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Pixar to 'keep swimming' after 'Good Dinosaur' falls short at box office

"The Good Dinosaur" may have had a good opening weekend by Hollywood's standards, but the newest Pixar film fell short of the animation company's traditionally high box-office performances.

However, analysts predict that Pixar's next feature "Finding Dory" could be the highest-grossing movie for the summer of 2016 and offset any doubts cast by "The Good Dinosaur."

While Pixar's latest animated feature garnered $39.1 million in its first three days and $56.6 million domestically for the entirety of the Thanksgiving weekend, the dinosaur flick had the weakest launch of any film released by the animation company, ever.

"The Good Dinosaur," which received favorable reviews from critics is not a flop by any stretch. However, the unimpressive box-office performance is indicative of the adversity the film faced coming into its Thanksgiving debut.

Pixar's latest film was originally slated to be released in May 2014, but production issues and creative concerns led to the company to push its debut into 2015.

The decision by the Disney subsidiary resulted in a layoff of nearly 5 percent of its 1,200 employees and made 2014 the first year since 2005 that Pixar didn't release a film.

"Nobody ever remembers the fact that you slipped a film, but they will remember a bad film," Ed Catmull, president of Pixar, told The Los Angeles Times back in 2013, "Our conclusion was that we were going to give the [dinosaur] film some more time."

The company scrapped most of the film — animation and story — hired a new director and replaced the voice cast consisting of John Lithgow, Neil Patrick Harris, Bill Hader and Judy Greer, who had already recorded all of the dialogue for the original film.

"[Pixar has] been very transparent about the problems that they have had with this film. ... That's the right way to do it," said Jeff Bock, senior box-office analyst at Exhibitor Relations. "They really understand how important the story is and the structure of the story. And they don't move forward until that story is right. ... That's not something that a lot of animation studios do."

'Finding Dory' to keep Pixar afloat

"The Good Dinosaur" may not see the same success as "Inside Out" which debuted over the summer, garnering more than $90 million during its opening weekend and upward of $850 million globally, but it's also not a box-office misfire.

Even if the film does not make back its production budget — estimated to be between $150 million and $200 million — Pixar and Disney will reap benefits from film merchandising and, of course, the release of "Finding Dory" next year.

While "Finding Dory" will come up against summer blockbusters like "Captain America: Civil War," "X-Men: Apocalypse," "Star Trek Beyond" and "Ghostbusters," analysts still think it is a contender to be the highest-grossing film of the summer.

A still from Pixar's "Finding Dory."
Source: Pixar | YouTube
A still from Pixar's "Finding Dory."

"'Finding Dory' has a very realistic chance of being the No. 1 movie of the summer," Bock said, explaining that it is the sequel to one of Pixar's most beloved films, "Finding Nemo." "You have to assume that everybody is going to see that film next summer."

Additionally, Pixar has four other films slated to be released over the next few years. "Cars 3" will open in June 2017, with "Day of the Dead"-inspired "Coco" to follow in November of that year. "Toy Story 4" arrives in 2018 and "The Incredibles 2" will hit theaters in 2019.

"They are just one of those brands that are bulletproof," Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Rentrak, said. "The writing is so good, the themes are universal, the animation is beautiful to look at and the movies overall provide such a great experience that they transcend any kind of categorization. ... You never hear anyone refer to a Pixar movie as a cartoon. It's an animated feature film."