Disney’s Future Survival Hinges on ‘Inside Out 2’ Being a Historic Success, Report

in Disney, Pixar

An image shows animated characters Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger, and Disgust from the movie "Inside Out" trapped in a glass jar. Joy looks up smiling while the other characters display various emotions. The jar is dimly lit from above, creating a spotlight effect.

Credit: Pixar

If Inside Out 2 does not have some huge opening box office numbers this summer, the future of The Walt Disney Company is looking pretty dire.

A serene twilight sky backs the iconic fairy tale castle as the luminous walt disney pictures logo takes center stage.
Credit: Disney

Box Office Predictions and Instant Flops

After a year of heavy box office losses due to the likes of Wish (2023), The Marvels (2023), and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023), The Walt Disney Company really needs a win.

Nearly alone among Disney production studios, Pixar Animation Studios was able to pull off a sleeper hit with Elemental (2023), a movie that initially opened to soft grosses but managed to stick it out in theaters and become one of the bigger movies of the year.

But it is rare for a theatrical film to overcome a weak opening weekend and turn a profit these days, in large part because of the increasingly gargantuan budgets of major studio films and those same studios’ rush to put releases on streaming services as quickly as possible.

A rugged man in a white tank top and tactical gear stands with a serious expression in front of a backdrop of explosions and smoke. A woman in a light pink jumpsuit stands next to him holding a red megaphone, also looking intense.
Credit: Universal Pictures

For example, the recent Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt action-comedy The Fall Guy opened to a relatively weak $28.5 million less than three weeks ago after being expected to gross approximately $30 million. That small shortfall led to it being yanked from wide-release theaters a mere 17 days after its premiere and dumped on streaming POVD, destroying any chance that it could build positive word of mouth and make more money like Elemental.

Related: ‘Inside Out 2’ Launches New Disney Beauty Line

Opening weekend grosses are everything in the film industry right now, and underperforming even a little is treated as proof that a movie is an utter failure. That’s the environment that Inside Out 2 will face next month.

Animated characters from the movie "inside out" with joy in the center, surrounded by sadness, anger, and disgust, in a colorful setting, expressing a range of emotions.
Credit: Disney Pixar

‘Inside Out 2’: Sequelmania

Disney is counting on Inside Out 2, the first of its upcoming wave of sequels, prequels, and remakes, to make a big impression on the world.

Right now, Disney has to prove that it can still reliably produce blockbuster films, which it has not in several years.

It has a few strategies, but all of them are risky CEO Bob Iger and Kevin Feige have stripped down the Marvel Studios release schedule to just three movies in the next two years, Deadpool and Wolverine (2024), The Fantastic Four (2025), and Captain America: Brave New World (2025), in an attempt to revitalize the increasingly mordant MCU brand.

The official cast announcement of Fantastic Four, featuring everyone enjoying themselves in a living room
Credit: Marvel Studios

On the Lucasfilm side, Kathleen Kennedy and Dave Filoni have finally kicked off plans for two new Star Wars feature films and hope that the Clone Wars-heavy Disney+ series will keep fans occupied for the time being.

Disney Animation Studios and Pixar are both committed to the idea that, if you can’t get audiences to come to a new movie, just keep making sequel after sequel. In addition to Inside Out 2, Pixar has announced Toy Story 5, Frozen 3 (and possibly a fourth movie), and Moana 2.

Disney is currently so desperate to pump out the sequels that the upcoming Moana movie was actually retrofitted from a planned Disney+ streaming series at the last minute in order to get it into theaters.

In an animated scene from "Inside Out 2," Joy, Disgust, and Anger stand together on a pink, brain-like surface. Disgust looks annoyed, Joy appears curious, and Anger is fuming. Fear is in the background, falling backward dramatically.
Credit: Pixar

Inside Out 2 is currently being predicted to gross as much as $115 million in its opening weekend (per BoxOfficePro), which would make it the biggest movie of the year so far. As far as Disney is concerned, the Amy Poehler-starring film is a bellwether as to whether its fans are willing to pay theater prices for animated sequels or whether its big plan to survive the future of Hollywood is going to immediately flop.

Related: ‘Inside Out 2’ Gets the ‘Turning Red’ Treatment, Introduces Puberty and “The Belief System”

The upcoming Pixar sequel will see a teenage  Riley (voiced by Kensington Tallman, who replaced Kaitlyn Dias) encountering all the travails of adolescence and, along with them, a new set of emotions. Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, and Lewis Black reprise Joy, Sadness, and Anger, while Tony Hale replaces Bill Hader as Fear, and Liza Lapira replaces Mindy Kaling as Disgust. Maya Hawke, Ayo Edebiri, Adèle Exarchopoulos, and Paul Walter Hauser voice new emotions.

Inside Out 2 is being released on the same Father’s Day weekend as Lightyear (2022) and Elemental, which is an interesting choice. The Toy Story spinoff film starring Chris Evans flopped hard at the box office, but it also had the bad luck of premiering during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As previously mentioned, Elemental eventually became one of the year’s bigger hits despite its tepid opening, but this new movie might not get that chance if industry trends continue.

Joy about to hug Anxiety in the control room
Credit: Disney Pixar

The first Inside Out (2015) opened to a very strong $90 million, but that was at a very different time for the entertainment industry. Disney is praying that nostalgia for the first film and its family-friendly appeal will be enough to knock itself out of a losing streak, but only the numbers can prove that.

For now, Disney bet the future of Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and more on the notion that audiences want sequels. We’ll have to see whether that’s true or not.

Inside Out 2 is scheduled to be released in theaters on June 14. It will feature the voices of Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Lewis Black, Diane Lane, and Kyle MacLachlan, with new actors Tony Hale, Liza Lapira, Maya Hawke, Ayo Edebiri, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Paul Walter Hauser, and Kensington Tallman all joining the cast. Kelsey Mann directs the film from a screenplay written by Meg LeFauve and Dave Holstein.

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