Aside from a big-budget movie making big bucks this week end (aka the last part of Harry Potter, taking in the best grossing weekend ever for a film), there was a small and simple movie which doesn't play in the same league : Winnie The Pooh.
This charming film is an attempt from Disney to revitalize this franchise (after the failed attempts at making CGI Winnie, Disney didn't want to lose one of the best selling franchise when it comes to merchandise), and the image of the company at the same time, by making it a 2D movie just like the original film. It was made by high quality artists working at Disney Feature Animation (unlike the previous "cheapquels"), but with a very low budget in mind (~30 M$).
The film has received very positive critics, and even though I'm not particularly fond of the RottenTomatoes scores, it currently has 91% and is actually considered the best animated feature to come out this year!
So it's a critical success...but unfortunately not a commercial success.
While "totally rotten" Cars 2 made a 66M$ debut in the USA, Winnie only made 8M$.
Conclusion? This is the last nail in the coffin of western 2D animation. Maybe Disney didn't expect better, hoping for higher sales on the DVD and a merchandise boost. But still, low box offices is something that companies keep in memory, no matter how small the budget is. Don't expect any other 2D animated feature from Disney anytime soon...
Here's my opinion : While I *really* appreciate the latest efforts from Disney Feature Animation to restore their lost quality image (with Bolt, Princess & The Frog and Tangled being critical successes as well), they're doing it the wrong way.
To me, to "save" 2D animation, they should have made movies that weren't meant for a restricted audience. Princess & The Frog already had a very big problem with that (because of the "princess" focus, which lead most people to believe only little girls would be interested - something that was heavily corrected on the marketing for Tangled, including the title change, which I still believe helped to make it a big success) Yes, I did not go out to see Winnie the Pooh, because to be honest, it is and has always been Disney's kiddiest franchise. Sure, it's something "family" can enjoy, but not something I'm particularly attracted to. Does Disney even think of people who love traditional animation but don't have children? By doing Winnie, they cut out this very large portion of the population instantly.
If I was the one deciding the next projects at Disney, I would have made a film focusing on classics characters instead : Mickey, Donald, Scrooge. (why have they never tried a theatrical feature film for Mickey is beyond me! especially considering they've got the perfect material with the Epic Mickey video game - which WAS a commercial success!)
Or, I would have brought back one of their most successful properties ever from the 90's, be it Ducktales, Darkwing Duck or TaleSpin. All these SCREAM for a revival in 2D animation, and a movie would be perfect considering they had serious AND comical storylines, amazing art and interesting characters for everyone (and I really mean EVERYONE). And unlike the DTV "cheapquels", they were series, so they were meant for having sequels.
But hey, what do I know!