This may come as a shock to you, but Disney films tend to make a lot of money. Disney has always known what it takes to rake it in at the box office. Through the years, they’ve produced some of the biggest films in history. Even though we tend to associate the movie theater with action films and special effects (films that Disney has a strong grasp of), children's movies have always done well in theaters and those numbers don't look like they're slowing down at all. Sure, children's films come in all shapes and sizes, but we wanted to take a closer look at the success of Disney's animated films. The mouse company has long had the animation market cornered and even though there are several strong competitors (like Dreamworks), Disney will almost certainly be the top dog for a long time yet. Still, you might be surprised at how well Disney's animated films have done. We've gone through and ranked the biggest and best-selling of Disney's animated films and the numbers are impressive, to say the least.
While there are some conflicting numbers out there that try and account for inflation, we tried to compare the films of the past to those of today as accurately as we could. By doing this, we can get a rough idea of how Disney's early films stack up to the newer ones. With film piracy and streaming, the thinking is that box office sales have dropped off, but Disney films are not usually the type of films that suffer from piracy. As you'll see, if anything, Disney is thriving in this new environment. Take Moana for instance, which just falls off this list (though we expect in a few more weeks it'll have earned enough to surpass number 15). Moana isn't even the most popular animated film of the year and it has made almost $640 million. So let's see where your favorite animated Disney film comes in. Here are the 15 Highest Grossing Disney Animation Films of All Time.
15 Sleeping Beauty (1959) - $642 Million (Adjusted)
Perhaps it's a little unfair, but Sleeping Beauty makes the list because it has benefited from several re-releases in theaters. In fact, the first theater release of this film almost ruined Disney. In 1959, Sleeping Beauty was the most expensive Disney film ever made. It cost about three times more to make than any other animated film and it underwhelmed at the box office, barely making its money back. Disney took a long hiatus from fairytale films because of this one failure. Still, it ended up becoming a classic over the years and was re-released several times, each time to more and more fanfare. If we adjust for inflation, it has made about $642 million. Incredibly, since we only have domestic numbers to go off, this doesn’t account for foreign sales. On the all-time domestic list, Sleeping Beauty comes in at number 33.
14 Big Hero 6 (2014) - $658 Million
Big Hero 6 seemed like it was Disney's underdog film from the start. On the surface, it didn't have the same allure for children that many animated Disney features have, but it combined elements of action and animation to bring in a variety of ages. Few would have predicted that Big Hero 6 would become one of the most successful films of all time. Even knowing how good this film is, we are still shocked at the heights it reached. In the end, Big Hero 6 settled in at number 16 for highest-grossing animated films of all time (not adjusted for inflation). It is also the 102th highest-grossing film ever (again, not adjusted for inflation). While many of the Disney animated films have moments that are fun for adults, Big Hero 6 might just be the one on this list with the most adult themes and entertainment as a whole.
13 Fantasia (1941) - $734 Million (Adjusted)
Like Sleeping Beauty, the foreign numbers are not available for Fantasia, so the fact that the film brought in what would be $734 million today, is in and of itself remarkable. Overall, Fantasia is the 23rd highest-grossing film of all time, coming in just ahead of Jurassic World, if you wanted to put that in perspective. Though the film was re-released many times, it never really reached its peak popularity until the late '60s when teens started recommending the film as a complimentary experience with drugs. In total, the film was re-released nine times (1942, 1946, 1956, 1963, 1969, 1977, 1982, 1985, and 1990). For a film that was sort of thrown together from disparate elements, Fantasia is a wonder. It also did quite a bit to restore Mickey Mouse's popularity for various generations.
12 Up (2009) - $735 Million
Few will ever debate the power that Disney's Up has as a film. When it was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, it became only the second animated film to receive that honor at the time, Beauty and the Beast being the other. Coming in as the 83rd highest-grossing film of all time, Up also proved to be one of the most critically successful films. Critics hailed Up as one of Disney and Pixar's best films ever and many have applauded the writers for taking such risks with a so-called children's film. Many have discussed how the film took a chance in not only acknowledging its adult audience but speaking to them directly. This makes the financial success all the more amazing.
