Animated movies have always been a fascinating genre of cinema. Every component of filmmaking has evolved since the art form’s inception, but it’s especially satisfying to look at the ways in which animation has grown and changed. What was once a fringe style for avant-garde storytellers has slowly become one of the most profitable types of films on the market.
Audiences have been able to chart the growth of Disney into the behemoth in animation that it is today, but they can also look at the many other competitors that have grown or fallen through the years. Now there are plenty of giants like DreamWorks, Illumination Entertainment, or even Aardman Animation that are challenging the medium as much as possible. The industry is arguably becoming more open than ever before.
Animation has grown so much more than musical comedies that revolve around princesses. They’re now the home for some of the most sophisticated stories on the market and it’s hardly a medium that’s reserved for younger audiences. Furthermore, the advent of animation has seen the birth and boon of 3D graphics and computer-animation that has added so much to the field. Animators have options if they want to tell 2D or 3D stories and the audiences are getting more great content as a result.
As the improvements in animation show no signs of slowing down, it seems only appropriate to look at some of the biggest hits and misses from the field.
With that said, here are the 20 Animated Movies That Flopped (And 10 That Became Massive Hits)!
30 Flop: A Troll In Central Park
Don Bluth is an admirable name in animation that tried to provide an alternative against the giant machine that is Disney. Bluth found success with efforts like An American Tale or All Dogs Go to Heaven, but A Troll in Central Park parks the nadir in Bluth’s career.
The movie grossed a meager $71, 368 in North America when it came out in 1994 and it’s the least commercially and critically successful of Bluth’s efforts.
The movie presents a preachy, misguided story that involves a environmentally positive troll named Stanley who gets banished to Central Park. It fails to find a steady rhythm, but it also received minimal promotion from Warner Brothers before its release.
29 Flop: Arthur And The Invisibles
Arthur and the Invisibles is such a curious case because it's a tremendous failure, but it still manages to have enough of a built in audience from the children's books that it's based on that it still finds a home.
Arthur and the Invisibles has a lot of clout behind it, with Luc Besson as the writer and director and a $86 million budget. In fact, upon its release Arthur and the Invisibles was the most expensive French movie production of all time. The movie took a financial hit of $71 million and critics tore it apart. Despite this, due to its fan base in France, it still would go on to spawn two sequels.
28 Hit: Kung Fu Panda
Kung Fu Panda takes the clever idea to remix classic kung fu tropes with an interesting cast of animals at its disposal and a strong respect for story. There’s also the incomparable Jack Black voicing the titular character, with many other great actors alongside him. Kung Fu Panda exploded at the box office and practically made five times its budget back, with a box office total of $631.7 million.
The movie would become such a success for DreamWorks that it would launch a whole series of films (some of which have performed even better than the original) and an animated series, too.
27 Flop: Norm Of The North
Norm of the North has good intentions, but it’s a lazy caper with a polar bear that fails to capture the magic of Pixar movies and is borderline condescending to its young audience. The movie is also an American-Indian-Irish co-production, which may speak to the problem of having too many cooks in the kitchen.
Norm of the North only grossed $30 million worldwide, which is not great in the greater scope of animated movies, but on a budget of $18 million the film still brought in a profit.
Norm of the North's notoriety perhaps lies in the fact that is had a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes up until recently (where it now sits at 9%).
26 Flop: The Pebble And the Penguin
The Pebble and the Penguin is another Don Bluth effort that shoots for the moon but sees such a dangerous life that it actually bankrupts Bluth's production company. He and co-director, Gary Goldman, even remove their names from the final product.
The Pebble and the Penguin tells the story of Hubie, a shy penguin who's in love. There's a decent love story in the film and an enviable voice cast that features Martin Short, Jim Belushi, and Tim Curry. Unfortunately, due to changes insisted by MGM, the film fell behind in production, Bluth and Goldman stepped away, and other companies completed the animation. It brought in under $4 million from a budget of $28 million.
25 Hit: Moana
Moana is one of the better examples of Disney hitting their stride in the more recent years. Moana respectfully pulls from Polynesian mythology to craft a story that has a more global perspective. Clearly this approach was effective because Moana performed well domestically, but it truly found a home overseas and tapped into something special.
The $150 million movie has grossed over $643.3 million and Moana fever has far from faded. The film received two Academy Award nominations and it wouldn't be surprising if more Moana stories were to come.
