Even though the Mouse House boasted a small slate of films this summer, there is still plenty to brag about.

Studio Report Card: Disney

on September 07, 2009 by Gary Gentile

Disney’s success at the box office this summer can be summed up in one word: UP.

The Mouse House stuck by its strategy of releasing fewer films and movies that appeal to a wide family audience. That plan struck gold thanks to the success of UP, the tenth film—and tenth straight box office hit—from Pixar Animation Studios.

The animated film, which paired a curmudgeonly widower voiced by Ed Asner with a do-gooder Boy Scout, a talking dog and other characters, charmed North American audiences, pulling in $290 million. Like most Pixar films, which combine state of the art animation with universal story lines, the film also was a hit overseas. UP has grossed $417 million worldwide according to Rentrak.

While Pixar films have become something of a sure thing, who knew that moviegoers would embrace a film that featured animated talking guinea pigs leading an elite animal special ops team with the mission of—what else—saving the world?

Well, G-Force was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, after all. And it was in 3D, a technology that has proven its ability to pack air conditioned theaters in the middle of summer. The film made $112 million domestically and has grossed $161 million worldwide.

The studio’s one non Disney-branded film, The Proposal, featured the unlikely romantic pairing of Ryan Reynolds and Sandra Bullock. The movie relied on the shopworn device of two people agreeing to a sham marriage to fool immigration authorities—a fake affair that leads to real love.

Still, the chemistry between the two stars was enough to make the Touchstone release the third summer film from Disney to surpass the $100 million mark. The Proposal made $160.4 million domestically.

The studio’s only misfire was with the release of the Japanese animated film Ponyo.

The movie is the latest offering from animation master Hayao Miyazaki. Disney, to its credit, put a lot of effort into making this the most accessible of Miyazaki’s films to American audiences. They commissioned a reworking of the script, rather than dubbing a word-for-word translation. They hired top voice talent, including Tina Fey, Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett.

But despite their best marketing efforts, the film has grossed only $11 million in limited release. Disney certainly deserves credit for trying, but Ponyo pulls down the grade a bit for an otherwise stellar summer.

Grade: A-

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