Pixar’s ‘Elemental’ Continues To Be a Surprise Hit, Beats ‘Avatar’

in Disney, Pixar

Wade and Ember ride the subway in 'Elemental'

Credit: Pixar

For some it may be surprising to hear that Pixar’s Elemental (2023) has emerged as Disney’s most unexpected triumphs of the year. For others, its quiet success proves that, despite recent failures, Pixar is still a heavy hitter in animation.

The success of Elemental was not immediate upon release. Pixar’s 27th feature film was released to a lukewarm reception, only making $29.5 million in its opening weekend. Many blamed Pixar’s weak marketing while others pointed to stiff competition from other movies released around that time including DC and Warner Bros.’ The Flash. Some thought, especially after a 36% drop in its second-weekend ticket sales, that the movie would end up yet another Pixar box office failure. 

Wade and Ember from Elemental smiling together
Credit: Disney Pixar

Despite this, mostly positive praise from critics and audiences guided the animated film to a total of $493 million worldwide by the end of the summer. Most of that total came from foreign box office results; in fact, Elemental did better overseas than Oscar-favorite Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, which broke records upon its initial release.

Pixar has been known as an animation giant for decades, since Toy Story first came out in 1995. A Bug’s Life (1998), Finding Nemo (2003), Up (2009), and Inside Out (2015) are just a few of the incredible movies that have been released by the animation studio in the last two decades. Elemental was the most recent Pixar film to be released and was directed by Peter Sohn, who has been involved with Pixar since 2007’s Ratatouille.

Wade and Ember sit in a theater in Elemental
Credit: Pixar

The animated adventure from Disney/Pixar, which initially raised eyebrows with a lackluster marketing campaign, amassed an enormous view count on Disney+ according to Nielsen data. Elemental ended up as the third most streamed movie in its first two weeks only behind Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022) and Neflix’s You People. Its streaming success is additionally incredible when put in comparison with other movies released on streaming this year.

James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water (2022), Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and The Little Mermaid (2023) all released on Disney+ this year along with Elemental. While those films all did better than Elemental in theatrical sales, they were all behind the Pixar movie when it came to streaming hours for the first two weeks after release. In fact, Elemental was only third against all movies according to Nielsen data which points to a possibility that many still wanted to wait to watch it online instead of in theaters. Rising ticket prices and a weak marketing scheme may lead to an unfortunate downward trend for Disney unless things are improved.

Wade surprised that Ember is green in Elemental
Credit: Pixar

Success in Hollywood has always been a scene of highs and lows for studios since the beginning. In today’s world, the major players are all trying to “figure out” streaming and how this innovative and pervasive technology can provide audiences with a more convenient watching experience while also producing income for the industry. Some studios have moved to releasing their feature films simultaneously in theaters and on streaming or within just a few weeks of each other. However, Elemental has proven that there may be merit in sticking to a more traditional model. Letting the movie stay in theaters allowed it to evolve from a minor footnote into a major financial success for the Walt Disney Company, able to compete with the success of Frozen (2013) and Encanto (2021).

In a year marked by unforeseen successes and shifting paradigms, Pixar’s Elemental stands as a testament to the magic of storytelling and the future of film. It proves that even the most unlikely of contenders can rise to the top, given the right mix of creativity, talent, and a sprinkle of pixie dust. With Elemental leading the way, Disney’s future looks as bright as ever, and it serves as a reminder that in the world of entertainment, surprises are always welcome.

Does Elemental’s success surprise you? What do you think about the future of streaming releases? Let us know in the comments below!


in Disney, Pixar

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