10 Underrated Animated Box Office Flops in 2023


10 Underrated Animated Box Office Flops in 2023

Take a trip down memory lane and recall your favorite animated film from your childhood. Remember those epic movies that had an entire line of lunchboxes and action figures dedicated to the characters? Now, cast your mind to another animated gem that you adored, but it somehow remained a hidden treasure. It didn’t have the fanfare or widespread recognition, but it still holds a special place in your heart.

In the vast world of animated movies, countless creations hit the screens each year. Among the ones that didn’t achieve blockbuster status, there are often hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Sometimes, it’s not even the movie’s fault that it didn’t hit the big time. Perhaps it was overshadowed by a more popular release or didn’t receive enough marketing support from the studio.

Have you stumbled upon any of these underrated animated wonders? Do you believe that some of these unsung heroes truly deserved more recognition?

1. The Iron Giant

The Iron Giant
The 1999 film, The Iron Giant, holds a special place in pop culture even today. It’s a beloved animated film from the ’90s that resonates with millennials.

However, the movie didn’t perform well in terms of box office earnings. This can be attributed to Warner Bros.’ decision not to heavily promote the film. They had just faced a setback with The Quest for Camelot and didn’t want to risk another financial failure by investing a lot of money in advertising.

Unfortunately, this turned out to be the wrong choice. Critics who eventually watched the film gave it fantastic reviews. The audiences who did see it in theaters were captivated by the heartwarming bond between the alien robot and a young boy.

Realizing the film’s potential, Warner Bros. finally decided to allocate a proper budget for marketing when it came time to release The Iron Giant on VHS.

2. The Emperor’s New Groove

The Emperor's New Groove
The Emperor’s New Groove has gained a lot of love in recent years, with Yzma and Kronk even becoming popular Halloween costumes. However, it may surprise some to learn that the film didn’t start off as a surefire hit for Disney.

There were some issues on the production side, stemming from disagreements between the creative team and the studio. The original plot of the movie was completely different, taking on a more serious tone with a Prince and the Pauper-inspired journey. It was called The Kingdom of the Sun. However, when test audiences didn’t respond well to it and Disney refused to grant an extension, the director ultimately quit. The new director made the decision to scrap all the existing footage, which amounted to about $30 million.

Despite facing these challenges, the film finally made its way to theaters after ironically receiving a six-month extension following the director’s departure. However, it didn’t perform as well as the other movies released in December 2000.

3. Balto

Production budget: $31 million

Box office earnings: $11 million

Believe it or not, the beloved classic film Balto, which many of us cherish, only made $11 million worldwide upon its release in 1995.

The unfortunate truth is that Balto faced some tough competition. Just three weeks prior, the groundbreaking animated film Toy Story hit theaters, capturing the hearts of audiences everywhere. With all the hype surrounding the first fully computer-animated movie, it’s no wonder that Balto struggled to grab attention. Despite being based on an incredible true story about a heroic dog delivering medicine to sick children in Alaska, it was overshadowed by the buzz surrounding Toy Story.

However, Balto’s time to shine eventually arrived. It gained the recognition it deserved when it was released on home video, which led to the creation of two sequels.

4. Treasure Planet

Treasure Planet
Treasure Planet, released in 2002, has gained a devoted following among millennials who appreciate its thrilling space adventure and treasure hunting storyline. It’s hard not to see why it has become a cult favorite. However, during its initial release, the film failed to generate the same level of love at the box office.

One possible reason for this lackluster reception could be Disney’s decision to change the age of the protagonist from 12 to 15. The character of a rebellious teenager may not have resonated as strongly with the intended audience as a younger Jim could have.

Another factor that may have contributed to Treasure Planet’s underwhelming performance was its unfortunate timing. The film was released alongside major blockbusters like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and The Santa Clause 2, which likely overshadowed its presence in theaters.

Despite these setbacks, Treasure Planet has managed to find a dedicated fanbase over time. Its captivating story and space-faring adventures continue to captivate millennials, who appreciate its unique charm and nostalgic appeal.

