Disney’s format for live-action reboots seems infallible when it comes to the box office, with this week’s Beauty and the Beast expected to become a massive hit, possibly on par with Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland and last year’s The Jungle Book (which each netted around $1 billion worldwide). Amidst all of that noise however, Disney’s original animated films like 2016’s Moana continue to quietly rake in more money than ever.
The Polynesian princess’s adventure on the high-seas opened in Japan last weekend with a strong debut, building on some noteworthy domestic form that saw Moana become the second-highest grossing Thanksgiving holiday opener ever. That top spot is held by Disney’s Frozen, of course, which maintains the record for highest-grossing animated Disney movie of all time with over $1.27 billion worldwide.
Moana might never catch up to that astonishing figure, but Variety is reporting that its worldwide total has reached an impressive $600 million, thanks to its latest territorial debut. It’s now the seventh Disney film of 2016 to surpass that mark, and is the fourth Walt Disney Animations Studios release in a row to achieve such a figure.
Disney’s unprecedented run of form reached a fever-pitch last year, when the studio set a $7 billion global box office record with help from their long-gestating Marvel franchise and new Star Wars movie, Rogue One. Animated films nevertheless remain a consistent figure in the studios’ fiscal and critical success. In 2016, Disney netted over $2 billion worldwide between animated films Finding Dory and the Academy Award-winning Zootopia, proving that Walt Disney Animation Studios is still at the heart of Walt Disney Pictures.
Yet, Walt Disney Animation Studios has seen something of a revolution in recent years, from technical innovations which have seen the studio win 9 out of 10 of the last Oscars for Best Animated Feature, to its progressive form of storytelling. Frozen was the catalyst for changing what’s expected of Disney princesses, challenging the notion of true love and true love’s kiss, but Moana pushed the boat out even further, sailing against the grain when it comes to Disney princess tradition. This brand new fable delivered a practical, action-ready heroine with no romantic interests whatsoever, focusing solely on the coming-of-age tale of a strong young leader.
Whether the success of Moana relies on this progressive style of storytelling is up for debate, especially considering that 2010’s Tangled was a more classical princess tales that still netted around $591 million worldwide. But with its theatrical run unfinished, there’s no telling how far Moana could go, and it’s already Disney’s second highest-grossing princess film of all time. It’s telling that the two most financially successful Disney princess films ever are those featuring its strongest, most capable leading female figures.