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The Highest Grossing Children’s Movies of All-Time

Money-Making Kids Films
April hasn't been a great month at the U.S. box office. Among the new movies were remake s of the 1981 comedy Arthur and Your Highness, a comedy starring Natalie Portman. Both films opened in wide release with lots of publicity, and they both disappointed at the box office. However, the animated feature Hop, which opened in first place the prior weekend, held the top spot again. It just goes to show, family films are solid business. So, what are the highest grossing children’s films of all time?
Photo: Image Studios | UpperCut Images | Getty Images

April hasn't been a great month at the U.S. box office. Among the new movies were remake s of the 1981 comedy Arthur and Your Highness, a comedy starring Natalie Portman. Both films opened in wide release with lots of publicity, and they both disappointed at the box office.

However, the animated feature Hop, which opened in first place the prior weekend, held the top spot again. It just goes to show, family films are solid business.

So, what are the highest grossing children’s films of all time? Click ahead to find out.

By Daniel Bukszpan, Special to CNBC.com
Posted 14 April 2011


All box office grosses are domestic only and are according to BoxOfficeMojo.com. The films included here are G-rated, signifying that they are children’s films, although the recently successful Hop was rated PG for “mild crude humor”.

15. WALL-E (2008)
Domestic gross (adjusted): $230 million Domestic gross (actual): $224 million Distributor: Buena Vista 2008’s could easily have been a very expensive disaster. An animated film set 700 years in the future, it depicts a maintenance robot left behind to clean up a Planet Earth that’s been rendered uninhabitable by the waste and pollution of the human beings who have deserted it. While he’s there, he meets another robot and the two fall in love. The storyline was last attempted in the 1981 Andy Ka
Photo: AP

Domestic gross (adjusted): $230 million
Domestic gross (actual): $224 million
Distributor: Buena Vista

2008’s Wall-E could easily have been a very expensive disaster. An animated film set 700 years in the future, it depicts a maintenance robot left behind to clean up a Planet Earth that’s been rendered uninhabitable by the waste and pollution of the human beings who have deserted it. While he’s there, he meets another robot and the two fall in love. The storyline was last attempted in the 1981 Andy Kaufman film Heartbeeps, to financially ruinous effect for the film’s backers.

The environmentally conscious and almost dialogue-free androids-in-love movie could have alienated audiences and lost millions of dollars at the box office. However, Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton handled the film in expert fashion, and it connected with both critics and audiences alike, making Wall-E the all-too-rare example of a children’s movie with adult themes that manages to captivate both audiences.

14. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Domestic gross (adjusted): $268 millionDomestic gross (actual): $171 million Distributor: Buena Vista is a fairy tale that has been told and re-told countless times since the first time it was published in the 18th century. It was a popular and long-running television series, and it was adapted for the big screen no less than seven times. However, the most popular film version was unquestionably the 1991 musical created by Walt Disney Animation Studios. was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, t
Photo: AP

Domestic gross (adjusted): $268 million
Domestic gross (actual): $171 million
Distributor: Buena Vista

Beauty and the Beast is a fairy tale that has been told and re-told countless times since the first time it was published in the 18th century. It was a popular and long-running television series, and it was adapted for the big screen no less than seven times. However, the most popular film version was unquestionably the 1991 musical created by Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Beauty and the Beast was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar, the first animated film to receive the nomination in Academy history. The movie is considered one of the best animated films of the “Disney Renaissance,” a period in the 1980s and 1990s that was marked by a revival of traditional animated films, such as The Little Mermaid and Pocahontas.

13. Cars (2006)
Domestic gross (adjusted): $267 million Domestic gross (actual): $244 million Distributor: Buena Vista After the success of the first two films, director John Lasseter helmed the digitally animated The movie tells the story of Lightning McQueen, a race car voiced by Owen Wilson whose reckless ways cost him his pit crew and leave him with no real friends. However, this all changes when he takes an unexpected detour to the small town of Radiator Springs, where he learns the value of friendship an
Photo: AP

Domestic gross (adjusted): $267 million
Domestic gross (actual): $244 million
Distributor: Buena Vista

After the success of the first two Toy Story films, director John Lasseter helmed the digitally animated Cars. The movie tells the story of Lightning McQueen, a race car voiced by Owen Wilson whose reckless ways cost him his pit crew and leave him with no real friends. However, this all changes when he takes an unexpected detour to the small town of Radiator Springs, where he learns the value of friendship and helping others.

