Founded in 2013 as the successor to Warner Bros Feature Animation, the production house that made Space Jam (1996) and The Iron Giant (1999), and folded in 2003, the Warner Animation Group is the primary feature animation studio under the Warner Bros banner; the production house that has brought the Lego Movie Universe to life and has thus far made $1.47billion at the box office over the course of 6 movie releases.
Known primarily for its work in conjunction with Lego, the Warner Animation Group has developed a reputation for producing animated movies with strong focuses on referential comedy and has often assembled talented comedic voice casts to pull off its desired unique selling point.
After bursting into the animation game in 2014 with the “should have been Oscar nominated” The Lego Movie, Warner Animation Group has found financial and critical success tough over the course of their 5 other releases despite mining the wider Warner library of IPs for sellable characters. But, with more animated production houses than ever being owned by the Disney brand following its purchase of Fox in 2019, it seems like now more than ever the animated feature field could benefit from strong competition.
In this edition of Ranked, we’re looking at the films of Warner Animation Group, one of Disney’s biggest rivals in the animated feature market, and ranking each of the studio’s 6 animated feature releases from worst to best in terms of artistic merit, critical reception and public perception.
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6. The Lego Ninjago Movie (2017)
Worldwide Box Office: $123.1million
Starring: Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Kumail Nanjiani, Justin Theroux, Fred Armison, Zach Woods, Abbi Jacobson, Michael Peña, Olivia Munn, Ali Wong, Charlyne Yi, Constance Wu, Randall Park, Retta
In an attempt to capitalise on the overwhelming success of The Lego Movie in 2014, Warner Animation Group released two new Lego movies in 2017, The Lego Ninjago Movie joining The Lego Batman Movie on the calendar. This marked the only year WAG would release 2 films in the same 12 month period, Ninjago becoming an experiment that ultimately didn’t pay off.
The film suffered primarily because of its IP, the more child-centred Ninjago failing to attract the young adult audiences that The Lego Movie and the Batman-centred Lego Batman Movie were able to bring. With one Lego film already in the bank just 8 months before Ninjago’s release, the film didn’t even feel the boost of being a brand new movie from the beloved Lego franchise, leaving everything to fall on the shoulders of the Ninjago brand, which proved it wasn’t a sellable film commodity in this instance, The Lego Ninjago Movie being the studio’s least successful release to date and reportedly its most major financial failure.
With a more child focused approach, despite a relatively interesting Ninja-inspired take for an animated film (which worked for Dreamworks with the martial arts focused Kung Fu Panda), Ninjago felt out of balance with the rest of WAG’s releases, the noticeable dialing down of animation details between the first Lego movie and this release only compounding issues with the script, the IP and the waning interest of Lego movie fans, making it the worst release the studio has put to screen thus far.
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