Animation Films – Are They Domestically Worth It?

Toy Story 3 made it debut to the big screen this summer, racking in over $1,046,340,665 in gross worldwide according to Box Office Mojo. A major accomplishment that has declared Toy Story 3 as the highest gross selling animated film. But before Toy Story 3, the title belonged to Shrek 2 which made it debut in 2004 with $919,838,758 gross worldwide.

However, should there be another animation film who deserved more credit then both Toy Story 3 and Shrek 2 as the highest gross selling animation film? I believe so, and that animation film should be and always should have been Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs made its theater debut in 1937, which is also declared as the first full feature animation. Originally, in it’s 1937 debut, the film brought in a total domestic gross of $66,596,803. For quick reference, the movie was re-issued four times in the 20th century: 1937, 1983, 1987, and 1993 which made a total of $184,925,486 (unadjusted) life time gross.

However, by using the US Bureau of Labor Statistics Calculator and a little math, if we adjust the $66,596,803 for inflation, the amount totals out to be $1,000,596,663 in today’s dollar terms.

Although, Snow White’s $1,000,596,663 adjusted gross is less than Toy Story 3’s $1,046,340,655 gross, the 1937 film was only released domestically. Yep! That means it was only released here in the United States and not worldwide like today’s current movies or animation films.

So this begs the question, if released to other developed countries with theaters in the late 1930’s, how much addition revenue, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs would have brought in? Probably much more, in fact I would assume it would have easily out beaten Toy Story 3, considering their figures are nearly equaled now.

Now lets take a different approach to this argument. Toy Story 3 along with Shrek 2 and Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs all made most of their revenue from foreign countries rather than here in the United States.

In fact, in some cases sales in foreign countries nearly quad tripled compared to domestic sales. For example, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009) only made $196,573,705 in domestic sales, while making $690,112,575 in foreign markets. Though, I am sure Fox studios wasn’t too impressed with the movie’s domestic numbers, however, I bet they were overjoyous when they accounted for their foreign sales.

It appears that with the exception of the animation film The Princess and the Frog (2009), animation studios are still able to make money from domestic sales but most of their money are certainly coming from foreign markets.

But going back to Snow White’s domestic gross sales of $66,596,803 or $1,000,596,663 adjust for inflation, does this mean that Americans are spending less and less of their money on animation movies? Is the competition of live action movies stiffing the competition of animation films? Or perhaps it’s technology and the fact that burning and downloading new movies is becoming easier, cheaper and much more accepted?

Maybe it’s time for studios and theaters to collaborate and find other ways to sell animation films to U.S. consumers, something that will encourage the consumers to purchase and watch the film rather than illegally downloading or steaming it on their computers.

But whatever the case maybe, it clear that animation films don’t do as well as they did several decades ago. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), 101 Dalmatians (1961), Fantasia (1941), Lion King (1994), and the Jungle Book (1967) are currently the top 5 (adjusted) domestic grossing animations films and will more than likely remain this way… Forever.

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