‘Onward’ Could Be One of Disney and Pixar’s Biggest Flops

Since releasing Toy Story in 1995, Pixar has consistently wowed audiences with its track record of imaginative, hilarious, and poignant animated films. Okay, maybe the studio hasn’t always delivered the same level of quality. Films such as the Cars franchise, The Good Dinosaur, and Brave weren’t nearly as beloved as most of its other releases.

Yet, when a Pixar movie stakes out a release date, the industry and fans already assume a certain level of success is guaranteed. After all, audiences have come to trust that little hopping lamp that makes Pixar’s logo so memorable. But if a new report is any indication, Onward could be one of the studio’s biggest underperformers.

The cast and crew of 'Onward' at the world premiere
The cast and crew of ‘Onward’ at the world premiere | Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney

Pixar’s legacy of family entertainment

Over the past 25 years, Pixar has released a total of 21 theatrical releases. The Toy Story series — which returned yet again for 2019’s Toy Story 4 — is the company’s most well-known. But the aforementioned Cars, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and Monsters Inc. have all developed into their own successful franchises. Incredibles 2 currently stands as its biggest worldwide hit, with $1.2 billion.

Remarkably, Pixar movies perform just as well, if not better, with critics than they do with audiences. Films such as Inside Out, Coco, Ratatouille, and WALL-E lend themselves less readily to sequels. Yet, they’ve all received critical praise for the themes they tackle, their visual styles, and the rich vocal performances behind them.

So it’s with these fairly unfair expectations in mind that we turn our attention to Onward. The fantasy adventure stars the voices of Tom Holland and Chris Pratt as elf brothers on an epic quest. With the film hitting theaters in March 2020, Pixar fans are wondering how Onward will fit into Pixar’s legacy.

‘Onward’ is tracking for a low opening

Regardless of how satisfying a tale the film tells, Onward looks to be facing an uphill battle at the box office. According to the latest reports, Onward could wind up being on the lower end of Pixar’s filmography. The film is currently tracking for an opening weekend of $44 million.

If true, that total would put Onward as the lowest the third-lowest wide Pixar release in the studio’s history. The only Pixar films to open that low are 2015’s The Good Dinosaur ($39 million) and the original Toy Story ($29 million) way back in 1995. The former was the studio’s lowest-grossing film at the worldwide box office. And the latter isn’t even adjusted for inflation.

Most recent Pixar movies carry a budget between $175 million and $200 million. We don’t know for sure how much Onward cost, but if it’s in this range, a $44 million opening is certainly a disappointment. Then again, this is only Pixar’s second non-sequel release in the past five years. So there’s always the chance good word of mouth will carry Onward, well, forward.

Will ‘Soul’ be this year’s ‘Inside Out’?

Notably, even if Onward does fall short of expectations, it isn’t Pixar’s only chance to turn a hefty profit in 2020. The studio is also releasing Soul in June. In the film, Jamie Foxx voices a musician whose soul must find its way back to his body. Director Pete Docter (Up, Inside Out) has a knack for tugging at audiences’ heartstrings. So consider yourselves warned.

The 2020 Pixar double bill of Onward and Soul feels reminiscent of the studio’s 2015 strategy. In that year, the studio released both The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out the same year. One was a moderate box office hit with strong notices from audiences and critics, but the other exploded into a bit of a phenomenon.

Truly, expecting Pixar to bring mind-blowing entertainment every single time is unrealistic. Even if Onward isn’t on the level of some of the studio’s finest, it could still end up being one of 2020’s best family films. We’ll find out soon enough when Onward arrives in theaters on March 6, 2020.