5. Storks (2016)
Worldwide Box Office: $183.4million
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Andy Samberg, Katie Crown, Kelsey Grammer, Ty Burrell, Jordan Peele, Keegan-Michael Key, Danny Trejo, Awkwafina, Ike Barinholtz
Co-written and co-directed by Nicholas Stoller, the man who had helped to bring The Muppets back to the big screen under the Disney banner as a co-screenwriter, Storks was a film very much in the image of your typical Warner Animation Group releases: a below average screenplay littered with genuinely funny moments and terrific voice acting.
Adapting the old fable of Storks (a long-beaked type of bird) delivering babies to the houses of families, as brought to life in a much more sinister fashion by Hans Christian Anderson in his 19th century short story “The Storks”, WAG’s 2016 release felt uncoordinated, its screenplay seeming to stretch one very simple idea way too thin and its producers attempting to rectify that with minute after minute of quick-hitting, low value jokes that hit more than a handful of times but simply didn’t hit regularly enough to warrant such a barrage.
The animation itself was certainly high value, and a notable step away from the techniques put to screen in their previous release The Lego Movie, but while Storks was certainly worth looking at and was just about funny enough to warrant it not being a complete waste of time, Warner Animation Group were completely outshone in their take on the old fable by Disney Pixar’s short film Partly Cloudy released 7 years prior in 2009.
It’s not that Storks is necessarily bad, it’s just that Pixar did it better and they did it better in just 6 minutes, helping to relegate this film to middle of our list.
4. Smallfoot (2018)
Worldwide Box Office: $214million
Starring: Zendaya, Channing Tatum, LeBron James, James Corden, Gina Rodriguez, Common, Danny DeVito, Yara Shahidi, Jimmy Tatro
A movie with an animation style more akin to Storks than The Lego Movie, Smallfoot was something of a mixed bag so far as the Warner Animation Group filmography goes.
The animation was at times spectacular and at other times completely bland, while the film’s core idea was far from unique or other-worldly enough to prop up an animated film but the content was largely wholesome and the characters endearing enough to maintain interest.
At a worldwide box office return of $214million, Smallfoot became WAG’s 3rd highest grossing film, yet it never became as much of a talking point with audiences as the studio’s biggest releases, its star-studded cast including Zendaya, Channing Tatum and LeBron James seeming to tempt people into theatres without necessarily touching base with the core cinema-going community.
Featuring a strong message at the centre of a heart-warming narrative, Smallfoot is very much a watchable Warner Animation Group entry, an enjoyable family film to spend a few hours with, but not quite the memorable animated film release that some of our remaining selections are.
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3. The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part (2019)
Worldwide Box Office: $192.3million
Starring: Chris Pratt, Tiffany Haddish, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Stephanie Beatriz, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman, Charlie Day, Channing Tatum, Mike Mitchell, Jonah Hill, Will Ferrell, Maya Rudolph, Ben Schwartz, Jason Momoa, Richard Ayoade, Cobie Smulders, Noel Fielding, Ralph Fiennes, Will Forte, Ike Barinholtz, Gal Gadot
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part was something of a surprise dud for Warner Animation Group and the Lego brand considering the astronomical success of the first Lego Movie, the 2nd most expensive WAG release to date struggling to double its production budget, meaning that (along with promotional costs and so on) the film likely lost Warner Bros money during its box office run.
The Lego Movie 2 came and went without much fanfare, a fact illustrative of its less than spectacular on-screen offerings as well being an indicator of the franchise suffering from the rule of diminishing returns following three Lego Movie releases in the previous 5 years – a period in time that seemed much too long to wait for a straight sequel to a runaway hit (as was the case here).
While The Second Part offered much less of the magic on offer in our top 2 WAG films, it was better than its reception would suggest; a fairly good animated feature all things considered – the animation seeming to recover (if only slightly) from the low point of Ninjago and some of the comedy beats hitting just as well as those in The Lego Batman Movie and The Lego Movie.
Ultimately though, The Lego Movie 2 was a forgettable albeit enjoyable Warner Animation Group release, the underwhelming box office performance of this film – which indicated a downward trend for the Lego IP on the big screen – ending the relationship between WAG and Lego for good, Lego seeking pastures new at Universal Studios for the next 5 years.
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