[Update: It’s confirmed that Toy Story 3 is now the highest grossing animated movie EVER. See below for details]

Once upon a time Pixar was the new kid on the animation block, until they stormed out of nowhere with Toy Story back in 1995. Fast forward fifteen years and they’ve become not only the most beloved animation studio out there, but one of the most admired studios period.

It’s no secret that Pixar movies make a lot of money and for the last seven years the reigning champ at camp Pixar has been Finding Nemo, which grossed almost $870 million worldwide. However, it’s time for a new top dog: Pixar’s only threequel, Toy Story 3.

Although not way ahead of the rest of Pixar’s work in terms of box office success, Toy Story 3 has surpassed Finding Nemo by about $30 million. But here’s the kicker: the third Toy Story entry has only been in theaters for less than eight weeks. To compare, here’s a breakdown of what each of the Pixar films have made so far (in order of highest-to-lowest grossing):

  • Toy Story 3 – $940 million (worldwide)
  • Finding Nemo – $867 million (worldwide)
  • Up – $731 million (worldwide)
  • The Incredibles – $632 million (worldwide)
  • Ratatouille – $620 million (worldwide)
  • WALL-E – $532 million (worldwide)
  • Monsters, Inc. – $526 million (worldwide)
  • Toy Story 2 – $484 million (worldwide)
  • Cars – $461 million (worldwide)
  • A Bug’s Life – $363 million (worldwide)
  • Toy Story – $361 million (worldwide)

So why did Toy Story 3 make so much money in such a short amount of time? Well there are a couple of key factors that played a big part:

  1. This is not only a sequel but a sequel to a sequel. It had not one, but two previous films to build anticipation off of. People already know and remember these characters fondly, so a new installment catching audiences up with their beloved toys was inevitably going to be a huge success.
  2. Although most people would have gone to see the film regardless, the fact that it was in 3D definitely played a part. Only one previous Pixar film was available in 3D (Up) so adding $3 extra onto each ticket has caused the box office profits to increase quite significantly when you add them all up.

Of course, there’s always the fact that Toy Story 3 was a fantastic film, but that’s not exactly a new thing for Pixar; every Pixar film – without exception – has been at least good, and more often than not a classic in their own right.

The question is not really why Toy Story 3 made so much money but rather why it made more than any other Pixar film. I’ve already given my theories but I’d be interested to hear yours: Do you agree with my reasoning? Are there any others causes you can think of? Sound off in the comments below.

UPDATE: Not only is Toy Story 3 the highest grossing Pixar film but it’s now officially the biggest money-making animated feature in history. There were projections at the weekend of the threequel passing the previous champ, Shrek 2, which sits at just under $920 million (worldwide). However, according to Box Office Mojo, Toy Story 3 has soared passed the big green ogre to $400 million domestically and a whopping $940 million worldwide.

Congratulations goes out to Pixar for not only being the king of animation in the critical sense but also in the box office department!

Make sure to check our Pixar SR pick which wonderfully visualizes the costs and success of the studio’s films so far. Also, if you haven’t already, make sure to check out our own Mike Eisenberg’s fantastic Toy Story 3/Inception trailer mash-up.

Source: The-Numbers and Box Office Mojo