5. The Rescuers Down Under

The Rescuers Down Under
Production budget: $38 million

Box office earnings: $28 million

The Rescuers Down Under marked Disney’s first animated sequel to hit the big screen. Released in 1990, this follow-up arrived a whopping 13 years after the original The Rescuers.

Despite its adored characters, Bernard and Bianca, making a triumphant return, the film faced fierce competition during its release. The same weekend saw the arrival of Home Alone, which ultimately raked in a staggering $285 million at the box office. With such a dominating force in theaters, it was a tough challenge for any other films to make a significant impact.

6. Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians
The production budget for Rise of the Guardians was a whopping $145 million. On the surface, it appears that the film did well, raking in over $300 million at the box office. However, this is a prime example of how much money is invested in marketing for animated blockbusters.

Reports indicate that the advertising expenditure for Rise of the Guardians was around $125 million, which means that the studio actually ended up losing money on the movie. As a result, more than 350 employees were unfortunately laid off due to the disappointing performance of the film.

Despite the hefty marketing costs, Rise of the Guardians truly deserved to be a hit. It boasted an imaginative and emotionally charged storyline that pitted beloved holiday figures such as Santa, the Easter Bunny, and Jack Frost against the menacing Boogeyman.

7. The Black Cauldron

The Black Cauldron
The Black Cauldron stands out as an anomaly in the realm of Disney’s animated films. Back in 1985, it held the title for the most expensive animated film ever made, with a production budget of $44 million. However, its box office earnings were significantly lower, totaling only $21 million.

During the decade-long production process, this movie faced numerous challenges and attracted a fair amount of negative press. It was delayed by a staggering four years due to disagreements among the extensive creative team at Disney.

Despite the tumultuous journey, there are still devoted fans who appreciate the film for its retelling of a classic story and its occasional exploration of darker themes. These fans find enjoyment in the movie’s unique take on familiar narratives.

8. Winnie the Pooh

Winnie the Pooh
The production budget for Winnie the Pooh was $30 million, which was relatively low compared to other movies. However, the film didn’t perform as well as expected at the box office, earning only $49 million. This was disappointing for Disney, considering its reputation.

Unlike other recent movies featuring the iconic characters, Winnie the Pooh had a unique hand-drawn animation style. This departure from the usual cartoon-y look associated with the group, which included films like The Tigger Movie and Piglet’s Big Movie, brought a fresh approach.

Fans appreciated how the film returned to the roots of the story, with Pooh always on the hunt for honey. However, it faced tough competition from movies like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 and Cars 2, which made it challenging for this classic tale to find its place in the box office.

9. Titan A.E.

Titan A.E.
Production budget for Titan A.E. was estimated to be between $75-90 million. However, the box office earnings fell short, amounting to only $36.8 million.

During the 2000s, animated movies featuring spaceships on hunting expeditions were quite popular. Titan A.E., a film produced by Fox Animation, embraced this trend. However, it faced significant challenges as Fox Animation was on the verge of shutting down at the time. This meant that the movie was a risky endeavor right from the start. In fact, the production faced such difficulties that other studios had to step in to complete the film after more than 300 Fox Animation employees were laid off.

Despite its troubled production, even after two decades since its release, Titan A.E. still has a dedicated fan base. These die-hard fans continue to praise the impressive attention to detail in the animation. They also appreciate the film’s focus on action-driven, sci-fi elements.

10. Kubo and the Two Strings

Kubo and the Two Strings
Production Budget: $60 million

Box Office Earnings: $76 million

Kubo and the Two Strings could be compared to an awards show frontrunner. It’s a highly acclaimed film, but unfortunately, it didn’t resonate with the general public.

The oft-forgotten Kubo is a visually-gorgeous story about a boy with a magical instrument. In fact, it even managed to win an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

The reason behind Kubo and the Two Strings’ flop isn’t entirely clear. Universal’s Focus invested an estimated $50 million on advertising and marketing, including high-profile spots during the 2016 Olympics. However, despite these efforts, the film failed to attract a substantial audience.

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