Dreamworks Animation Studios has just announced that it will take a $57 million loss on last month’s feature film, Mr. Peabody and Sherman, which was based off of the short bits from the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show that aired back in the 1960s. The film was actually a success at the box office, hitting the number one spot in the United States in its second week. It also received mostly positive reviews from critics, with many calling it “solid family entertainment.” It also received a 79 percent approval rating on the film-rating website, Rotten Tomatoes. So what went wrong with the movie?
Dreamworks just posted total earnings of $280.8 million worldwide from its movie profits. However, with a budget of $145 million, the studio took a loss of $57 million on Mr. Peabody and Sherman. Even though the movie hit number one for a brief moment in March, and was well-received by critics, it still did not do as well as Dreamworks had hoped. Mr. Peabody and Sherman was a kid-friendly movie with witty banter, abundant action, history lessons and an awkward kid romance. It taught good moral lessons on the problems with bullying, the importance of telling the truth and the power of parent-child relationships, no matter how unique. It had cartoon characters that children could get to know, relate to and get behind. Most importantly, children’s parents or grandparents would remember Mr. Peabody and Sherman from their childhoods and the Rocky and Bullwinkle Show in the early 1960s, and they were likely the ones paying for tickets. So where did Dreamworks go wrong in making a film like this? What exactly went wrong with it that caused the studio to take such a loss?
Mr. Peabody and Sherman was a strange mix of a film. The characters catered to an older audience; only fans of the old 1960s short films would know who they were. However, the general script of the film catered to a generally younger audience, using a lot of teen and young adult slang and phrases. The themes and the ideas in the movie were family friendly. Some of the jokes were purposefully really bad, which as anyone who knows about the original shorts knows, is characteristic of Mr. Peabody anyway. There were also some chuckles and a little bit of laugh-out-loud humor, though. Some of the jokes were more in line with the adult audience, though, and would quickly fly over a kid’s head.
With this weird fusion of elements, its easy to see why maybe people would be confused and skip the movie. Kids did not know who Mr. Peabody and Sherman were. Adults thought it was a kid’s movie. These factors contributed to Dreamworks ultimately taking a loss on a film which was generally well-received.
Another aspect to look at in what went wrong in Mr. Peabody and Sherman is that this movie was Dreamworks’ first animated film to feature characters from its “Classic Media Library” since the company was bought by the studio back in 2012. That is, the first film to feature a cast of not-so-well known characters, which may have contributed to the issue.
Dreamworks, which is known for huge box office successes such as Shrek, has had a hard time at the box office and has suffered several financial losses over the past couple of years. Dreamworks took a charge of $13.5 million earlier this year for the box office flop, Turbo, which set them back a bit. However, an even bigger loss for the studio was the $87 million hit it took last year for Rise of the Guardians, the holiday movie that was a complete dud at the box office. After that, Dreamworks was set back so far that it had to lay off 350 employees. Analysts speculate, however, that Dreamworks will be getting back on its feet with the upcoming How to Train Your Dragon 2, after the huge box office success of the initial How to Train Your Dragon movie.
Opinion by Laura Clark