The Quorum

Battle Of The Animated Films: TROLLS BAND TOGETHER Vs. WISH

There are some truisms in the world of release date strategy. One of them is that November will almost always have two animated releases. This year, the two offerings are TROLLS BAND TOGETHER and WISH. 

Furthermore, one animated film – usually a Disney title – is released on Thanksgiving weekend, while the other typically opens three weeks earlier on the first weekend of November. That allows for some nice separation between the two. 

The table below shows year by year over the past 20 years when each animated film opened. Between 2009 and 2016, the pattern of one animated film on the first weekend of November and another on Thanksgiving held true.

Things began to change after that. In 2017, COCO was the only animated film in November. The following year, RALPH BREAKS THE INTERNET held down the Thanksgiving spot, but THE GRINCH opted for the 2nd weekend in November, shrinking the window between the films to two weeks.

In 2019, FROZEN II opened the week before Thanksgiving. Given how huge the first one was, other studios opted to steer clear of the sequel. And in the two pandemic-era years of 2021 and 2022, audiences got just one animated film on Thanksgiving.

This year, we have the return of the dual animated films with TROLLS BAND TOGETHER and WISH. But unlike Novembers past, the two films are opening back-to-back. In fact, with WISH opening on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, the space between the two films is only five days. (The only other time that happened was in 2011 when HAPPY FEET TWO opened days before THE MUPPETS, thought MUPPETS was not an animated title).

Why did Universal choose to open TROLLS so close to WISH? In 2016, the first TROLLS movie opened to a healthy $47M on the first weekend of November. Why tinker with what’s worked in the past? After all, there’s little downside to opening early in the month. Nearly all those first-week films were still in the top 5 by the time Thanksgiving rolled around. Not only do they get to be the only animated movie for a few weeks, but they also benefit from the holiday bump. 

With that in mind, let’s look at the tracking. As always, let’s start with awareness. Since The Quorum began tracking the two films, awareness for TROLLS has been higher than WISH. That’s not entirely surprising, given that TROLLS is a sequel with a built-in audience, and WISH is an original.  

Over the past few months, awareness for TROLLS was about 15 points higher than WISH. The gap stretched as wide as 20 points a few months ago. But over the last 30 days, the gap has shrunk. Today, awareness for WISH is only 6 points lower than TROLLS, thanks to an explosive 11-point surge. TROLLS did gain 7 points over the past month, but now appears to be stalled at 47%.  

While TROLLS has had the lead in awareness, WISH has been the frontrunner when it comes to interest. Throughout its run, WISH has remained 3 to 4 points higher than TROLLS. Like we saw with awareness, WISH is surging ahead. The gap between the two films is now 6 points. 

Curiously, the scores for the two films are identical but flipped across the two metrics. TROLLS has 47% awareness and 41% interest. WISH has 41% interest and 47% awareness. 

At the moment, you could argue that the two films are on equal footing in that their box office prospects are about the same. Perhaps, but WISH has momentum on its side. That is reflected in The Quorum’s opening weekend forecasts. Subscribers to The Quorum know that we provide weekly forecasts once a film enters the six-week-out window. The projection for TROLLS has been sliding down, while the estimate for WISH has been rising. 

Just how much has WISH improved? In late September, we compared WISH to ENCANTO and STRANGE WORLD – Disney’s last two Thanksgiving releases. At the time, WISH was behind ENCANTO and in line with STRANGE. Now look where things stand.

WISH (dark yellow) has sprinted past ENCANTO (brown) and STRANGE (light yellow). Back on September 21st, WISH was tucked in between the two. 

The same thing has happened on the interest side. In September, WISH (dark blue) was tied with STRANGE (light blue) and behind ENCANTO (black). Not anymore. WISH has vaulted to the lead. 

The success of WISH highlights an important lesson in tracking. The numbers we report on The Quorum represent a moment in time. Five weeks ago, WISH didn’t look so great. Today, it seems much healthier. Tracking takes the mystery out of knowing if a campaign is connecting or not. Getting ahead of it when there is time to course correct is far more preferable than being surprised in the 11th hour. 

We would love to see both TROLLS and WISH succeed. But if WISH, in particular, works at the box office, it will be a credit to the Disney team for turning things around.

Edited to include HAPPY FEET TWO.

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