Disney’s Most Successful Movie of All Time Revealed

in Disney, Movies

disney movies

All images credit Disney

One of the Walt Disney Company’s most profitable sectors of their company is its film division. Disney started up as a film company and branched into other areas of profitability, from merchandise to their theme parks. But what is the most successful Disney movie of all time?

Toy Story 4
Credit: Disney/Pixar

Today, we are going to take a trip down memory lane and go over every Disney film in history to figure out what the highest-grossing Disney movie is, to learn about the most profitable Disney franchises, as well as to inspect Disney’s sources of revenue within their film division. With Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs being the company’s first feature film in 1937, Disney has surely come a long way in terms of technological advancements and operating income revenue from their films.

Disney Movies
Credit: Disney

Even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Disney has found ways, under CEO Bob Chapek’s leadership, to ensure that they can release films with high profitability during these unprecedented times. From the Marvel Cinematic Universe to Pixar Animation Studio to Disney’s animation department, Disney constantly creates new content for viewers to enjoy.

Highest-grossing Disney movies

What are the highest-grossing live-action Disney movies?

Disney has been making a lot more live-action films as of late. If we look at IMDB, there are over 300 Disney titles listed as live-action, as live-action can be classified as a film that was not animated. From Swiss Robinson Family Treehouse to The Princess Diaries, the list is very long. Today, we will look at the highest-grossing live-action film in terms of live-action remakes that seem to be Disney’s bread and butter as of late when it comes to Disney films. So far, you can see a list of all of Disney’s live-action remake films at this time.

"Aladdin" live-action remake
Credit: Disney
  • The Jungle Book
  • Maleficent
  • Cinderella
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • Dumbo
  • Aladdin
  • The Lion King
  • Lady and the Tramp
  • Mulan
  • Cruella 
CINDERELLA
Credit: Disney

Of course, more films such as The Little Mermaid and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs are being worked on, among many others, but they do not currently have any grossed profits. On top of the remakes, we will also add films like the Marvel Cinematic Universe into the category of live-action films.

iron man avengers endgame
Credit: Marvel Studios

If we look at the highest-grossing live-action Disney film of all time, that answer does not come from the live-action remake category but rather the MCU. Marvel’s Avengers: End Game is the highest-grossed live-action Disney film of all time within the worldwide box office and global box office. It also is the second highest-grossed film of all time, following a Disney animated film that we will get to later and coming right before Titanic.

Avengers: End Game grossed $2,797,501,328, with Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens coming in second when it comes to live-action films produced by Disney.

avengers endgame
Credit: Marvel Studios

If we look at remakes, The Lion King achieves the fourth-highest-grossed Disney live-action film spot.

What are the highest-grossing animated Disney movies?

Now, moving into the animated realm of Disney animated movies, the list is long. There is an ever-growing list of Disney animated movies from Toy Story to Frozen to Tangled and more. But, which takes the cake for highest-grossing Disney animated films?

hans frozen
Credit: Disney

Below, we will list the top 10 highest-grossing animated movies of all time. As you can see, seven out of the ten films are all owned by Disney.

1 – Frozen 2 (2019) – $1.450 billion

2 – Frozen 1 (2013) – $1.280 billion

3 – The Incredibles 2 (2018) – $1.242 billion

4 – Minions (2015) – $1.159 billion

5 – Toy Story 4 (2019) – $1.073 billion

6 – Toy Story 3 (2010) – $1.066 billion

7 – Despicable Me 3 (2017) – $1.034 billion

8 – Finding Dory (2016) – $1.028 billion

9 – Zootopia (2016) – $1.023 billion

10 – Despicable Me 2 (2013) – $970 million

frozen 2
Credit: Disney

According to the above list, Frozen 2 seems to take the win when it comes to the highest-grossing Disney animated films of all time. That being said, Avatar, which is a film I would consider to be animated, with over $2.8 billion grossed. That film beats Avengers: Endgame and is the highest-grossed film of all time.

Credit: Disney

What are the highest-grossing Disney movies of all types overall?

If we compare Frozen 2′s profits to Avengers: Endgame, it is obvious that live-action films gross much higher for Disney than animated films. In fact, if we want to get more specific, within the top 10 overall gross-profits for Disney films, five are from the MCU. So, it seems the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the highest-grossing Disney movie type overall.

Most profitable Disney franchises

What are the most profitable animated Disney franchises?

If we look at profit alone, some things shift in terms of the animated Disney film rankings. The most profitable Disney film of all time is also 12th on the ranking for most profitable films of all time, regarding what the company made vs. what was spent. For Disney, that film is Peter Pan! The 1953 film had a budget of $4,000,000 and ended up with a Profit of $139,757,67.

Lost Boys Peter Pan
Credit: Disney

If we want to look at Pixar, it was noted that:

The only Pixar movie to earn over $1 billion at the box office and more than $440 million in estimated gross profit. For perspective, both A Bug’s Life and Toy Story generated less than $400 million in global ticket sales when they were released. 

What are the most profitable live actions Disney franchises?

If we are again looking solely at a live-action film that made the most profit for Disney in terms of return on investment, we will head into the category of Disney Channel Original Movies. These films were low budget, but if received well, could make an enormous profit.

High School Musical "We're All in This together"
Credit: Disney

High School Musical had a budget of 4,200,000 and made a Profit of $123,587,394. The film also ranks at #17 of all time when it comes to sole profit on a movie.

High School Musical
Credit: Disney

What are the most profitable Disney franchises overall?

