When we think of the most expensive movies ever made, we might think of King Kong ($243 million); Avatar ($254 million); or Titanic ($286 million). While yes these films surpass the list that follows, animated films are indeed rising in budget costs. Take the most expensive animated move ever made, for instance. Not only is it the highest on this list, but it’s also second on the list of most expensive movies ever made. Period. Outrageous, no? Well, No. Animated films are becoming more and more costly due to studio costs (electricity, creative facilities, etc.), labor intensiveness (unlike real life films, where there’s one actor per character, animated characters require multiple workers per character), and ever-evolving creative programing (stunning computer graphics call for expensive programs). For instance, in order for animation to appear as believable and as real as possible, money is thrown into program after program until the perfect image is captured. Like the hair simulator used for Rapunzel’s hair in Tangled, which took years to master.
Not only that, but DreamWorks, Pixar Animation Studios, and Walt Disney Company continue to hire A-list actors to fill their casts. In the past, unknown voices breathed life into familiar characters. Today, however, more and more recognizable names are being called upon to lend their voices: Tom Hanks, Billy Crystal, Reese Witherspoon, Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, Eddie Murphy, you name it. For voicing Toy Story, Hanks earned $50,000. Thanks to the movie’s success, Pixar shelled out $5 million to Hanks for Toy Story 2 and $15 million for Toy Story 3. Owen Wilson made $2.5 million for Pixar’s Cars 2. DreamWorks too upped its budget from $3 million to $10 million for Mike Myers to star in the movie Shrek and Shrek 2.
The following is a list of the most expensive animated movies ever made. You might be surprised which movies made the list and where they fall. Like this first one.
10 Frozen - $150 Million
Released in 2013 as Disney’s 53rd animated film, Frozen only cost a cool $150 million to make. An extremely low amount compared to the billions it earned in the box offices. That’s right. Frozen became the second animated film to break the billion barrier (the first being Pixar's Toy Story 3). The film, loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, won two Oscars, Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song, and is rumored to become a Broadway musical.
9 Shrek the Third - $160 Million
With a cast list made up of Mike Myers, Cameron Diaz, and Eddie Murphy, it’s no wonder Shrek the Third cost $160 million to make. Thankfully, it went on to be the highest-grossing animated film of 2007 and earned roughly $799 million worldwide. The film follows ogres Shrek and Princess Fiona as they are thrust into royalty sooner than anticipated. Shrek, uninterested in becoming king once his father-in-law passes, sets out on a quest to find the dying king’s nephew. Add a handful of fairy tale characters, a donkey, and a cat in boots, and you've got yourself a multimillion dollar film!
8 Wreck-It Ralph - $165 Million
Produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, Wrek-It Ralph cost $165 million to make and earned $471 million worldwide. Disney continued the trend of hiring top listed actors, casting John C. Reilly as Wreck-It Ralph, Sarah Silverman as video game glitch girl Vanellope, Jack McBrayer as Fix-It-Felix, the hero to the actual video game Wreck-It Ralph, and Jane Lynch as Calhoun, a rough and tough sergeant. The computer animated film featured new programming that enhanced reflections on surfaces as well as virtual cinematography.
7 How to Train Your Dragon - $165 Million
Based loosely off the book How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell, the 3D computer animated film was released in 2010 as a huge box office success. DreamWorks earned nearly $500 million worldwide after its release, not bad for producing the film for $165 million. How to Train Your Dragon features prominent voice actors as well, including Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, and Kristen Wiig. Already, a TV series and a video game have been released. Plus, a sequel is due out in June 2014. Talk about a success!
6 Monsters vs. Aliens - $175 Million
The third non Disney film to make our list, Monsters vs. Aliens was released in 2009 by DreamWorks Animation for $175 million. The movie, which was inspired by B-rated sci-fi/horror films of the 1950's, ‘60s and ‘70s, grossed over $381 million and featured top rated actors, including Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Rainn Wilson, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, and Stephen Colbert. Monsters vs. Aliens is DreamWorks’ 18th animated feature film and took roughly 45.6 million computing hours to make.
5 WALL-E - $180 Million
Possibly one of Pixar’s most unconventional animated films is WALL-E. Produced for $180 million, WALL-E follows a lonely robot, designed to clean up a polluted Earth. What makes this film so unique is that for the first 40 minutes or so, little dialogue is spoken. Instead, viewers are dropped into the world of a robot; how it thinks, how it works, how it talks (or doesn’t). Pixar’s unconventional film was a success. It earned over $520 million worldwide, received multiple Academy Awards nominations, and ranked as number one on TIME’s Best Movies of the Decade list.
4 Brave - $185 Million
Pixar did it again. In 2012, the computer animated film studio produced Brave, an original story set in the Scottish Highlands that follows the relationship between a queen mother and her unconventional princess daughter. The movie cost $185 million to make, earned over $538 million, and won the Academy Award for Best Animated Film and the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film, among others. The movie holds several firsts for Pixar too; first female protagonist; first female director; and first fairy tale.
3 Monsters University - $200 Million
Set as a prequel to the highly popular Monsters, Inc., Monsters University, like Toy Story 3, cost $200 million to make. While it didn’t rake in as much as Toy Story 3, Monsters University earned a sweet $743 million worldwide, making it the third highest-grossing Pixar film. Producers spent several weeks in fraternity houses and on college campuses (like Harvard University, Stanford University, and University of Alabama), observing student life, architecture, and Greek organizations in order to portray an authentic college experience on screen.
2 Toy Story 3 - $200 Million
Produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures, Toy Story 3 cost a cool $200 million to produce, ($15 million of which was spent on its lead actor, Tom Hanks). However, that’s nothing compared to the $1 billion it raked in from worldwide sales. That’s right. Toy Story 3 became the first animated film to break the billion barrier. It was also the highest-grossing film of 2010, earned nominations for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Sound Editing, and won Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song.
1 Tangled - $274 Million
Released in 2010, Tangled is today’s most expensive animated film, costing $274 million to make. The movie, loosely based on the German fairy tale “Rapunzel,” earned $591 million worldwide and a nomination for Best Original Song at the 83rd Academy Awards. Despite its success, Tangled was a beast to produce. It spent six years in production, underwent a controversial name change (from Rapunzel to Tangled to draw in a wider audience), and had issues with one of its (longest) characters; Rapunzel’s hair. (Years of program writing went into creating the perfect hair simulation program.) However, perseverance won out; Tangled became Disney’s 50th animated film.