Walt Disney Co.’s (NYSE:DIS) computer-animated children’s film Frozen is set to be released on November 27, 2013 and, if you believe the industry whispers, Disney believes the film could rival some of the studio’s best animated musical films of all time.
According to Variety, Disney executives are expressing a level of enthusiasm and excitement for Frozen in private that suggests there are those at the studio who believe it could rival cherished films like Beauty and the Beast — one of the films that ushered in the Disney Renaissance from the late 1980s to late 1990s. The risk Disney took when the studio hired Robert Lopez (the songwriter behind the Broadway musicals Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon) and his wife Kristen Anderson-Lopez looks to be another strong creative choice by Disney to reclaim its place as the top animation studio.
Commenting on Frozen’s lack of satirical form for which Lopez is best known for, he explained, “I think they wanted us to be funny.” Anderson-Lopez added, “We thought, this is our chance to make a really funny Disney princess — a real person that our generation has been waiting for: the one that’s not perfect, that gets pooped on, is clever and smart and has a sense of humor.” So will Frozen rank among Disney’s animated classics? As the following list will show you, it’s not exactly easy to crack the top five list of Disney animated musicals all time — and this list isn’t even adjusted for inflation. Here are the five highest grossing animated Disney musicals of all time in North America.
5. Beauty and the Beast (1991) — $145.8 Million
Released in 1991, Beauty and the Beast went on to earn almost $146 million at the North American box office ($219 million when re-releases are factored in) and $206 million overseas for a worldwide total of just under $425 million. Based on the French fairy tale of the same name by Jeanne-Marie Le Prince de Beaumont, Beauty and the Beast is the 30th film from Walt Disney Animation Studios and the third film in what has come to be known as the Disney Renaissance — the ten-year period between 1989 and 1999 when Disney returned to successful animated films based on well-known stories. The first two films in this period, The Little Mermaid and The Rescuers Down Under, arrived in 1989 and 1990, respectively.
Beauty and the Beast opened November 22, 1991 to positive reviews and went on to be nominated for several major awards including winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy while becoming the first animated film to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Additionally, the film won Best Original Score and Best Original Song for the film’s title song. Other classic songs included in the film are “Belle” and “Be Our Guest” — both of which were nominated for Best Song at the Academy Awards along with Beauty and the Beast’s title song.
4. Tarzan (1999) – $171 Million
Coming in at the other end of Disney’s ten-year renaissance period, 1999′s Tarzan earned $171 million at the domestic box office and $277 million overseas for a worldwide total of $448 million. Based on Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Rice Burroughs, it is the only major film adaptation of the Tarzan property to be animated and not live-action. Tarzan, which is the 37th film in the Walt Disney Animation Studios, is considered the last film in Disney’s Renaissance period.
At the time of release, Tarzan’s $130 million budget was the biggest ever for an animated film. But luckily for Disney, Tarzan was a hit with critics and movie-goers alike, with many praising the film’s advancements in animated visual effects. Although Tarzan didn’t see the same kind of critical success as some of the studio’s films over the previous ten years, the film’s original songs from Phil Collins were standouts once again, with the song “You’ll Be In My Heart” winning the Academy Award for Best Song.
3. Tangled (2010) – $200.8 Million
As the most recent film on this list, 2010′s Tangled is the only film in the animated-musical top five that is entirely computer animated and is Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 50th animated feature. Following the blueprint of the renaissance period, Tangled is loosely based on the German fairy tale Rapunzel included in the collection of folk tales by the Brothers Grimm. Released on November 24, 2010, Tangled went on to gross almost $200 million at the North American box office and nearly $391 million overseas for a worldwide box office of $591 million.
Made over a period of six years while reportedly costing as much as $260 million to produce, Tangled is easily the most expensive animated film of all time and places second overall for the most expensive films of all time, unadjusted for inflation. With an original score composed by Alan Menken with lyrics written by Glenn Slater, the original song “I See the Light” would go on to be nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards, Best Song at the Golden Globes, and Best Song Written for Visual Media at the 54th Grammy Awards.
2. Aladdin (1992) – $217 Million
Moving back to the 1990s and the Disney Renaissance, Aladdin was released on November 25, 1992 and was the 31st animated feature by Walt Disney Animation Studio. Based on the Arab folktale of Aladdin and the magic lamp from One Thousand and One Nights, Disney’s Aladdin earned $217 million at the North American box office and $286 million overseas for a worldwide take of $504 million. Aladdin remains one of Disney’s most popular properties, with two direct-to-video sequels (The Return of Jafar and Aladdin and the King of Thieves), an animated television series, a torrent of merchandise, and a Broadway musical set to debut in 2014.
The soundtrack by Composer Menken and songwriters Howard Ashman (who passed away from AIDS-related complications before the lyrics were complete) and Tim Rice has been consistently praised as among the best in Disney’s history, earning Menken the Academy Award for Best Original Score, the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, and a nomination for the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music. Menken also shared the Academy Award for Best Original Song, the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, and the Grammy Award for Song of the Year with Tim Rice for the song “A Whole New World.”
1. The Lion King (1994) – $312.8 Million
One of the most beloved Disney animated films of all time, The Lion King was released in 1994 and has gone on to become one of Disney’s most prized properties with a Broadway version of the film having recently become the highest grossing musical of all time along with the two direct-to-video films The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998) and the prequel/parallel The Lion King 1½ (2004). With a domestic gross of $312 million ($422 million when re-releases are factored in) and a overseas take of $564 million, The Lion King has earned a whopping $987 million on the the original 1994 film alone.
The Lion King would later go on to win Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy and Best Original Score at the Golden Globe Awards along with two Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Original Song (for the song ”Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John and Tim Rice). The film has continued to rank among the best animated films of all time nearly twenty-years later with the American Film Institute ranking the film as the fourth best animated film of all time behind Bambi (1942), Pinnochio (1940), and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
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