Disney’s ‘Zootopia’ has crossed the $1 billion mark. One animated flick may gross even more this year.
Their own mammal metropolis isn’t the only place Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps have won over; the bunny-and-fox duo have also dominated the world, with Disney’s Zootopia reaching the $1 billion mark at the worldwide box office earlier this week.
It’s the top-earning animated feature of 2016 thus far, well on its way to making twice as much as Kung Fu Panda 3, which is at #2 among animated films this year.
Will Zootopia be king of the 2016 jungle? Or can another animated flick top it?
Box office experts agree: Finding Dory is likely to surpass Zootopia’s $1 billion+ to become the top-earning animated movie of 2016.
A small, unscientific poll of mine also shows that for parents, Finding Dory is the most-anticipated animated film yet to be released this year. It is the most-often mentioned movie from the handful of parent bloggers I emailed asking what animated film they and their kids are most looking forward to. “My family and I are eager to see Finding Dory this month because Finding Nemo is one of our favorites, including just about every Disney Pixar movie too,” Amy Bellgardt, creator of MomSpark.net and mother of two boys told me via email.
Outside of superhero fare, 2016 has thus far been a rough year for franchises, with audiences turning rather anti-sequel, or perhaps having no tolerance for sequels that just aren’t much good. Zoolander 2, Alice Through the Looking Glass, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, and Divergent Series: Allegiant have all flopped. Kung Fu Panda 3 wasn’t a total failure, but it has somewhat underperformed, earning less than each of the two other films in the franchise.
But as David Mumpower of Box Office Prophets told us via email, “2016’s anti-sequel consumer behavior shouldn’t impact Finding Dory.”
For seven years, Finding Nemo reigned as Pixar’s highest grossing film, until Toy Story 3 came along. Last year’s Inside Out is the only other film from the studio to surpass Nemo’s box office tally. It still stands as the seventh highest-grossing animated movie of all time at the worldwide box office.
Finding Nemo remains one of Pixar’s most beloved films, frequently topping or nearly topping both fan and critic rankings of the studio’s movies, so Finding Dory will bring the solid established audience not only of Pixar devotees but also fans of Nemo especially.
With Finding Dory coming out 13 years after Nemo, it’s not quite at the point where there’s a sizable number of people who saw it as kids who now have kids of their own to take to the movies — as was the case with The Lion King’s massively successful 2011 re-release — but “it’s pretty close,” Bruce Nash, founder and publisher of The Numbers, pointed out.
Finding Dory topping Zootopia’s gross would make the Pixar sequel the fifth animated movie to cross the $1 billion mark after Toy Story 3, Frozen, Minions, and Zootopia.
The creators of those animation box office champions all have new films coming out this year: Disney’s got Zootopia and Moana. Disney•Pixar has Finding Dory opening a week from now. And Illumination Entertainment, the makers of Minions and the Despicable Me movies, will release The Secret Life of Pets next month.
Secret Life is a kind of Toy Story for dogs and cats and bunnies, showing us what goofy antics our pets are up to when we’re not looking. Zootopia proved that another non-sequel, original concept could join Frozen in the $1 billion club, albeit with the proven brand recognition of Disney.
“Secret Life of Pets can also be a success mid-summer, although $1 billion is too much to expect from it,” Gitesh Pandya of Box Office Guru said via email.
Just how much will Secret Life’s family relations to Minions boost its box office success? It’ll help, though the box office experts I consulted have divergent thoughts about just how much it’ll help.
Secret Life’s invocation of the film’s connection to Illumination’s uber-popular little yellow guys with the words “from the humans behind Despicable Me” is, according to Mumpower, “one of the strongest marketing slogans imaginable right now. Putting that note in the trailer spikes the box office dramatically.”
Meanwhile, Pandya said, “Tapping into the Minions fan base is a smart starting point,” and Nash said efforts to make mainstream audiences aware of the Minions connection “won’t make a huge deal of difference.”
Nash also noted that DreamWorks Animation wasn’t able to translate the popularity of its Shrek films into success for the movies that followed the first couple of Shrek installments. How to Train Your Dragon and the Madagascar franchise is where DreamWorks later found box office success, though the four Shrek movies still top the animation studio’s list of highest grossing films.
Though Mumpower has confidence in the power of Secret Life’s link to Minions, he added, “I suspect that Secret Life of Pets would have succeeded if it had come first [among Illumination’s films]. The attachment humans have for their pets fosters continued interest in such concepts, and this movie in particular has a terrific ad campaign. The prim [poodle] rocking out to heavy metal is a perfect animated comedy gag.”
Universal Studios, which is distributing the film, is tapping into that dog-lover and cat-lover audience with a huge partnership with PetSmart.
Looking back at Zootopia, what accounted for its success? It was a film praised by both critics and audiences, and it had a long stretch of time without any competition from other family movies.* Moana has the strong potential to find success for similar reasons, along with the Disney brand recognition. It hits theaters on Thanksgiving weekend, following Trolls’ early November opening and ahead of the Christmas week premiere of Sing, Illumination Entertainment’s movie about animals in an American Idol-esque competition. So Moana doesn’t have quite as much space to itself as Zootopia did, but it’s safe to bet it’ll be the reigning animated movie of the holiday season. Moana, ostensibly introducing the House of Mouse’s first Polynesian princess, features music by Lin-Manuel Miranda. Nash does not expect Miranda’s involvement to be a box office boost in and of itself, despite the massive popularity of Miranda’s Hamilton. Disney musicals are already recognized for their quality tunes, so the film already has its draw for the music (which we may be hearing for the first time in the trailer set to hit the web this Sunday).