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Disney’s “Toy Story” franchise returned on June 17 with a spinoff film called “Lightyear.” Many are wondering why the movie did not perform as expected due to all the media attention it received.
“Lightyear” followed the character in the “Toy Story” universe that inspired the toy Buzz Lightyear from the original films. There was initial confusion over the casting of Chris Evans as the main lead instead of the actor who voices Buzz, Tim Allen. Evans took to Twitter to clear up the mixup:
And just to be clear, this isn’t Buzz Lightyear the toy. This is the origin story of the human Buzz Lightyear that the toy is based on
— Chris Evans (@ChrisEvans) December 11, 2020
The rest of the voice cast includes Keke Palmer, Taika Waititi, Uzo Aduba, Peter Sohn, James Brolin, and others. Angus MacLane both directed and co-wrote the film with Jason Headley, and Galyn Susman is the producer.
The film debuted at $50 million in the U.S., $20 million lower than what experts projected and only a quarter of its budget. After adding $18 million in its second week, “Lightyear” has made $152 million worldwide. Many factors have been attributed to the spinoff’s poor performance.
All Press is not Good Press
Some experts point to the marketing of the film as a reason for its downfall. The premise proved to be too confusing for audiences who were unclear about what the film had to do with “Toy Story.” It was not made obvious by the movie trailers that Buzz Lightyear was not the main character. While the film did clear things up in its opening, marketing and the Chris Evans tweet only seemed to add to the confusion. The “Lightyear” marketing “never made quite clear the connection to Andy’s favorite toy until the last second,” according to one analyst.
Families might have been confused about the film and that could have steered them away.
After Effects of Streaming Releases
Disney’s approach of releasing its films on both streaming and in theaters may have also cannibalized sales. The company released the previous three Pixar films straight to Disney+ at no cost to subscribers. This possibly led families to believe that “Lightyear” would also be available on the release date or soon after. This move may have done damage to the Pixar brand since many of the studio’s films are no longer accessible to the general public. Despite Netflix’s recent subscriber blunder, it still commands a lion’s share of the streaming market.
A lot of people did not see [Lightyear] because they have been trained to see Pixar movies on Disney+
The competition was a bigger threat due to movies like “Top Gun: Maverick” not expected to be available on streaming for months.
Nobody could have predicted how well Top Gun: Maverick would still be doing.
Even More Reasons
Some analysts believe audiences were not looking forward to the spinoff at all. Some are comparing the failure of “Lightyear” to “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” another Disney box office bomb from 2018. That movie also replaced a beloved character and actor with a new one that was unknown to the general public.
Nobody wanted a prequel origin story action comedy based on the co-lead of an established cinematic brand featuring a different (and mostly unknown) actor in the role.
Reviews for “Lightyear” were not too kind and less positive due to “lacking the same magic” as the other “Toy Story” films. Without the original characters, the film was fighting an uphill battle in introducing new ones.
The film’s same-sex kiss scene could also have hurt the performance since it seemed to be the main thing talked about in the movie’s media coverage. Opponents of this belief argue that the appearance of a same-sex couple did not stop the new Doctor Strange sequel from reaching $1 billion. It is possible that the kiss scene combined with the expectation of streaming release did the trick. Some parents may have preferred to be able to skip the scene at home while watching “Lightyear” with their children.
Written by Chiagozie Onyewuchi
Yahoo! News: Why isn’t Lightyear taking off at the box office?; by Brendan Morrow
MarketWatch: ‘Elvis,’ ‘Top Gun’ tie atop box office; steep dropoff for Pixar’s ‘Lightyear’; by Associated Press staff
Slash Film: Disney’s Lightyear Was The Only Real Loser At The Box Office This Weekend