Disney’s Best Box Office Performers Throughout History

The silver screen, the theatre, the movies. Whatever you call it, sometimes we can all use an escape from our daily lives and a peek into another world. Sometimes it’s a world of talking toys or princesses or magic, and other times it’s a world of costumed heroes or galactic battles.

©Disney

Through the years Disney has had some huge hits at the box office. Today we’re talking about some of the best performers Disney has had. We’re adjusting the numbers to account for inflation, and we’re taking into consideration how much these cost to make, too.

Let’s check out Disney’s best box office performers!

Disney’s Box Office Tracker © Disney

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs– $66 million initially- $1.146 billion adjusted

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs may have only made $66 million when it was first released, but that was back in 1937. Today a $66 million movie wouldn’t crack the top openers in that weekend.  At that time it was the highest grossing film with sound. With its multiple re-releases over the years it has made $184 million in total.  Even with the adjusted figure it may not seem like a huge number, but Snow White only cost $1.5 million to make. With that investment they made 44 times what it cost them, without inflation. That’s why it made it on this list.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

The Little Mermaid-$184 million initially- $383 million adjusted

The Little Mermaid made a modest amount of money when it was released in 1989, but it started the modern golden era of Disney animation. What it brought in may only be $184 million, a small amount by today’s standards, but it started an era of Disney animated films and has made tons in sequels and merchandise. For comparison the animated Disney film released before Little Mermaid, Oliver & Company, only made $53 million which is less than a third of what Little Mermaid made. That’s a big jump and showed that Disney animation could shine once again.

©Disney

Beauty and the Beast– $331 million initially- $630 million adjusted

Beauty and the Beast was a critical, technical, and financial marvel. In the early 90’s Disney was hoping to continue the box office success of The Little Mermaid, but the two animated films released in 1990 didn’t perform well (even if we love them both). DuckTales the Movie only made $18 million and Rescuers Down Under made $27 million. The risk that Disney took on Beauty and the Beast was a big one. It cost $25 million to produce it, which is almost more than each previous animated film made. It also utilized both traditional animation and computer animation layered together. Beauty and the Beast also helped re-affirm what Disney knew: that the traditional fairy tale princess model was financially successful. After Beauty and the Beast they released Aladdin and continued their streak of success for a few years.

©Disney

The Lion King– initially $763 million- $1.3 billion

The Lion King may not fit in with Disney’s proven princess plan, but it did take a classic story and technologically advanced animation like they used in Beauty and the Beast. The Lion King made $763 million dollars which was a good increase from Aladdin, which also did really well with $504 million when it was released. The Lion King also spawned a very successful Broadway show and a 2019 remake. The remake alone made over $1.6 billion. The entire The Lion King franchise has been incredibly profitable for Disney. It put them ever closer to that billion dollar box office.

Toy Story– $363 million initially- $616 million

Toy Story was the first feature length computer animated movie, and it not only launched a film franchise, but it also confirmed the powerhouse of Pixar. In its initial run, Toy Story made $363 million, which is small compared to what the sequels would pull in. Toy Story 4, for example, made over $1.07 billion for Disney. When the first Toy Story was released we had never seen anything like it, and now almost every other animated film is computer animated. Toy Story proved that version of animation was viable and started the train of instant classics that Pixar released. The amount it brought in at the box office was impressive, but what it started is even more impressive.

The Incredibles– $631 million initially- $864 million adjusted

The Incredibles was Pixar’s first movie that featured a full cast of humans. Previously we had seen humans as side characters, and they sometimes looked a little creepy. Just think of Sid in Toy Story and Boo in Monsters, Inc. Incredibles was where they refined their style. At the box office, The Incredibles pulled in a little under twice what Toy Story had made nine years before. When Incredibles 2 came out in 2018 it made almost double what The Incredible made ($1.24 billion). The Incredibles and its sequel were incredible for Disney and Pixar’s coffers.

©Pixar

Frozen– $1.28 billion initially- $1.42 billion adjusted

There is no way around this, Frozen was a phenomenon. With dubbed versions of Frozen released all over the world and the catchy tunes, it is no wonder that Frozen made $1.28 billion worldwide. It inspired a hit Broadway musical and a sequel last year. Frozen 2 made $1.45 billion at the box office. Without counting all the merchandise and the Broadway sales, the Frozen films made Disney $2.73 billion.

©Disney

Zootopia– $1.02 billion initially- $1.1 billion adjusted

Zootopia is sometimes forgotten when people think about these powerhouse Disney films, but it made the impressive amount of $1.02 billion. Zootopia also won the Oscar in 2016 for Best Animated Film. In comparison, Moana was also released in 2016, but it only made $690 million. What’s interesting is that Zootopia has a limited presence in the Disney parks and didn’t nearly release as much merchandise as they did for Frozen or Moana. However with the worldwide appeal of Zootopia, it was announced that Shanghai Disneyland is going expanding with a Zootopia-themed land.

©Disney

Star Wars: Episode VII- The Force Awakens– $2.06 billion initially- $2.25 billion adjusted

When Disney bought Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion in 2012, they immediately started working on the next chapter of the Star Wars universe. We got animated series, books, video games, comic books, merchandise galore, and (of course) new movies. When the first in the Disney produced trilogy came out it brought in $2.06 billion at the box office. The following four Star Wars movies scored a total of $3.85 billion. Star Wars is clearly a huge moneymaker for Disney, and they may have slowed down releasing the films, but with the success of Galaxy’s Edge in the Disney Parks and The Mandalorian on Disney+ it will continue to be a huge earner.

©Lucasfilm/Disney

Black Panther– $1.34 billion initially- $1.38 billion adjusted

Black Panther has been a staple of the Marvel comic books for decades, but to non-comic readers he was relatively unknown before he appeared in Captain America: Civil War. Black Panther was a huge hit around the worldwide, and Wakanda became a household name. Black Panther pulled in $1.34 billion when it hit theaters; it made more than Guardians of the Galaxy, Iron Man, Captain America: The First Avenger, Thor, and Spider-Man: Homecoming.

©Disney

Avengers: Endgame– $2.79 billion initially-$2.8 billion adjusted

Avengers: Endgame was one of the biggest movies in history. It was the second part of the Thanos saga of the Avengers. It broke every box office record imaginable with $2.79 billion. With box office numbers like that, it is hard to believe that there is anyone on earth who hasn’t seen it at least on Disney+. Almost every Marvel character who was in the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) appeared in the film. The high point of the film, is getting to see all of them together and hearing the classic line “Avengers assemble!”

Avengers: Endgame ©Marvel and Disney

Disney has a huge history of releasing fantastic films and making loads of money at the box office. We have no doubt in our mind that they will continue with their hits for years to come.

What is your favorite box office hit? What is you favorite box office flop? Let us know in the comments.

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