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Why MINIONS: RISE OF GRU Stole the Hearts of Families at the Box Office, While Pixar’s LIGHTYEAR Flopped

Photo from IMDb – “Pierre Coffin in Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022)”

Why MINIONS: RISE OF GRU Stole the Hearts of Families at the Box Office, While Pixar’s LIGHTYEAR Flopped

By Cooper Dowd, Senior Staff Writer

Since the early 2000s, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures has dominated other animated movies at the box office with iconic stories like FINDING NEMO and TOY STORY.

According to Box Office Mojo, Disney boasts eight of the top-ten grossing animated movies of all time.

However, over the July 4th weekend, Universal Pictures’ MINIONS: RISE GRU soundly defeated Disney Pixar’s LIGHTYEAR at the box office.

Over July 1-3, the fifth movie in the DESPICABLE ME franchise earned $100M and set an Independence Day weekend record with $125M over four days. In contrast, the highly anticipated TOY STORY spinoff only managed $50M, resulting in one of the biggest box office flops of 2022, according to ScreenRant.

Movieguide® previously reported that family-friendly movies would need to lead the way for the box office to recover from COVID-19.

LIGHTYEAR’s failure to draw in large audiences confirms that content matters to families, and the “family-friendly” label is not good enough.

“MINIONS shattered the idea that families don’t want to go back to the theaters,” Paul Dergarabedian, a senior Comscore analyst, told Variety. “You just have to give them a reason to go.”

While MINIONS: RISE OF GRU does not adhere to the same storytelling style as Pixar’s movies, its uplifting, heartfelt, and goofy fun attracted larger audiences than the adult-geared LIGHTYEAR. MINIONS: RISE OF GRU does have some cautions, especially for younger children. There are many references to Eastern/New Age philosophies, and it doesn’t allow Gru the strong redemption arc that the original DESPICABLE ME franchise affords. However, even with these cautions, MINIONS does not blatantly push an LGBT agenda.

“People want to go see something that is uproariously funny,” Derbarabedian said. “And LIGHTYEAR is a very serious piece of storytelling. It’s not as kid-oriented as those silly crazy wacky minions.”

But Movieguide® would take that analysis a step further. After all, Disney litters adult themes throughout Pixar’s lineup of animated family movies, many of which were highly successful at the box office.

Movies like THE INCREDIBLES, FINDING NEMO, INSIDE OUT, and the TOY STORY franchise all contain themes that likely go over children’s heads but captivate them nonetheless.

Whether Pixar tackled grief, the challenges of parenting, or unlikely friendships, they rarely compromised on a compelling, heartfelt, and moral story.

However, several issues arise for Disney’s latest installation, LIGHTYEAR.

The difference lies in the main character’s motivation. For example, FINDING NEMO explores the adult themes of the loss of Nemo’s mother and the grief that his father, Marlon, experiences. The loss motivates Marlon to protect Nemo with his life and emphasizes their bond to one another, which helps them overcome that grief.

However, in LIGHTYEAR, the adult themes are based mainly on the relationship between two lesbian characters. Buzz Lightyear’s motivation comes from the success of their relationship, and it is only by that that he can succeed in his mission by the end of the movie.

Progressive agenda aside, LIGHTYEAR is not Buzz’s story, while FINDING NEMO is Nemo and Marlon’s.

“Buzz isn’t really the hero of this story. His lesbian friend, Alisha, is the real hero. Eventually, it’s her life that inspires Buzz, her granddaughter and everyone else,” Movieguide®’s movie review reads.

In past years, Disney Pixar achieved a rare formula of art, fun, and heart that appealed to children and adults alike and blew its competition out of the water. But Disneys’ recent experiment with LIGHTYEAR, which focused on the LGBT+ agenda, failed to produce a heartfelt story.

MINIONS: RISE OF GRU’s success over LIGHTYEAR at the box office is proof that sex doesn’t sell, at least not when it comes wrapped up in a movie meant for families.


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