Toy Story 4 Being Beat by Spirited Away is Not 3D Animation Saturation in China

Hollywood Studios & Pundits Are Making Excuses of Why Toy Story 4 Got Crushed by a 20 Year Old Japanese 2D Animated Film & They Are All Wrong, Because None of Them Understand the Current ACG 2D Culture Market in China.

By Ryan Carroll, Editor-at-Large

July, 2019

It is not a matter of saturation between 3D pre-school TV animation and the visual sophistication of Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli’s 2D animation work.  It is the fact that Pixar has not resonated with Chinese movie going audiences in general at the China box-office, with the exception of Coco $190MMUSD and that was due to the story of filial honorific rather than Pixar storytelling within itself.

But, one should look at, a $14MMUSD opening box-office weekend for Toy Story 4 in the Middle Kingdom as being absolutely fantastic, and its finally tally may be one of Pixar’s best. Probably not Finding Dory $38MM good but better than some of Pixar’s other releases (some of Pixar’s films in the past never even had an official release in China).

Either way, one should view Toy Story 4‘s opening weekend box-offices as Not a Failure in China!

With Hollywood looking for every possible reason why Toy Story 4 did not open with a $50MM+ weekend, or at the very least higher than that of Spirited Away. The LA trades abound began searching for any possible reason to why this “anomaly” may have happened.

Even with Variety contributing Toy Story 4‘s box-office being half of that of Spirited Away due to it having less than half of the screen count of Miyazaki’s 20 year old film, but why would the China Film Group give a Japanese studio, their mortal enemy of the past century!, a higher screen count than the country that saved them from said enemy???

This is due to Miyazaki’s Spirited Away falling under the hugely popular fandom sub-genre of ACG (anime/comics/games) aka er’ci yuan or 2D Culture, which was a $15BnUSD yearly revenue industry in 2015 and will be at least a $72Bn revenue industry by 2020 (this editor is speculating it to be even higher). 

A couple of months ago My Neighbor Totoro brought in over $25MM at the China box-office.  This fandom is being propelled by the Chinese Gen Z demographic that represents 85% of the ACG viewership aged 17-24 years old, with 75% of them being closer to the age of 17 than 24 years of age.

This is a hugely burgeoning industry that everyone should be watching but it is not one heavily dominated by the box-office but one online by sites such as Bilibili, and one that Hollywood does not truly understand.

The ACG, sometimes referred to as ACGN (with N referring to online Light Novel dominated by Tencent Literature in China), is a force to be reckoned with but one with Pixar’s work, especially Toy Story 4 does not fall under.

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About the Author
Born and raised in the Missouri-Ozarks Ryan studied Film Production, and East Asian Culture, at the University of Kansas where he was a UGRA recipient that led him on a seven-year long, Journey From the West, to China. Where he worked with Warner Brothers, the China Film Group Corp. and the National Bureau of Statistics of China. Before returning to the States, where he specializes in Chinese Anime & Comics, China’s Box-Office, and Chinese entertainment-tech industries. He has a dog in China, Abigail, and a dog in the Arkansas-Ozarks, King Blue, who help ease his anxiety of suffering from the “Two-Dimensional Complex” that is trying to understand the Culture Industry landscapes of the Middle Kingdom.