11 Monsters University (2013) - $744 Million
Compared to most of the films on this list, Monsters University was not received very well, but the film was still an enormous success at the box office. Leveraging both the success and popularity of the original film, Monsters Inc., Monsters University played as a straightforward sequel and didn't take too many risks. For that reason and more, critics didn't love it, but they didn’t hate it either. About 65% of the worldwide numbers came from outside of North America, which is quite a big boost compared to most films on this list. We won't judge this film for it benefiting from its position as a sequel because it's not the only one of its kind on this list. The $744 million the film earned puts it 81st on the all-time earnings list.
10 Inside Out (2015) - $858 Million
From Monsters University, we take a massive jump of over $100 million and come in at number 54 on the all-time earnings list. It's there we'll find Inside Out. To say that Inside Out was a masterpiece on so many different levels isn't unheard of. The film was brave in its material, delicate in its treatment, and beautiful in the animation. Critically, Inside Out was a wild success, earning acclaim from nearly every writer who watched the film around the world. Truly, this is an animated film that is near perfect and more than deserving of being one of the highest-grossing animated films of all time. In total, Inside Out won 15 different Best Picture awards from various award ceremonies and 40 Best Animated Feature Awards, including the Academy Award and the Golden Globe.
9 Finding Nemo (2003) - $940 Million
After earning $940 Million worldwide, Finding Nemo settled in as the 38th highest-grossing film of all time. At the time of its release, Finding Nemo was the highest-grossing animated film of all time (not accounting for inflation), surpassing so many giants and really paving the way for a new age of animated films. Finding Nemo also ushered in a new era of Disney animation and proved that the studio was still the big kid on the block. If you were to poll a random selection of film fans and critics, we would bet that almost all would have Finding Nemo on their list as one of the greatest animated films of all time. The film is a pleasure to watch for any age group and any mood.
8 The Jungle Book (1967) - $950 Million (Adjusted)
Last year, moviegoers were treated to a live-action remake of The Jungle Book and fans flocked to theaters to see it. Earning $966 Million, the 2016 version of the film landed at number 33 of all time. However, if we were to adjust numbers for inflation, the original film, The Jungle Book (1967), would be right around that same number ($950 Million). This does include some worldwide numbers, though they are much lower than the domestic numbers. Getting an accurate set of numbers is challenging, but to put the popularity of the film in perspective, in Germany, The Jungle Book is not only the highest-grossing animated film of all time, it's the third highest-grossing American film ever. With worldwide releases coming in 1967, 1978, 1984 and 1990, The Jungle Book has had several chances to make money and it has capitalized on every one.
7 The Lion King (1994) - $968 Million
When the new version of The Jungle Book finally stopped selling, it came to rest right behind another animated Disney film, The Lion King, on the all-time highest grossing film list. At number 32, The Lion King is actually quite a bit lower than it has been in the past. When the film was first released in 1994, The Lion King was the second highest grossing film of all time (not adjusted for inflation). Only Jurassic Park was bigger at the time. In fact, it wasn't until Finding Nemo came out in 2003 that The Lion King was finally bumped from its position as the highest grossing animated film of all time. It would get revenge on Finding Nemo in 2011 when The Lion King was re-released and surpassed Finding Nemo's sales numbers. Still considered one of the best animated Disney films ever made, The Lion King spawned sequels and prequels and upcoming live-action remakes.
6 One Hundred And One Dalmatians (1961) - $1 Billion (Adjusted)
Like some of the other inflation-adjusted films, the worldwide earnings of the 1961 version of One Hundred and One Dalmatians are very difficult to calculate. With re-releases coming in 1969, 1979, 1985 and 1991, most of the money this film made was after its initial release. The film was a great success when it was first released. In fact, it probably saved Disney pictures. It was inexpensive to make and it made a fortune in return. We approximated the numbers at $1 Billion, though they could be even higher as a seemingly disproportionate chunk of that number is in domestic sales.