24 Flop: Doogal
Doogal is a fascinating story because it's actually based on an existing series from Europe called The Magic Roundabout. What's baffling here is that rather than simply re-release the original 2005 film, The Magic Roundabout, the Weinstein Company decides to re-dub the movie with American actors and re-write the script so it's inundated with pop culture and flatulence jokes.
A decent movie is destroyed for no reason and Doogal has an 8% on Rotten Tomatoes and is rife with production problems.
Its box office total of nearly $27 million is technically a profit, but a lot of that banks off of The Magic Roundabout’s success. Doogal only pulled in $7.4 million in North America.
23 Flop: Rock-A-Doodle
Perhaps one of the more ambitious Don Bluth efforts on here,Rock-A-Doodle carries a little more charm than Troll Central Park or Penguin and the Pebble, but it’s still far from a success. Rock-A-Doodle tells an ambitious story where a barnyard rooster leaves his home to become an Elvis-like rockstar, but in doing so the well being of the sun gets puts in jeopardy. Oh, and the rooster’s sidekick is a boy who’s been transformed into a kitten. Weirdness abounds.
On a budget of $18 million, Rock-A-Doodle took a loss with a box office total of $11.7 million, which would eventually lead to Bluth's studio needing to liquidate its assets.
22 Hit: Up
Up is a really special film that shows just what animated movies can achieve, but it seems like a fairly risky operation when it was in production. Pixar is now trusted to adeptly handle heavy emotional stories that don't shy away from honestly, but Up is one of the most brutal examples of that. The movie deals with topics like loss, grief, and even the inability to have a child. It's a very morose story, but it also acts as proof that kids can handle such things and that they can still find success.
Up was nominated for Best Picture, has a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, and has made over $735 million worldwide.
21 Flop: Astro Boy
The 2009 computer-animated take on the popular Astro Boyanime is a particularly harsh blow. The film is a co-production between the US and Japan and the property has the strong history to succeed, but this effort does nottake.
The movie covers Astro Boy's origin story and critics were mostly unimpressed.
The biggest blow is that the $65 million film barely recoups half of its budget with its worldwide box office total of $39.8 million. Films like this are tailor made to succeed overseas and yet Astro Boy still flops. It’s a strong example of why trusting in the medium’s original style is always a good idea. Computer graphics were never the right approach.
20 Flop: Looney Tunes: Back In Action
What's especially bittersweet about Looney Tunes: Back in Action is that director Joe Dante wanted to make the film a tribute to Chuck Jones and his characters, but control was taken so far out of his hands and the characters' voices were so warped that it deeply differed from his original vision.
The film puts Bugs Bunny and company back in the real world and even though many ancillary series were planned based on the success of this movie, it met middling reviews from critics and completely sunk with audience. The $80 million project only made a sparse $20 million at the box office, a quarter of its budget.
19 Hit: Coco
Cocois yet another example of how to widen your perspective, take a risk, and see it greatly pay off. Coco comes from the accomplished Lee Unkrich of Toy Story fame, but this was his most difficult film yet. Cocopulls upon Mexican culture and the Dia de los Muertos iconography, but it tells a touching, inclusive story that has inspired many. The movie employs an all Latino cast and it's even been released with an accompanying Spanish dub.
Cocohas struck huge by bringing in over $807 million on a $175 million budget. Not only that, the film won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and sits at a 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
18 Flop: Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is a great example of hubris and ambition running out of control. The film was the most expensive video game movie of all-time upon its release and the film strived to show off its photorealistic computer-animation. In fact, Square Pictures boldly stated that they wanted protagonist Aki Ross to appear in other movies as the first photorealistic computer-animated actress.
It took Square Pictures four years with a staff of 200 to finish the film, which gradually ballooned over budget to a staggering $137 million.
The box office brought in $85 million, which was enough of a bomb that it essentially ended Square Pictures in the process.
17 Flop: Treasure Planet
Treasure Planet was an ambitious effort on Disney's part as it tries to take the classic story of Treasure Island, but transport it to outer space. The movie's writers and production team struggled with the adaptation and even though there was a huge push on this vehicle, it very clearly didn't strike a chord with American audiences. It’s viewed as one of the most expensive box office failures of all time and a huge blow that humbled Disney in many ways.
The film's budget was a massive $140 million, but it only made $38.1 million domestically! An international audience brought the film's overall gross to $109.5 million, but that's still a loss, especially at home.
