As everyone expected, Toy Story 4 absolutely dominated the box office this weekend with an estimated take of $118 million, Box Office Mojo is reporting. That was enough to give it the best opening for the franchise to date, as it beat the $110 million Toy Story 3 made back in 2010.
So why are some going to call this a disappointment? Because tracking for Toy Story 4 was ludicrous, with some projecting that the sequel could open to as much as $200 million. Those kinds of expectations were always going to be a little bullish here, as they were comparing the film to the opening of Incredibles 2 (which did $180 million, the best ever for an animated film) rather than to the Toy Story series. Others are saying that Disney should’ve opened the movie last weekend instead due to the lucrative Father’s Day holiday, but that would’ve had the sequel opening only one week after The Secret Life of Pets 2, which would’ve been a bad move as they had no way of knowing that film would perform well below projections. Ultimately Toy Story 4 is playing as well as it should logically be expected to, even if Disney’s own studio tracking was also on the bolder side with $145 million.
We should note that Toy Story 4 faced an unusual kind of hurdle, in that it had to justify its existence to audiences after the series “ended” with Toy Story 3. Its also had a number of production changes since it was first announced by Pixar, with John Lasseter himself originally in line to direct. He dropped out long before he left the company (some websites are falsely claiming that Lasseter was “forced to leave,” but that wasn’t the case), though he is still given a story credit even if he has been wiped from the end titles as an executive producer (which however you feel about the scandal surrounding him does feel kind of harsh, as Toy Story has been his baby since 1995). In the end, Toy Story 4 was helmed by first time feature film director Josh Cooley, and going by how much critics praised the film–it currently has a 98% “freshness” rating over at Rotten Tomatoes–it appears that Pixar made the right call.
Central to the marketing of Toy Story 4 was the promise of the return of Bo Peep, along with the introduction of a number of wacky new characters (sadly, Michael Keaton’s hilarious Ken is absent for this one). Equally important was setting itself apart from Toy Story 3, which was essentially a prison movie as almost the entire story took place in an ominous day care center. Toy Story 4, by contrast, heavily promoted two new locations for the film, including an antique shop and a carnival. Ultimately, it worked with audiences, who gave the film an “A” CinemaScore.
Where does Toy Story 4 go from here? That’s hard to say. Even if projections for the film were blown out of proportion, it did still fall below them, so it remains to be seen how leggy it will be. Regardless, lest anyone write this off as a letdown for the Mouse House, we should note this is the third $100 million+ opening weekend they’ve enjoyed in 2019 so far, and they’re almost certainly going to have three more of them with The Lion King, Frozen II and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker before the year is over.
Elsewhere at the box office, The Secret Life of Pets 2 continued to do “fine” at the box office, but it’s going to finish as Illumination’s lowest grossing fully animated feature to date. So far it has a total of $117 million. Meanwhile, Aladdin is showing enormous staying power, remaining in the top three with a current bounty of $287 million. It will cross the $300 million mark by next weekend.
Final figures are due tomorrow.