Disney animators win Oscar 2 years in a row

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

NEW YORK (AP) — The Walt Disney Co. proved Sunday that its power doesn't only come from Pixar.

For the second year in a row, Disney Animation won an Academy Award for best animated feature, as "Big Hero 6" followed up last year's "Frozen" win. The studio's "Feast" also won for best animated short. Neither film is connected to the company's Pixar unit, which Disney bought in 2006 for $7.4 billion in stock. Since then, the Disney Pixar combo had scooped up most animated feature Oscars (Paramount's "Rango" won in 2011) with blockbusters including "Finding Nemo," ''Toy Story 3" and "Brave." Pixar didn't release a film in 2014.

"Big Hero 6," is Disney's first animated film to take advantage of the company's 2009 acquisition of Marvel. Based on a Marvel Comic, "Big Hero 6" explores the friendship that develops between a science-geek teenager and an inflatable robot. The win shows that Disney has "deepened its bench" with the Marvel deal and 2012 acquisition of Star Wars owner Lucasfilm, said Seth Shapiro, a professor at the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts.

"Those are game changers, so the win is not so much a sign necessarily of Pixar weakening," he said.

"Big Hero 6" might not have the fame of "Frozen," but it has done very well in theaters. It opened in November and in just two months was the 10th top grossing film in North America for 2014 with $201.5 million. The Oscar win will have a positive effect on future earnings power, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak, although the effect is difficult to quantify. It will probably boost sales internationally, where "Big Hero 6" is still generating millions in theaters. And likely spur video and rental revenue, if audiences who haven't seen the film now decide to see it or previous viewers decide they want a repeat viewing.

In general, studios get roughly half of the theatrical box office after splitting revenue with theaters, he said.

"No matter what, the Oscar win for "Big Hero 6" brings enormous cachet and prestige to the title and to Disney and will live on with the film as parts of its legacy forever," he added. "Not only that, the Oscar will now become a very effective part of any marketing campaign for the film."

Animation was the bright spot on Sunday for Walt Disney Co. Other Disney properties, including musical "Into the Woods," Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Maleficent" were nominated in some categories but did not win.

Meanwhile, Disney Pixar will be back in action soon. A sequel to "Finding Nemo," called "Finding Dory," is due in 2016 and in 2017 the unit plans to release "Toy Story 4," directed by original "Toy Story" director John Lasseter.

Shares of Burbank, California-based Disney rose 55 cents to $105.10 in afternoon trading. The stock has been up 11 percent since the beginning of the year.