The new Minions thing is out, and it’s on pace for a boffo opening weekend. Which, on the one hand, is good. It means there’s a place for animation on the big screen post-COVID. On the other hand, it throws Lightyear’s returns into even starker relief.
The two movies aren’t that far apart on RT (72/75), Metacritic (56/60), or CinemaScore (A/A-). And that’s damning enough, given that one is Pixar and the other is, y’know, Minions. But it doesn’t explain why the one is blowing the other out of the water at the box office.
Obviously, Rise of Gru’s ties to the franchise are a lot easier to explain (sequel to Minions, prequel to Despicable Me) than Lightyear‘s weird metafictional turn (it’s the in-universe movie that inspired the toy! except he doesn’t act anything like the toy! and it’s a grounded character study instead of the pulpy space adventure the toy is obviously based on! look, we just got done watching Interstellar on Hulu and it made sense at the time).
But you also have to look at how the two studios handled the pandemic. Disney dumped three quality Pixar movies onto streaming. They trained their audience to stay home. Meanwhile, Universal sat on Gru for two full years instead of using it to sell Peacock subscriptions, and their patience is finally paying off.
Hopefully this was just a temporary setback and Disney can still convince people to see non-Marvel movies in theaters, but it’s gonna be tough.