Some critics felt that Cars represented the first stumble for Pixar studios, and characterized it as more concerned with technical details than storytelling. However, audiences felt differently, and the movie was both a theatrical hit and a popular DVD release. The sequel, Cars 2, is scheduled for release in June 2011.

12. Toy Story (1995)
Domestic gross (adjusted): $279 million Domestic gross (actual): $192 million Distributor: Buena Vista 1995’s was Pixar’s debut feature. It tells the tale of Woody and Buzz Lightyear, a cowboy doll and a spaceman action figure who compete for the affection of their owner, a boy named Andy. It’s pretty a simple premise, but the story is so expertly told and the characters so well developed that child and adult viewers alike get equally caught up in it. has the distinction of being the first film
Photo: Disney | Pixar

Domestic gross (adjusted): $279 million
Domestic gross (actual): $192 million
Distributor: Buena Vista

1995’s Toy Story was Pixar’s debut feature. It tells the tale of Woody and Buzz Lightyear, a cowboy doll and a spaceman action figure who compete for the affection of their owner, a boy named Andy. It’s pretty a simple premise, but the story is so expertly told and the characters so well developed that child and adult viewers alike get equally caught up in it.

Toy Story has the distinction of being the first film fully rendered with computer-generated imagery. It looks a little crude by today’s standards. However, the story is so timeless that it doesn’t matter, and the movie more than holds its own today. Toy Story has deservedly taken its place alongside Bambi and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as an undisputed classic of children’s film.

11. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Domestic gross (adjusted): $320 million Domestic gross (actual): $256 million Distributor: Buena Vista premise was that the dolls littering your child’s floor come to life when nobody’s looking. 2001’s proposed that the monsters in his closet do, too, and while that premise should fill almost any parent with horror, the monsters depicted in the film are about as threatening as an armed Smurf, and children who saw the film began hoping that its main character, a lovable blue Yeti named Sully, was
Photo: AP

Domestic gross (adjusted): $320 million
Domestic gross (actual): $256 million
Distributor: Buena Vista

Toy Story‘s premise was that the dolls littering your child’s floor come to life when nobody’s looking. 2001’s Monsters, Inc. proposed that the monsters in his closet do, too, and while that premise should fill almost any parent with horror, the monsters depicted in the film are about as threatening as an armed Smurf, and children who saw the film began hoping that its main character, a lovable blue Yeti named Sully, was lurking in their closet as well.

Monsters, Inc. includes the voice talents of John Goodman, Billy Crystal and Steve Buscemi. It was the fourth film to come from Pixar’s studios, and it was both a critical and commercial success. A prequel is currently in the works, and it is expected to be released in the summer of 2013.

10. Toy Story 2 (1999)
Domestic gross (adjusted): $327 million Domestic gross (actual): $246 million Distributor: Buena Vista 1999’s the sequel to 1995’s original made more money than its predecessor and is acknowledged by many critics and fans as the better film of the two. However, it almost went straight to DVD. Disney had commissioned it from Pixar with the intention of getting a one-hour home video release out of it, but after seeing some of the preliminary animatics, the Disney brass were so impressed that the
Photo: Disney | Pixar

Domestic gross (adjusted): $327 million
Domestic gross (actual): $246 million
Distributor: Buena Vista

1999’s Toy Story 2, the sequel to 1995’s original Toy Story, made more money than its predecessor and is acknowledged by many critics and fans as the better film of the two. However, it almost went straight to DVD. Disney had commissioned it from Pixar with the intention of getting a one-hour home video release out of it, but after seeing some of the preliminary animatics, the Disney brass were so impressed that they asked for a full-length theatrical release instead.

