estimation (as well as an acceptable risk of the capital).

Disney likes to release more economical animated fare around this time of year; in fact, some critics have argued that these kinds of projects are, at the core, mere advertisements for their eventual release on home video. Over the last several years, we've seen Disney cartoons such as The Tigger Movie, Return To Never Land, and Recess begin their respective runs in February, hoping to catch the school vacation periods and the dollars of the target families; all have met with varying levels of success, but all have great potential to add value to Disney's DVD and broadcast pipelines (although forget about that disposable pipeline). It's been reported that a video based on a theatrical release tends to have a better chance in the retail sales channel than does a video directly released to that channel -- makes obvious sense. So the fact that Pooh isn't wowing them with Titanic-like grosses may not necessarily constitute a total failure in this case (if it were Tarzan we were analyzing, it'd be a totally different take, believe me).

As a shareholder, I of course would have rather seen twice that amount. And I agree that the cheap-cartoon-in-winter paradigm can and will disappoint (I'm thinking Teacher's Pet here). Still, Winnie and his colleagues will find homes on ABC and the Disney Channel and in DVD collections all over. And every once in a while, a grand slam will emerge, spreading a lot of fiscal pixie dust to the Mouse's coffers. The Pooh project may not end up doing as well as other initiatives of its kind (e.g., Return To Never Land and The Tigger Movie each had a much better opening), but it's in the library now, for better or for worse.

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Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of Disney.