Disney and Pixar often come to mind when discussing animated movies, but DreamWorks and Illumination are the studios that have dominated the medium over the last decade. It makes sense that so many moviegoers’ minds jump to the former studios when thinking of animated releases. After all, Disney and Pixar have put out some of the most iconic animated movies of all time, from The Lion King to Toy Story. However, while they’ve continued to tell stories in recent years, DreamWorks and Illumination have surpassed them numerous times.

DreamWorks and Illumination have delivered some of the most successful releases of the decade as Disney and Pixar struggled. Disney has had a few successes over the past 10 years, but it’s also faced numerous flops, especially when it comes to Pixar. Although Pixar is the studio behind many beloved movies, its performance in recent years is worrisome — especially when one looks at how well competitors have fared during the same time period.

Disney and Pixar have struggled to hit high box office numbers since the COVID-19 pandemic, while movies like Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and The Super Mario Bros. Movie have proven that DreamWorks and Illumination can draw crowds. The Super Mario Bros. Movie is one of just six films to make more than $1 billion at the box office since 2020, and it nearly dethroned Frozen 2 as the highest-grossing animated film of all time. Its success bodes well for Illumination’s future, while The Last Wish‘s impressive $481 million box office — and that’s with a speedy streaming release — promises big things for DreamWorks.

Frozen is perhaps Disney’s biggest success of the last decade, but the studio’s lack of other popular series is telling. While DreamWorks pumps out new Shrek spinoffs, more Despicable Me and Minions movies, and yet another Kung Fu Panda, Disney is counting on more Frozen sequels to stay afloat. Disney’s Wish has seen disappointing box office returns, and its live-action projects like The Little Mermaid and Haunted Mansion haven’t fared much better. Meanwhile, Pixar has had multiple box office bombs in the past few years, and not even a Toy Story spinoff with Captain America star Chris Evans voicing the title character was able to turn things around.

Lightyear‘s box office failure was telling when it came to the state of the animation studio. However, Pixar’s original releases like Turning Red, Onward, and Soul didn’t perform much better. Sure, several of them faced pandemic-era struggles. However, that didn’t stop DreamWorks and Illumination from making a comeback when theaters reopened. Only Elemental managed to turn things around for Pixar, and there’s no telling whether that’s permanent.

Putting Disney’s and Pixar’s failures side by side with DreamWorks and Illumination’s successes, there are a couple things the former studios could do better. For one, Disney’s approach to Pixar movies — which saw most of them released on Disney+ after 2020 — has taken away part of what made Pixar releases so exciting. Pixar films like Toy Story and Finding Nemo used to be events, prompting moviegoers to head out to theaters and watch them. Now audiences are starting to associate Pixar movies with streaming — and potentially with a lesser quality.

DreamWorks also does a better job at keeping up with its original franchises, ensuring that sequels and spinoffs keep the excitement going long after the first successful movie debuts. While Disney is certainly doing this with Frozen and Toy Story, it’s a wonder the studio hasn’t bothered to release a Moana or Encanto sequel to capitalize on either movie’s success. Likewise, several of Pixar’s biggest hits don’t have multiple sequels and spinoffs. Another Incredibles movie would undoubtedly turn the studio’s box office woes around, as would anything involving Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, or Wall-E. Even Elemental 2 isn’t confirmed yet despite a sequel being in high demand.

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