The film opened on Thanksgiving weekend in 1999 at the number one spot, where it stayed for the next two weeks. It eventually went on to gross $246 million in the U.S., and was also a huge seller on home video. The movie received an Oscar nomination for the song "When She Loved Me, "which accompanies one of the most heartbreaking scenes in the entire series.

9. Bambi (1942)
Domestic gross (adjusted): $332 million Domestic gross (actual): $102 million Distributor: RKO The 1942 film is based on the book Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten. It may not have an immortal song to its credit like “Whistle While You Work,” and it may not be Disney’s highest grossing film. However, there is no one on earth who would question its status as an immortal classic, and it remains required viewing for almost any child in the civilized world almost 70 years after its initial
Photo: AP

Domestic gross (adjusted): $332 million
Domestic gross (actual): $102 million
Distributor: RKO

The 1942 film Bambi is based on the book Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten. It may not have an immortal song to its credit like “Whistle While You Work,” and it may not be Disney’s highest grossing film. However, there is no one on earth who would question its status as an immortal classic, and it remains required viewing for almost any child in the civilized world almost 70 years after its initial theatrical release.

Bambi was the fifth movie in the Disney Animated Classics series, which also included such films as Pinocchio, Fantasia and Dumbo. This string was interrupted when many of Disney’s animators were drafted into the army for World War II or hired by the government to make propaganda films. The studio spent the war years making compilation films from short animated subjects and didn’t release another original animated classic until 1950’s Cinderella.

8. Aladdin (1992)
Domestic gross (adjusted): $343 million Domestic gross (actual): $217 million Distributor: Buena Vista The golden age of Disney’s animated films was in the 1940s and 1950s, but with 1989’s the studio entered what would become known as the “Disney Renaissance.” This was a decade-long era that saw Walt Disney Animation Studios return to the type of films that had brought them their initial success. Among the most successful films of the period was 1992’s which grossed over $200 million in the US
Photo: AP

Domestic gross (adjusted): $343 million
Domestic gross (actual): $217 million
Distributor: Buena Vista

The golden age of Disney’s animated films was in the 1940s and 1950s, but with 1989’s The Little Mermaid, the studio entered what would become known as the “Disney Renaissance.” This was a decade-long era that saw Walt Disney Animation Studios return to the type of films that had brought them their initial success. Among the most successful films of the period was 1992’s Aladdin, which grossed over $200 million in the US.

The film is carried almost entirely by the character of the Genie, who is voiced by Robin Williams and pretty much steals the show. The film was also popular thanks to its soundtrack, which featured the song “A Whole New World.” The single went to number one on the Billboard charts and dislodged Whitney Houston's “I Will Always Love You“ from the top spot, where it had spent a record 14 weeks.

7. Finding Nemo (2003)
Domestic gross (adjusted): $409 billion Domestic gross (actual): $340 million Distributor: Buena Vista 2003’s is the story of a jittery and overprotective Clown Fish voiced by Albert Brooks. His son Nemo goes missing near the Great Barrier Reef and winds up in the aquarium at a dentist’s office, forcing dad to marshal his courage and find his son. Along the way, he’s helped by a crew of assorted sea creatures, including a friendly shark named Bruce who is trying to cut fish out of his diet and
Photo: AP

Domestic gross (adjusted): $409 billion
Domestic gross (actual): $340 million
Distributor: Buena Vista

2003’s Finding Nemo is the story of a jittery and overprotective Clown Fish voiced by Albert Brooks. His son Nemo goes missing near the Great Barrier Reef and winds up in the aquarium at a dentist’s office, forcing dad to marshal his courage and find his son. Along the way, he’s helped by a crew of assorted sea creatures, including a friendly shark named Bruce who is trying to cut fish out of his diet and rehabilitate the public image of his species.

The computer animated film continued Pixar’s winning streak, grossing $340 million in the U.S. and becoming the second highest-grossing movie of 2003, just behind The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. In 2008, the American Film Institute ranked it number 10 on their list of the greatest animated films ever made.

6. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Domestic gross (adjusted): $421 million Domestic gross (actual): $415 million Distributor: Buena Vista came to theaters in 2010, a full 11 years after and the plot deals with the time that’s passed. Andy, the child who owned Woody and Buzz Lightyear in the previous films, is about to go off to college, and he hasn’t played with his toys in years. They all get donated to a day care center, and it’s from there that the film takes an unexpectedly dark turn before ending on the poignant, tear-jerke
Photo: Disney | Pixar

Domestic gross (adjusted): $421 million
Domestic gross (actual): $415 million
Distributor: Buena Vista

Toy Story 3 came to theaters in 2010, a full 11 years after Toy Story 2, and the plot deals with the time that’s passed. Andy, the child who owned Woody and Buzz Lightyear in the previous films, is about to go off to college, and he hasn’t played with his toys in years. They all get donated to a day care center, and it’s from there that the film takes an unexpectedly dark turn before ending on the poignant, tear-jerker note for which the series is known.

Toy Story 3 was the highest-grossing film of 2010, and it broke the North American record for biggest opening day gross for an animated film. In August 2010 it became the highest-grossing animated film in history, as well as the first animated film to earn over $1 billion worldwide. Toy Story 3 won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, and was also the third animated movie to be nominated for Best Picture. Today, it’s the fifth highest-grossing film of all time, worldwide.

5. 101 Dalmatians (1961)
Domestic gross (adjusted): $437 million Domestic gross (actual): $145 million Distributor: Disney is a Disney classic that’s been delighting families for 50 years. It depicts the story of a poor songwriter and his wife, whose two Dalmatians, Pongo and Perdita, have puppies — 15 of them to be precise. The evil Cruella De Vil steals the puppies and adds them to her existing collection of 86 more, intending to use the lot of them to make a fur coat. The film premiered in 1961 and became the 10th h
Photo: Disney

Domestic gross (adjusted): $437 million
Domestic gross (actual): $145 million
Distributor: Disney

101 Dalmations is a Disney classic that’s been delighting families for 50 years. It depicts the story of a poor songwriter and his wife, whose two Dalmatians, Pongo and Perdita, have puppies — 15 of them to be precise. The evil Cruella De Vil steals the puppies and adds them to her existing collection of 86 more, intending to use the lot of them to make a fur coat.

The film premiered in 1961 and became the 10th highest-grossing film of the year. It was also re-released theatrically in 1969, 1979, 1985 and 1991, and it was the 20th highest-grossing film of the year in its 1991 reissue. Disney created a live-action remake in 1996, starring Glenn Close as Cruella De Vil, and it did well enough that they made a sequel, 102 Dalmatians, in 2000.

4. The Lion King (1994)
Domestic gross (adjusted): $486 million Domestic gross (actual): $329 million Distributor: Buena Vista is one of Disney’s most popular animated musicals and the highest grossing film made during its resurgence in the 1990s. It tells the story of a lion named Simba and features the voice talents of James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. It was the second highest-grossing film of 1994 in the U.S., beaten out only by and it’s the sixth highest-grossing animated film in history. It’s
Photo: AP

Domestic gross (adjusted): $486 million
Domestic gross (actual): $329 million
Distributor: Buena Vista

The Lion King is one of Disney’s most popular animated musicals and the highest grossing film made during its resurgence in the 1990s. It tells the story of a lion named Simba and features the voice talents of James Earl Jones, Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane. It was the second highest-grossing film of 1994 in the U.S., beaten out only by Forrest Gump, and it’s the sixth highest-grossing animated film in history. It’s also the highest grossing hand drawn animation film in history.

In 1997, a stage musical version of The Lion King premiered on Broadway, and in 2002, the film was re-released in the IMAX format.

The film’s soundtrack features the Elton John song "Can You Feel the Love Tonight," which was a top five single in the U.S. and has been the subject of multiple cover versions, including one by American Idol contestant William Hung, which he performed in his own inimitable style.

