20-Year-Old Universal Film Destroys Disney at the Box Office

in Disney, Entertainment

Image of animated characters Shrek, a large green ogre, and a red, fluffy creature with startled expressions, standing side by side.

Credit: DreamWorks, Disney

Disney was crushed by one of its biggest competitors.

Poster for Pixar's 'Turning Red.'
Credit: Pixar

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It’s impossible to deny that The Walt Disney Company has been struggling at the box office as of late, with several films failing to deliver financially and critically. Some of these struggles can be attributed to the outbreak of COVID-19 as well as the shift to the company’s in-house streaming platform, Disney+.

Audiences are being conditioned to simply wait for a film to hit streaming platforms, causing fewer and fewer people to go out of their way to see a movie in theaters. A select number of Disney films turned out to be substantial financial hits, like 2023’s The Little Mermaid and Elemental, but these are the exception now.

Other recent Disney films, such as Luca (2021), Lightyear (2022), and Turning Red (2022), all failed to pick up steam at the box office, becoming some of Disney’s most significant losses in quite some time. This problem is also affecting Disney’s animation output and live-action releases, with last year’s releases of Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny and Haunted Mansion turning into certified flops for the company.

To recapture some of the magic (and cash), Disney announced that three Pixar films would return to theaters in 2024.

Soul
Credit: Disney/Pixar

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As part of an exciting new campaign, The Walt Disney Company revealed that Turning Red and Luca would be heading back to theaters in January, allowing fans who may have missed them to watch them in an actual cinema. Fans could also catch Soul (2020) in theaters as part of this promotion, a film that was never released in theaters due to COVID-19.

Unfortunately, these limited-engagement releases failed to stir up any excitement, with Soul grossing around $130,000. Luca posted slightly better numbers, grossing around $150,000. Turning Red fared far better, grossing over $1 million during its release.

To make matters worse, DreamWorks, one of Disney’s oldest competitors, smashed the box office with its rerelease of Shrek 2. The film returned to theaters in April 2024 to celebrate its 20th anniversary, posting incredible numbers for a movie that has now entered the double-decades. According to the final numbers, DreamWork’s release of Shrek 2 (2004) earned more than all three Disney films did during their initial theatrical run.

shrek and donkey confused
Credit: DreamWorks

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The original Shrek was released in 2001 and was produced on a budget of around $60 million. However, Shrek grossed a total of $484 million, making it one of the most successful animated films of all time and the fourth highest-grossing film of 2001.

Universal and DreamWorks have been big competitors of The Walt Disney Company for decades, especially in theme parks in the industry. However, the success of Shrek in 2001 confirmed Universal had finally achieved its own iconic animated franchise.

Sequels were inevitable, with Shrek 2 releasing just a few years later in 2004. Shrek 2 also received worldwide acclaim for its animation style and entrancing plot, which was filled with great performances and incredible comedy. The following years would see the release of the third Shrek film, Shrek the Third, a holiday spin-off called Shrek the Halls, and Shrek Forever After, which acted as the finale for this particular series of films.

The Shrek franchise is far from dead, with all signs pointing toward an eventual Shrek 5

What’s your favorite animated Disney film?

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