It is no secret that animated movies are responsible for some of the highest-grossing franchises in all of Hollywood. Despite the fact that the genre typically caters to a younger audience, studios have found a way to release animated projects that please moviegoers of all ages, making these films as competitive as live-action blockbusters.
Over the years, studios such as Disney, Universal, and Fox have largely dominated the genre. However, Warner and Sony have recently grown their ambitions in animation, and newcomers such as Netflix have established plans for releasing original animated films as well. With competition growing by the day, these are the current 10 highest-grossing animated movies ever.
10 FINDING NEMO
From the very beginning, there was no doubt that Pixar could release animated movies that were both critically acclaimed and commercially successful. However, it wasn’t really until 2003’s Finding Nemo that the studio realized that it could actually make this much money.
Starring Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres, Disney-Pixar’s Finding Nemo grossed a worldwide $940 million, which was the highest figure an animated film had ever made up until that point. Of course, that was only the beginning for Pixar, which would go on to have billion-dollar movies in the future.
9 THE LION KING
The highest-grossing animated movie of the 20th century is Disney’s The Lion King. When adjusted for inflation, this movie’s global gross at the box office comes up to $968 million, making it the only 2D animated feature to be on this list.
Released in 1994 (and re-released in 2002 and 2011), The Lion King is on the verge of getting its very own live-action adaptation in 2019, starring Donald Glover, Beyoncé, Seth Rogen, and James Earl Jones.
8 DESPICABLE ME 2
When measuring the success that Universal has had with its Illumination studio, one has to look no further than the Despicable Me franchise. The second installment in the series, 2013’s Despicable Me 2, grossed $970 million around the world, far surpassing the original movie’s $251 million.
Starring Steve Carell as Gru, Despicable Me 2 established this series of films as a bonafide Hollywood hit that is as important to Universal as the Jurassic Park and Fast and Furious franchises.
We have now entered the billion-dollar club. After Walt Disney Animation Studios regained its confidence in the 2010s, the path was cleared for 2016’s Zootopia, which won all of the major awards an animated movie could possibly get (the Oscar, the Golden Globe, the Annie, and the Critics’ Choice) and went on to gross $1.023 billion around the world at the box office.
Now that we’ve established that two movies on this list – The Secret Life of Pets and Zootopia – were released in 2016, you’re probably already convinced that this was quite the competitive year for animated features. However, hang on tight, because there’s still one more.
6 FINDING DORY
Pixar’s Finding Dory, the sequel to the universally-beloved Finding Nemo, was also released in 2016, and is also one of the highest-grossing animated film ever. On opening weekend alone, Finding Dory made $135 million. Then, over time, the movie grossed $1.028 billion at the box office, surpassing the original installment by quite a lot. All in all, this is the only animated franchise to have all of its installments present on this list.
Despite the fact that Pixar has released several incredibly successful animated movies over the years, Finding Dory is only one of three movies from the studio to have grossed over one billion dollars. Furthermore, under the general Disney umbrella, there are only five animated movies in the billion-dollar club.
5 DESPICABLE ME 3
With 2017’s Despicable Me 3, Illumination proved that this franchise is showing absolutely no signs of slowing down, even after three movies and spin-off.
Directed by Pierre Coffin (who was at the helm of all three Despicable Me installments) and Kyle Balda, Despicable Me 3 opened to a $72 million weekend and went on to gross $1.034 billion around the world, making it one of the biggest box office hits of 2017. All in all, this movie is one of the most recent entries to this list, and yet it has already reached fifth place. The power of Gru, his daughters, and their minions!
4 TOY STORY 3
Pixar’s first-ever animated feature was 1995’s Toy Story, and that franchise seemed to reach its closing chapter with the release of 2010’s Toy Story 3. However, with the massive success of the third installment – which became the first animated movie in history to cross the $1 billion mark at the box office – it came as no surprise that Disney and Pixar decided to greenlight Toy Story 4 for 2019.
Overall, Toy Story 3 grossed a worldwide $1.067 billion at the box office, far surpassing any of the other Pixar films that had been released at that point in time. Consequently, the movie indicated to Hollywood studios that animated features could reach numbers that were comparable to big live-action blockbusters such as superhero and sci-fi franchises.
It may be ironic that Minions, a Despicable Me spin-off, would perform at the box office at a higher level than the movies that originated it. And yet, that is absolutely the case.
Illumination’s Minions, which was released in 2015, had an impressive $115 million opening weekend and accumulated a global $1.159 billion at the box office throughout the years. Even when counting every movie in history – animated or otherwise – Minions still makes it to the Top 20 list of highest-grossing films ever, just behind Marvel’s Iron Man 3. Of course, Illumination is already working on a sequel, which is titled Minions: The Rise of Gru and is slated for a 2020 release.
2 INCREDIBLES 2
Pixar’s Incredibles 2 was released 14 years after its first installment, 2004’s The Incredible, which came during a time when Disney still did not own Marvel (or even Pixar, for that matter). But little did anyone expect that the second installment would do so well at the box office, managing to open to an astounding $182 million weekend and ending up accumulating a gross of $1.242 billion around the world over time.
As it stands, Incredibles 2 is the highest-grossing animated feature from Pixar ever, beating out even the more obvious juggernauts such as Toy Story 3 and Finding Dory.
There were quite a few awkward years for Walt Disney Animation Studios as it saw Pixar (a Disney subsidiary) go on to release movies with critical acclaim and universal appeal, while failing to reach any kind of major success. However, all of that changed with 2013’s Frozen, when the studio finally ‘let it go.’
Starring Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell, Josh Gad, and Jonathan Groff, Frozen is the highest-grossing animated movie of all time, having accumulated a worldwide gross of $1.290 billion at the box office. Overall, Frozen is the 14th highest-grossing movie of all time, animated or otherwise. While it is still too early to call, there is a very high chance that 2019’s Frozen II will join this list in the near future.