3. The Jungle Book (1967)
Domestic gross (adjusted): $614 million Domestic gross (actual): $142 million Distributor: Disney Based on the stories of Rudyard Kipling, was released as an animated musical in 1967. The story of Mowgli, a baby boy discovered in a basket deep in the jungle, the film was the last animated Disney feature to be made during the lifetime of Walt Disney, who died while the film was in production. Upon its release, the film’s box office performance benefited greatly from the outpouring of nostalgia fo
Photo: Disney

Domestic gross (adjusted): $614 million
Domestic gross (actual): $142 million
Distributor: Disney

Based on the stories of Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book was released as an animated musical in 1967. The story of Mowgli, a baby boy discovered in a basket deep in the jungle, the film was the last animated Disney feature to be made during the lifetime of Walt Disney, who died while the film was in production.

Upon its release, the film’s box office performance benefited greatly from the outpouring of nostalgia for the departed filmmaker, and Gregory Peck, who was president of the Academy of Motion Pictures and Science at the time, pushed hard for it to be nominated for Best Picture, a move that was ultimately unsuccessful. Disney remade the film as a live-action feature in 1994, and it also inspired three video games and a dance-mat game, as well as a 2003 sequel, The Jungle Book 2.

2. Mary Poppins (1964)
Domestic gross (adjusted): $650 million Domestic gross (actual): $102 million Distributor: Disney Before it was a movie, Mary Poppins was a series of children's books written by British novelist P. L. Travers. She had been approached in the past about adapting her stories for the big screen, but had refused every time. However, while other studio heads took “no” for an answer, the persistent Walt Disney refused to do so, and he appealed to her until she finally gave in. The result was one of the
Photo: AP

Domestic gross (adjusted): $650 million
Domestic gross (actual): $102 million
Distributor: Disney

Before it was a movie, Mary Poppins was a series of children's books written by British novelist P. L. Travers. She had been approached in the past about adapting her stories for the big screen, but had refused every time. However, while other studio heads took “no” for an answer, the persistent Walt Disney refused to do so, and he appealed to her until she finally gave in. The result was one of the most beloved family films in history.

Equipped with a magical umbrella, a song for every mundane household chore and a seemingly infinite supply of patience, Poppins was played by Julie Andrews, who depicted the character as sweeter and less stern than her counterpart in the book. If anyone had a problem with her portrayal, nobody cares about it today. She made the role completely her own, and it’s impossible to imagine it played by anyone else. The film was released in 1964 but became the highest grossing film of 1965, and it was re-released in 1966 and 1980. After adjusting for inflation, Mary Poppins has earned a total of $650 million.

1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Domestic gross (adjusted): $1.3 billion Domestic gross (actual): $185 million Distributor: Disney The highest-grossing children’s movie of all time is Walt Disney’s Interestingly, at the time it was being made, film industry insiders regularly derided the project as “Disney’s Folly.” After all, the man did a good business with his Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies shorts, and the idea of creating a feature length cartoon for $250,000 seemed like commercial suicide. However, he would not be dete
Photo: AP

Domestic gross (adjusted): $1.3 billion
Domestic gross (actual): $185 million
Distributor: Disney

The highest-grossing children’s movie of all time is Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Interestingly, at the time it was being made, film industry insiders regularly derided the project as “Disney’s Folly.” After all, the man did a good business with his Mickey Mouse and Silly Symphonies shorts, and the idea of creating a feature length cartoon for $250,000 seemed like commercial suicide. However, he would not be deterred, even when the cost of the film exploded to $1.5 million and he had to mortgage his home to keep financing it.

Needless to say, Disney had the last laugh. In its first run, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs earned over $66 million dollars, or just over $1 billion today. This is all the more remarkable considering that the film was released in the middle of the Great Depression, when not a lot of disposable income existed for a movie ticket. The film has been re-released theatrically eight times between 1944 and 1993, and by now people have been singing "Heigh-Ho" and "Whistle While You Work" for almost 75 years. Not bad considering that before the movie came out, Disney’s wife Lillian reportedly told him, "No one's ever gonna pay a dime to see a dwarf picture."