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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Disney Movies: Male vs. Female Protagonists

I was thinking, when it comes to Disney movies, what characters come to mind?  Cinderella, Elsa, Snow White, Tiana.  So why is it then that male-led Disney movies outnumber female-led by two to one?  Do they make more money?  I decided to run the numbers and take a look.

The Little Mermaid F 1989 40 211 171
The Rescuers Down Under M 1990 37 47 10
Beauty & the Beast F 1991 25 424 399
Aladdin M 1992 28 504 476
The Lion King M 1994 45 987 942
Pocahontas F 1995 55 346 291
The Hunchback of Notre Dame M 1996 100 325 225
Hercules M 1997 85 252 167
Mulan F 1998 90 304 214
Tarzan M 1999 130 448 318
Fantasia 2000 -- 2000 80 90 10
Dinosaur M 2000 128 350 222
The Emperor's New Groove M 2000 100 169 69
Atlantis: The Lost Empire M 2001 110 186 76
Lilo & Stitch F 2002 80 273 193
Treasure Planet M 2002 140 109 -31
Brother Bear M 2003 100 250 150
Home on the Range F 2004 110 103 -7
Chicken Little M 2005 150 314 164
Meet the Robinsons M 2007 195 169 -26
Bolt M 2008 150 309 159
The Princess & the Frog F 2009 105 267 162
Tangled F 2010 260 591 331
Winnie the Pooh M 2011 30 44 14
Wreck-It Ralph M 2012 165 471 306
Frozen F 2013 150 1200 1050
Big Hero 6 M 2014 ?? ??

Average: $232.88
Variance: 77529
Standard Deviation: 278

Someone smarter than me can analyze these figures, but it seems that some basic statistical analysis tells the whole story. There may be more male-led movies, but they have a bigger tendency towards failure. Female-led have a lesser failure rate, with the only big loss being Home on the Range (in as far as Roseanne Barr playing a cow can be called female-led). The Lion King is Disney's biggest hit, and remained "the king" with the biggest profit margin until Frozen came along.

Some other notes:
  • Wow, I had no idea Rescuers Down Under was such a bomb. That's usually the dark horse of the Disney movies -- one everyone likes as adults looking through nostalgia goggles.
  • Disney doubled its budget on The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Why? Did they have a troubled production a la Empire of the Sun/The Emperor's New Groove? Did buying the rights to the book cost a lot? What was different?
  • Like Rescuers Down Under, I find a lot of people enjoyed Emperor's New Groove (at least through the memes), but the numbers don't show it. Maybe there are certain movies that have a better long tail than other, and I wonder if there's a pattern to that.
  • Treasure Planet is Disney's first deficit within this timeline. I haven't seen the movie myself.
  • At Tangled, Disney makes a big jump in their budget. It's their first combo princess-CG movie, that might have had something to do with it.
  • They say Wreck-It Ralph is a Disney movie, but it sure felt more like a Pixar movie to me. You got a director and a writer known for episodes of "The Simpsons" and another writer known for WALL-E.
There may be some discrepancy with the fact that there are fewer female-led movies than male (almost a 1:2 ratio). The averages seem to indicate the worst male movie is worse than the worst female movie, but the opposite doesn't hold true. Disney's best male-led movie was The Lion King, thirty years ago. It's best female is Frozen -- one year ago. If Frozen wasn't in the picture, would the numbers be skewed? Somewhat. But the conclusions would be the same.

That being said, it seems to me that Disney would be smart enough to start using more female-protagonist movies. They don't have to be princess movies, but that does seem to be their bread and butter. Too bad Disney doesn't have some sort of equivalent for boys. Disney Supers? Maybe that's where they're going for with Big Hero 6? Time will tell.
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