Pixar significantly modified its distribution strategy throughout the epidemic era, sending three consecutive new features directly to Disney Plus at the expense of a conventional theatrical run. Lightyear was Pixar’s first major screen exclusive in nearly two years, but things didn’t go as planned.
Toy Story 3 became only the third Pixar feature to debut outside of the top spot at the domestic box office, following The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out. Not only that, but Chris Evans‘ performance as a space ranger was panned by critics as being among Pixar’s weakest reviews since Cars 3.
While it’s understandable that a star-studded intergalactic adventure connected to a multi-billion dollar franchise would test the waters of cinematic success for the first time in a long time, fans had plenty to say following Lightyear‘s catastrophic underperformance compared to early forecasts.
Soul, Luca, and Turning Red landed respective Rotten Tomatoes scores of 95, 91, and 94 percent, whereas Lightyear sits on a solid-if-unspectacular by Pixar standards 77 percent. While the aforementioned Disney Plus trio has a lot of potential, it is also worth noting how their scores compare to those of other major franchises from competing studios: Hardly a catastrophe, but it demonstrates an ongoing problem for major Hollywood studios in betting big on brand recognition over original IP in order to entice audiences back into the multiplex when there’s no reason why the aforementioned Disney Plus trio wouldn’t have thrived playing on the big screen.
The autopsy has already begun, and we’ll be looking forward to Lightyear‘s performance in the coming weeks.
How disappointing is the box office for LIGHTYEAR? Let me put it this way: my meeting in Los Angeles with Disney on Monday morning to pitch my treatment for a new movie called WOODY has been postponed indefinitely
— Jesse Hawken (@jessehawken) June 18, 2022
You just know Chapek is gonna take all the wrong lessons from Lightyear’s box office. And you just know plenty of people will think they know what went wrong, come up with their theories, and ignore the simple fact that maybe people just didn’t care that much about the character.
— The Summer of Swell (@cinemaxwell) June 18, 2022
They were right to be concerned. I took Phil and the boys to see the new Buzz Lightyear movie and we saw two female characters kiss. Now my whole family is gay. 😕
— Linz DeFranco (@LinzDeFranco) June 18, 2022
This is a real good point here. Yes, it’s still very early to say if Lightyear failed, but if so, the main reason could be that, even if we’re in the post-pandemic time, animated/family films still need time to fully recover before being considered a box office contender. https://t.co/HFGJlg06FE
— Mat Brunet (AniMat) (@AniMat505) June 20, 2022
I’m not surprised in the slightest that Lightyear is underselling cus ever since I saw the trailer I was like “Who´s this for”
— ScrungleRatio (@SergioRatio) June 19, 2022
People keep saying Lightyear flopped or bombed with 51m, and yes it did underperform, but it also is still one of the highest animated film openings post pandemic. It is more sad Bad Guys only got 23m on its opening. Encanto was thanksgiving weekend and it got only around 40m
— 🌘ellspe🌸 (@Cellspex) June 20, 2022
Look, man, my kids are convinced Lightyear is already on Disney+ because that’s how Pixar movies have come out for like a third of their lives, and when I explain we gotta go to the theater, they just want to wait until it comes out on Disney+.
— Matt Burnett. (@Matt___Burnett) June 19, 2022
“Lightyear underwhelms at the box office” okay so time to add it to disney plus like they did Soul, Luca, and Turning Red😍😍😍😍 pic.twitter.com/VuECCanRHJ
— 🌈lucaa🌈🐠🧜🏽♂️🏳️🌈 (@skataaboy) June 18, 2022