Disney recently released its animation schedule through 2018. There are two and sometimes three films a year slated for release. There are people, like Charles Kenney, who fear that we're looking at a glut of animated films that will wear out their welcome at the box office. I agree with that, but I also think that it is inevitable. The nature of capitalism is for companies to keep making what sells until it stops selling. Once that happens, they move on to whatever is selling next. If that's not animation, we're out of luck. For those who might be skeptical, I can point out that westerns and musicals, both of which were commonplace in past decades, are now rare. Animation could suffer the same fate.
Whatever happens, it's important to realise that Disney's schedule is written in water.
All predictions are based on current conditions continuing into the future, and that rarely happens. For proof, we only have to go back to the start of this year. After DreamWorks' Rise of the Guardians underperformed at the box office, there were layoffs and a schedule shuffle. Peabody and Sherman was delayed and Me and My Shadow was taken off the schedule all together.
There will be no difference if a Disney film underperforms. There's nothing like a write-off to get an executive to reexamine the plan and hedge his or her bets.
There's another elephant in the room that nobody is mentioning. Robert Iger retires as CEO in 2015 and as chairman in 2016. Iger was a marked departure from Michael Eisner. While Iger is open to criticism for his decisions, his tenure has been free of the feuds that Eisner had with Jeffrey Katzenberg, Michael Ovitz and Steven Jobs. Iger's successor, whoever that may be, will undoubtedly bring different ideas and priorities to the job. Those differences may have to do with animation, including the status of Pixar, John Lasseter and releasing films in 3-D.
Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar, is currently 68 years old. He'll be 70 by the time Iger steps down and he or the studio may decide to call it quits. That may also result in changes to what happens to Disney animation.
No changing of the guard takes place without a change in the status quo. While Disney and other studios can plan their release schedules for as far into the future as they like, the truth is that changing personnel and box office results are variables that they can't control. As they say, past performance is no guarantee of future results. If it was, we'd be watching Lion King 8 by now.