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When a chart does nothing for the story

PixardeclineexcelThere is some banter on Twitter about a chart that appeared in The Atlantic on "Pixar's Sad Decline--in One Chart". (@thewhyaxis, @jschwabish, @tealtan).

Link to article


It's a bit horrible but not the worst chart ever.

The most offensive aspect is the linear regression line. It's clearly an inappropriate model for this dataset.

I also don't like charts that include impossible values on the axis, in this case, the Rotten Tomato Score does not ever go above 100%.

If the chart is turned on its side, the movie titles can be read horizontally.


I am compelled by the story but the chart doesn't help at all. Of course, it would be better if they can find data on the profitability of each movie. Readers should ask how correlated the Rotten Tomato Score is with box office, and also, what are the relative costs of producing these different movies. Jon has the score against profit chart (link).



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Mat Morrison

Isn't it odd to have a time dimension (or sequence) on the y-axis?


Great point regarding the profitability data, since that's what the studios care about, of course. However, if it's really ratings that we want to look at, it would be nice to see something to help us decide what "good" looks like. 100% is obviously good, and it looks like Cars 2 was a bomb, but how bad is a score in the high 70s? (Incidentally, it looks like you may have nudged Monsters U and Brave to the other side of 80% in your redesign.)

Perhaps it would tell us nothing, but I'd be curious to see this data plotted over time (instead of just sequenced), against a Rotten Tomatoes average rating, or, even better, an average rating of kid movies. It might also be interesting to see releases from Dreamworks and pre-Pixar Disney; animated blockbusters that are released in the same summer may suffer or benefit in the ratings from comparisons to each other.


The Rotten Tomatoes score for (at least) Monsters University and Brave is much higher in your replotted figure than it is in the original. The original appears to be correct.


Mat: Is it odd to have English text running vertically? And note the horizontal axis on the original chart was not a proper time axis anyway.

Chris: Yes, those two dots are in the wrong place.


I think there are just many problems with this chart and the conclusions drawn from it.

The regression line is indicator of trend is, obviously, just silly.

The use of rotten tomatoes ratings as the sole indicator is, obviously, useless.

Including a movie that was released a week ago serves no purpose at all.

The chart set up is not the worst offender out there, but it could use a lot of improvements.

Kaiser - while your chart is better, I do find the splitting of the axis labels a little counter intuitive.

I made a simple version here:

I also made a version that uses the box office dollars, as a percent of budget:

Which may tell a better story than the rotten tomatoes ratings...or at least a story that goes a long more closely with the article.

I omitted Monsters U in both charts, as it just doesn't make sense to include it.

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