When it comes to Disney franchise profit, a few come up when it comes to high numbers. There is a clear top six for Disney, and the number one spot may have a franchise you would not have thought of right away.

In sixth place, Toy Story comes in with $22 billion in profits.

Retail sales – $17.778 billion
Box office – $3.044 billion
TV revenue – $633 million
VHS sales – $290 million
DVD & Blu-ray sales – $250 million

toy story 3 (l-r) lotso bear, buzz lightyear, and woody
Credit: Disney-Pixar

In fifth place is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with a profit of $35.3 billion.

Box office – $22.592 billion
Merchandise sales – $7.228 billion
Home entertainment – $5.492 billion

Endgame Movie Poster
Credit: Marvel/Disney

In fourth place, the Disney princess franchise has a profit of $46.4 billion.

Retail sales – $46.331 billion
Home entertainment – $14.7 million

waitress tiana holding plates in the princess and the frog
Credit: Disney

In third comes the Star Wars franchise with $68.7 billion.

Merchandise sales – $42.217 billion
Box office – $10.316 billion
Home video – $9.071 billion
Video games – $5.01 billion
Book sales – $1.82 billion
TV revenue – $280 million

star wars a new hope luke skywalker tosche station scene
Credit: Lucasfilm

In second is Mickey Mouse & Friends, with a profit of $80.3 billion.

Retail sales – $79.531 billion
Box office – $457.4 million
Home video sales – $293 million

hollywood studios mickey and minnie cavalcade
Credit: Disney

And in first is Winnie the Pooh with a profit of also $80.3 billion; however, the total ends up being slightly higher than Mickey Mouse & Friends.

Retail sales – $79.823 billion
Box office – $460 million
DVD & Blu-ray sales – $64 million

Winnie the Pooh and Tigger
Credit: Disney

Disney’s sources of revenue

Where does Disney’s revenue come from?

If we take a look at the numbers above, it seems that box office and merchandise are Disney’s most profitable sources of revenue when it comes to their film franchise.

How does Disney Channel make money?

Disney Channel, unlike the companies theatrical or Disney+ releases, are free to viewers with cable. So how does the company make its money through the channel? The Disney channel can advertise and have affiliate fees, and change for companies to use time on their station, which can result in high profits. 

The Disney Channel like most cable networks makes money from affiliate fees and advertising. The individual shows can also make money from program sales (i.e. to other TV & VOD networks) licensed merchandise, home video, music albums and others.

Luz and amity in the owl house on disney channel
Credit: Disney

The main source of revenue for the Disney Channel are their affiliate fees, which is generally paid by the cable provider and taken from each subscriber’s monthly payments. Last year, Disney Channel’s U.S. affiliate fee was estimated at $1.55 per subscriber per month.

What was Disney’s revenue in 2019?

The Hollywood Reporter listed Disney’s 2019 profits as seen below, which left the company leading in box-office sales for the year.

Studio results for 2019 include Fox from the close of the merger on March 20, making it a tale of two companies. Led by Avengers: Endgame, Disney reached an unprecedented $11.1 billion at the global box office before including Fox, with Disney, Marvel and Lucasfilm hits galore. Overall, the company became the first studio ever to have seven $1 billion releases in a year. The plan for 2020? Getting 20th Century Studios on track and making sure such tentpoles as Mulan, Jungle Cruise and Marvel’s Black Widow and The Eternals, plus Onward and Soul from Pixar, perform. “2020 is not going to be the same as 2019 for the studio,” outgoing Disney boss Bob Iger told analysts Feb. 4. But given that Disney+ is a focus and that the company’s direct-to-consumer and international unit, which includes the streamer and Hulu, saw its operating final-quarter loss rise to $693 million due in part to the costs associated with launching the streaming service, analysts will keep an eye on disclosures regarding its impact on the studio unit.

Tangled Movie Poster
Credit: Disney via IMDB

How COVID-19 has affected Disney’s revenue

How does the coronavirus affect Disney?

Reportedly, “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on Disney’s recent financial results. The company’s net income fell 99.2% to $18 million in Q1 of its 2021 fiscal year (FY), which ended January 2, 2021. Revenue for the quarter fell 22.2% to $16.2 billion.2″

In terms of their film industry, the pandemic greatly affected it. We saw many productions such as The Big Shot repeatedly shut down due to COVID-19 cases on set. Productions have to be delayed, insurance costs rise, and COVID-19 protocols and testing have to be put in place on set.

john stamos in disney+ big shot

The pandemic also shut down theaters which have caused some films such as Mulan to forgo a theatrical release or for some films like Jungle Cruise to push back their release for a full year.

How is Disney going to “Imagineer” itself out of the pandemic problems?

Disney’s solution to the theatrical release issue was to create Disney+’s Premier Access. Premier Access is a branch of Disney+ that allows viewers to purchase a film with a theatrical release or was meant to have a theatrical release (in the case of Mulan) for $29.99. Once purchased, viewers can see the film as often as they would like.

mulan was the first film offered for premier access
Credit: Disney

As we have seen from the release of Jungle Cruise and Black Widow, Premier Access is very successful and is turning in major profits for theatrical debuts. In the case of Jungle Cruise, one-third of the film’s profits came from Premier Access.

avatar
Credit: 20th Century Fox

In the end, the most successful film of all time seems to be Avatar, since it outranks Avengers: Endgame! 

What is your favorite Disney film of all time? Let us know in the comments below! 

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