After a year unlike any seen in box office history, Disney is ready to get their 2020 slate underway with the first of two original Pixar films set to come out this year. “Onward,” a suburban fantasy starring Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, is predicted to conjure a $45 million opening weekend, according to industry soothsayers.
While Pixar briefly dipped back into new material with the Oscar-winning “Coco” in 2017, it has spent much of the past four years focusing on sequels to its iconic early titles like “Finding Dory,” “Cars 3,” “Incredibles 2,” and “Toy Story 4.” While all well-received, those films have created a thirst for something new from hardcore Pixar fans that new studio creative head Pete Docter is trying to satisfy.
But as one can see from this first round of tracking, that means lower box office expectations. While “Dory”, “Incredibles 2” and “TS4” all scored summer openings of over $100 million, “Onward” isn’t expected to come close to that mark; nor is Pixar’s summer offering, “Soul.”
A more modest (by Pixar standards) but still very strong $200 million domestic run and $600-700 million global run is the likely goal for “Onward,” relying on word of mouth for strong legs through the spring. That was the path taken in October 2017 by “Coco,” which opened to $50 million and went on to gross $209 million in North America while a surprising cultural resonance in China helped push it to $807 million worldwide.
There is also the possibility that audience awareness could grow and push opening estimates as release gets closer. Four years ago, Disney’s “Zootopia” steadily gain a foothold with audiences in the lead-up to release, earning a $75 million opening that still stands as the best opening for an animated film released in March. Some analysts who spoke to TheWrap say they expect opening weekend estimates for “Onward” to rise to around $60 million in the coming weeks.
As for Disney, it is very unlikely that Disney’s 2020 totals will match the record shattering $3.76 billion domestic total, 33% domestic market share or $11.1 billion global total that it hauled in last year. There are no “Avengers,” “Star Wars” or animated sequels on the slate this time around, but it will still have a major presence in the theatrical market and a strong chance to continue its reign as Hollywood’s top studio. Along with “Onward,” Disney will also release a live-action remake of their animated film “Mulan,” hoping that it will join “Aladdin” and “The Lion King” as the third straight Disney remake to gross $1 billion worldwide.
“Onward” stars Holland and Pratt as two elf brothers in a world full of magical creatures that has forgotten all about magic, falling into the day-to-day struggle of modern urban life. But magic comes back in a big way when the brothers discover a staff from their late father with a spell that allows the caster to bring one person back from the dead for one day. When they cast the spell, it only brings back their dad’s legs, forcing the brothers to find a way to complete the spell before sundown.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Octavia Spencer also star in the film. It is the directorial debut of Dan Scanlon, who based the story off his relationship with his father who died before he came of age. “Onward” hits theaters March 6.