5 Zootopia (2016) - $1.023 Billion
We're in a new era of box office numbers, so Zootopia's insane $1.023 Billion in worldwide sales might not be as impressive as some of the others on this list. We say that without trying to take anything away from what is really an outstanding film. But times really have changed. Where The Lion King was the second highest-selling movie of all time in 1994, Zootopia was just the fourth highest-selling movie of 2016. Incredibly, Disney had all five of the top-selling films that year, just in case you wanted to feel poor and insignificant real quick. Still, Zootopia didn't just ease its way into the pool and try to con parents to buy tickets, like some other animated films (The Secret Life of Pets, we're looking at you). The film and the filmmakers dealt with serious and challenging material and hit it out of the park. On the all-time list, Zootopia sits 27th. If we don't adjust for inflation, Zootopia is the fifth highest-selling animated film of all time.
4 Finding Dory (2017) - $1.028 Billion
Finding Dory has the unique distinction of being the only part of a film franchise in which both films, the original and the sequel, made it to this list. It's actually kind of amazing that both Finding Nemo (8th) and Finding Dory (4th) are in the top ten of highest-selling animated films of all time, at least when we're not adjusting for inflation. When you include all types of films, Finding Dory is 24th of all time. Incredibly, when you look at only domestic numbers, Finding Dory is even more impressive, having smashed a number of records. At the time of its release, the film was the highest-grossing film from Walt Disney Pictures released in North America, the highest-grossing Disney animated film in North America and the highest-grossing animated film overall in North America.
3 Toy Story 3 (2016) - $1.067 Billion
No one should be surprised to see Toy Story 3 here. If anything, you may be surprised it isn't higher. The film is 19th on the all-time film list and 3rd on the all-time animated list (no inflation). Eleven years after Toy Story 2, the third entry was released and the response was enormous. Like Up and Beauty and the Beast, Toy Story 3 received a Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards. Sequels often do well for animated films, but this third film brought in more money than the other two Toy Story films combined. Toy Story 3 really proved the selling power of animated films when it became the first ever to break the $1 Billion mark at the box office, though several animated films since 2010 have done the same. Toy Story 3 also has one of the highest ratings of any animated film on the review aggregate sites, showing that it's more than just pretty pictures and pure nostalgia.
2 Frozen (2013) - $1.287 Billion
If you have kids, know kids, or have even seen a kid before in your life, you should have expected to see Frozen this high on the list. Earning a whopping $1.287 Billion, Frozen is the 9th highest-selling film of all time. On the all-time animation list, it comes in at number one, though that list doesn’t deal with inflation and we do. The accolades go further than that. Frozen is the third highest-selling original film of all time and the all-time third highest-selling film in Japan. If you consider the merchandise that came with Frozen and the continent-wide shortages that followed, Disney has more than doubled the $1.2 Billion it made in film sales. It's safe to say that this is by far the most lucrative standalone film of all time.
1 Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs (1937) - $1.8 Billion (Adjusted)
There's been a lot of debate about how much we should adjust Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' earnings to make it relative to today's economy. The 2015 Guinness World Records addressed this without giving solid numbers. They did, however, place it around the $1.8 Billion mark. Originally released in 1937, the film was re-released in 1944, 1952, 1958, 1967, 1975, 1983, 1987 and 1993, performing well at the box office in each run. Domestically, the film sits 10th of all time (adjusted for inflation) and is considered a worldwide treasure. Not only is this film one of the world's first feature-length animated films, it is one of the oldest examples of animation on film in existence.
Sources: Wikipedia; IMDB; Box Office Numbers; Box Office Mojo; Guinness Book of Records