Ever since Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the very first feature-length animated movie with sound and color, released in 1937, animated movies have been a favorite for people of all ages. Walt Disney, the king of animated movies, said “Animation offers a medium of story telling and visual entertainment which can bring pleasure and information to people of all ages everywhere in the world.”
Although animated movies have been around for over 75 years, these films have only been improving in that time. These movies have especially had a boost in quality in the last few decades with the introduction of computer-generated animation. In fact, of the top 10 highest grossing animated movies of all time, only one was released before 2000: The Lion King (1994).
Read on to see our list of the 10 highest grossing animated movies of this millennium. You’ll no doubt be interested to find that most of these are sequels!
10. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012) – $747 Million Worldwide
Madagascar 3 sees Alex the Lion, Marty the Zebra, Gloria the Hippo and Melman the Giraffe on another adventure. This time, on their quest to get back to their New York zoo, the animals are detoured to Europe. They dodge animal control and decide to join a circus. The celebrity voice actors from the original film–Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith and David Schwimmer–are back for this one, which may contribute to its immense box office success. This was also the first movie in the Madagascar franchise to be released in 3D, pumping up ticket prices. Its opening weekend earned $137.6 million and it earned about $747 million worldwide overall. Madagascar 3 was especially popular in Argentina, winning the award for Best Animated Film at the 2012 Kids’ Choice Awards Argentina.
9. Shrek Forever After (2010) – $753 Million Worldwide
Shrek Forever After went by a few names when it was released in 2010. It was also advertised as Shrek 4 and Shrek: The Final Chapter. No matter what the name, this sequel was a box office success. In the fourth installment, you see Shrek and Fiona dealing with family life in the swamp. After a questionable contract is drawn up with Rumpelstiltskin, Shrek finds his life torn apart. Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz and Eddie Murphy reprise their roles as Shrek, Fiona and Donkey. Shrek Forever After was released on standard, 3D and IMAX 3D screens and spent three weeks at #1 at the United States and Canadian box office. Overall, it earned $753 million worldwide. Eddie Murphy even won a 2011 Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Voice From An Animated Movie for his role as Donkey.
8. Shrek The Third (2007) – $799 Million Worldwide
With as many sequels as the franchise had, it’s no surprise that there’s more than one Shrek movie on this list. In this one, Shrek has to deal with the possibility of becoming king once his father-in-law dies. Outdoing the fourth movie by about $46 million, Shrek the Third was a definite box office success. Perhaps it was the new character of Arthur, voiced by Justin Timberlake, or returning favorites Donkey and Puss in Boots. Whatever the case, Shrek the Third earned a modest $799 million worldwide, earning $38 million on the very first day it was released. Eddie Murphy again won the Kid’s Choice Award for Favorite Voice From an Animated Movie as Donkey. It also won the 2008 People’s Choice Award for Favorite Family Movie.
7. Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012) – $877 Million Worldwide
The fourth movie in the franchise, Ice Age: Continental Drift brought back a long list of famous voice actors. Fans could hear from Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Queen Latifah and Nicki Minaj, to name a few. In addition to an all-star cast, this installment adds in a new band of pirate characters when the main characters are stranded on an iceberg, enticing young pirate-loving fans. Ice Age: Continental Drift earned $46.6 million during its opening weekend and $877 million worldwide overall. This movie even spawned a video game for the Nintendo Wii, 3DS, DS and Xbox 360 called Ice Age: Continental Drift – Arctic Games.
6. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009) – $887 Million Worldwide
Add cute baby dinosaurs into the mix, and you can’t be surprised that Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs was such a success. The third movie in the series features Sid, voiced by John Leguizamo, finding dinosaur eggs. Of course, the mother of those baby dinosaurs isn’t happy about that and she drags all the characters down into an underground world. The late Roger Ebert said “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is the best of the three films about our friends in the inter-species herd of plucky prehistoric heroes.” Perhaps that glowing review contributed to the film earning $887 million worldwide. In fact, it had the biggest opening weekend outside of North America for an animated movie with $151.7 million.
5. Shrek 2 (2004) – $920 Million Worldwide
Are you surprised that there are three Shrek movies on this list? Well, you shouldn’t be. In fact, the Shrek franchise is the highest grossing animated franchise of all time, and Shrek 2 is the highest grossing movie of the group. In this one, Shrek and Fiona travel to Far Far Away to meet here royal family. Shrek 2 introduces the wildly popular character Puss in Boots, voiced by Antonio Banderas. Seeing as Puss in Boots spawned his own spin-off movie, there’s a good chance he was the adorable catalyst for this movie earning so much at the box office. At the end of its run, it took in $920 million worldwide. It also won five People’s Choice Awards and two Teen Choice Awards.
4. Finding Nemo (2003) – $937 Million Worldwide
Finding Nemo is one of only two movies on this list that isn’t a sequel. It beats out so many other animated movies because of the touching story of a father clownfish on a quest to find his missing son, Nemo. Along the way, he meets another fish named Dory, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres. Although Dory isn’t the main protagonist or title character, she’s often the favorite of young fans. In fact, the role seemed to relaunch Ellen DeGeneres’ career. This Pixar movie earned over $70 million in North America during its opening weekend, setting a record for animated movies at the time. Overall, it earned about $937 million worldwide and 35 awards, including an Academy Award for Best Animated Film of 2003.
3. Despicable Me 2 (2013) – $971 Million Worldwide
Despicable Me 2 has a few things that kids love: funny scenes, adorable characters and Steve Carell. In this sequel, Gru is now an ex-villain raising his three daughters and getting in hi-jinx with the Minions. But, he’s contacted by the Anti-Villain League to help find a villain who stole a secret Arctic laboratory. Again, young audiences were captivated by the Minions. Despicable Me 2 earned about $971 million worldwide. Not only was the film a huge success, but so was the movie’s original song: “Happy” by Pharrell Williams. Both the movie and the song were nominated for Academy Awards, though they lost out to the movie at the number one spot on this list.
2. Toy Story 3 (2010) – $1 Billion Worldwide
Toy Story 3 is the final installment in Pixar’s Toy Story trilogy. It adds a nice finish to the storylines for Woody, Buzz Lightyear, Jessie and the rest of the toys as they deal with their owner, Andy, growing up and not needing them anymore. In addition to being a success with younger fans, this was also a big hit with adult audiences. It earned $1 billion worldwide. Unlike many of the sequels on this list, Toy Story 3 had great reviews in addition to large box office numbers. It has a 99% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has earned 12 major awards–including an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
1. Frozen (2013) – $1.1 Billion Worldwide
Not only is the animated movie at the top spot a recent film, it is also still showing in theaters. That means that it’s worldwide box office take will only continue to increase. We’re talking about Frozen, a film about two princesses–one a rambunctious optimist and the other a reluctant woman with the magical power of ice. Frozen was an instant success and earned $110.6 worldwide during its opening weekend. It has won 60 awards, including the Academy Award of Best Animated Feature. In addition to a fun story, the songs also contributed to this musical earning $1.1 billion so far as of April, 2014. “Let It Go,” sung by Idina Menzel, earned an Academy Award for Best Original Song and has spawned countless covers on YouTube.