Warner Bros. has bounced back from a slow 2015 behind a “Suicide Squad”- and “Batman v Superman”-led resurgence, trailing just Disney — which is on an industry-record pace — out of all studios in market share. But Warner Bros., which brought the world Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, has a much smaller animation business than most of its peers despite the fact that it’s been one of the top-performing genres of the year.
However, “Storks,” which comes out Friday and is expected to bring in at least $30 million in its opening weekend, could give Warner Bros. not just its first real animated hit since 2014’s “The Lego Movie” but, like “Lego,” another franchise to build on. “The Lego Batman Movie” hits theaters Feb. 10, and there are two additional “Lego” movies already with scheduled release dates.
Here are five reasons “Storks” could give Warner Bros. a rare bankable animated franchise:
1. Reviews are off to a good start
“Storks” picked up a respectable 67 percent rating on movie critic aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, and with just nine reviews in so far, that’s likely to rise. TheWrap’s Alonso Duralde said the movie hit the mark in both humor and sentimentality, and called it “charming.” Animated movies aren’t as review-sensitive as some other genres, but the positive feedback from critics should lead to strong word-of-mouth, which ought to drive people to the theater.
2. It stars Andy Samberg in his one consistently successful film genre: animation
The “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” star and former “Saturday Night Live” player hasn’t been able to translate his TV magnetism to the big screen. “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping,” Samberg’s most recent live-action film, floundered with just $9.5 million total at the box office.
However, Sony’s animated “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” and “Transylvania” franchises — featuring Samberg in a voice-only role — did quite well. With “Storks,” he’s back in his element.
3. Parents are craving a family-friendly animated hit after a brief lull in the calendar
Universal’s “The Secret Life of Pets” has brought in $363 million domestically and $807 million worldwide since it hit theaters on July 8, but that was the last real mass-market animated hit of the year. Fox’s “Ice Age: Collision Course” delivered only $63 million domestically, and Sony’s surprise August hit “Sausage Party,” which made $95 million, is a raunchy R-rated movie directed at a decidedly non-family audience.
Disney’s “Pete’s Dragon,” another August film, was not animated, but was aimed at largely the same audience and also failed to make a real impact at the box office. Focus’ “Kubo and the Two Strings” won critical acclaim for its artwork and story, but it’s more of an adult film and made just $55 million worldwide. “Storks” should play to a much broader audience — and could be a great diversion for kids during football season.
4. The core plot details will remain relevant
Without giving away too much, “Storks” follows a flock of the titular fowl who work at an Amazon-inspired e-commerce giant. An animated franchise set at a suburban shopping mall might be in danger of obsolescence, but online shopping isn’t going anywhere, opening up a host of future storytelling possibilities.
5. The price is right
With a production budget in the $70 million range, “Storks” was much more cost-efficient to make than most major animated films. Disney’s Pixar, which was responsible for the year’s biggest animated movie, “Finding Dory,” typically churns out films with budgets topping $150 million. A big debut by “Storks” would mean plenty of bang for the buck — and could help make a stronger case for giving “Storks” a family — of films — of its own.