16 Hit: The Secret Life Of Pets
The Secret Life of Pets comes from Illumination Entertainment and although this film doesn't have the same history of their Despicable Me movies, in a few years that may be a very different case. The success of this humble picture about what pets do when their owners are away and their hidden lives that we don't see is kind of inconceivable. The $75 million computer-animated film brought in $875.5 million and it should come as no surprise that a sequel is already on the way.
Many people praised this film for its friendship dynamics and even compared the relationships and the film's point of view to that of Toy Story.
15 Flop: Osmosis Jones
When Who Framed Roger Rabbit? turned into such a success there were a number of other live-action and animation hybrids that attempted to find the same energy. Osmosis Jones is a unique take on the human body and it anthropomorphizes things like cells and germs into action heroes. Warner Brothers took a massive hit with this film, which turned into a colossal bomb at the box office. It only brought in $14 million on a budget of $70 million.
Another major issue that disadvantaged the production was the major disconnect between the animated sequences and the live-action segments that were directed by the Farrelly Brothers.
In spite of the film’s poor number, Osmosis Jones still spawned a television spin-off series that carried on the story of Ozzy and Drix.
14 Flop: Home On The Range
Disney obviously has a lot of hits in their library, but it’s quite disappointing when one of their films is just forgettable. Home on the Range dresses itself up with a Western motif and tells a story of the country and the Old West, but through the eyes of some dairy cows, rather than cowboys. There’s an impressive voice cast at work here, but it’s also one of Disney’s final 2D animated movies, which may have played a factor in its lackluster performance.
The film’s hefty budget of $110 million saw a disappointing opening box office return of $14 million. However, the film would later go on to bring in nearly $104 million worldwide.
13 Hit: Finding Nemo
Everybody knows and loves Finding Nemo, but it's surprising to think that this movie was far from a sure thing upon its release. Pixar had seen success at this point, but they were far from the giants that they are now. Finding Nemo takes Pixar undersea, but it's really the simple story of a family trying to reunite.
Finding Nemo's success was unreal. It's made over $940.3 million, seen a 3D re-release, and it's even held the title as the best-selling DVDs of all time. It took some time for Pixar to return to this world, but over a decade later it made a sequel with Finding Dory (which would gross over a billion dollars).
12 Flop: The Wild
The Wild is that sort of computer-animated film that hits all the right notes, but is just so derivative of other pictures. The Wild sees a lion and a bunch of other animals from the Central Park Zoo get loose in New York City in a storyline that is very similar to Madagascar.
The movie was not a hit with critics and maintains a 20% on Rotten Tomatoes.
The $80 million movie saw poor domestic box office returns and only brought in $37.4 million. However, internationally the film nearly doubled these numbers and other efforts like a tie-in video game imply there’s some audience out there.
11 Flop: The Black Cauldron
The Black Cauldron lives in much infamy as it was colloquially referred to as the film that almost detroyed Disney. The film digs into fantasy elements from the Middle Ages with knights, sorcerers, and princesses aplenty. This is all territory that Disney understands well, but it's $44 million budget (which made it the most expensive movie of the time in 1985) only made $21.3 million.
The movie crippled Disney and was seen as such a failure that it wasn't even released on home video until over a decade after it had come out in theaters.
10 Hit: The Lion King
The Lion King is just classic Disney and it's easy to see why this movie has remained an important part of the cultural zeitgeist. Not every animated film gets an ultra successful Broadway musical, after all.
The Lion King has since gone on to accumulate a worldwide gross of $968.5 million, but it was even more of a milestone back in 1994. It was the highest-grossing film of the year and the second highest-grossing film of all time at that point. Although it wouldn’t be surprising if Disney’s upcoming CGI adaptation shatters this record and performs even better.
9 Flop: The Road To El Dorado
The Road to El Dorado is an interesting effort from DreamWorks and it's lost in this place of arrested development where it's not quite sure if it wants to be for kids or for adults.
The movie's structure borrows from old Bing Crosby and Bob Hope buddy comedies as it follows two swindlers journey to the legendary Lost City of Gold.
Furthermore, the voice cast of Kevin Kline, Kenneth Branagh, and Rosie Perez are not exactly big names for children. Creative disputes and delays within production continued to compromise the picture and the film lost nearly $20 million for DreamWorks off of its $95 million budget.
8 Flop: Flushed Away
Flushed Away is a rather unfortunate failure because it's such a beloved film in many circles. The movie was relatively liked by critics, it performed decently internationally, and it still contains the same joy and wonder that's present in all of Aardman Animation's productions.
The movie follows a bunch of rats through the sewer, but due to the heavy water component of the picture, Aardman had to go the computer-animated route rather than their usual stop-motion. The film drastically underperformed in North America, so much so that it caused DreamWorks to end their partnership with Aardman as a result.
7 Hit: Zootopia
Disney's Zootopiais a wild mash-up of sensibilities that results in a mad cocktail of entertainment. The computer-animated picture takes place in a metropolitan of animals, but it differs from the norm with how it's a buddy cop crime caper with a rather complex story.
Disney had confidence in Zootopia, but the fact that it broke the one billion dollar mark is truly incredible and set an interesting precedent for what was possible. Zootopia opened the floodgates in many ways and more anthropomorphized stories of this nature won't be far behind.
6 Flop: Titan A.E.
The final and arguably the most ambitious film by Don Bluth, Titan A.E. is a post-apocalyptic science fiction tale that takes place in 3028 as it follows the humanitarian efforts of "Project Titan." The film pushes some very mature idea and it's a very hard sci-fi endeavor, which can ultimately alienate some audiences.
There's definitely a cult following for this movie, but it only brought in $36.8 million, which is only about half of the film's $75 million budget.
Additionally, Fox Animation suffered layoffs during the film's production and so 300 animation staff had to leave and work was outsourced. This turmoil within Fox Animation also restricted the film's promotion and release, too.
5 Flop: The Iron Giant
The Iron Giant is certainly an ironic tale in failure. Even though the movie was a huge bomb upon its initial release in 1999, it’s since been considered a fundamental piece of animation and one of the first glimpses of what Brad Bird is capable of as a director. The character has even since taken on a life of its own and ended up in other movies due to his popularity.
The Iron Giant tells a somber, emotional story between a boy and his robot. Critics adored this thoughtful story, but a lack of media tie-ins and ineffective marketing led to the film bringing in less than half of its $70 million budget.
4 Hit: Minions
Love them or hate them, Minions are here to stay and they'll probably even take over the world one day. Illumination Entertainment found incredible success with their Despicable Me trilogy, each of which made money than they last. However, the fringe characters from the movies, the Minions, were clearly the breakout stars and interest in their own film was staggering.
What’s incredible here is that Minions doesn’t exactly have critical praise, but that doesn’t slow the audiences down in the least. Minions would gross over $1.159 billion and out-gross each of the Despicable Me films in the process. It should come as no surprise that a sequel is underway.
3 Flop: Foodfight!
Foodfight! is one of the biggest disasters to ever befall a movie. It operates from a broken, bankrupt place where it's purely an exercise in product placement and all of the major characters are major brand mascots.
The movie repeatedly missed release dates and accrued costs over $65 million.
Then, when producers still wouldn't deliver on the shoddy film, a technicality in the contract led to the film's asset being auctioned off and distributed as cheaply as possible. This is in 2012 and the film was supposed to come out in Christmas of 2003!What followed was a limited release in the UK by the film's insurance company, which only brought in $20,000.
2 Flop: Delgo
Any way you look at it, Delgo is a phenomenal failure. This was an ambitious, overly serious, fantastical story that had the arrogance to say that it would become a more seminal animated film than Shrek.
The film had a modest budget of $40 million, but Delgo is notorious for being the lowest-grossing computer-animated movie of all time with a worldwide total of $915,840 (the previous record holder was Doogal, and even that made $7.2 million in the US). Delgosaw one of the worst openings for a film ever, with only making $511,920 fro is 2160 theaters. On top of that, an abysmal 12% on Rotten Tomatoes doesn't help any.
1 Hit: Frozen
It’s impossible to not know about Frozen. The movie has found unparalleled success and it continues to churn out tie-ins, fan events, and other celebrations which all keep the magic of the film alive
What’s so commendable about Frozen is that it was designed just like any other Disney movie. It didn’t have plans to take over the world and in fact, they weren’t even sure if it would connect with audiences. Thankfully this progressive, empowering Disney vehicle found success and is currently the highest-grossing animated film of all time. It’s made over $1.276 billion in theaters alone and that’s not even touching merchandising or video sales.
Can you think of any other animated movies that became massive hits or flopped? Let us know in the comments!