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'Moana' sails to second-best Thanksgiving weekend opening of all time

An image from the movie "Moana."
Source: Disney
An image from the movie "Moana."

Disney's latest animated film, "Moana," cruised to the top of the domestic box office over the weekend, clinching the second-highest Thanksgiving weekend opening of all time.

Garnering an estimated $81.1 million, the film, which features a female Pacific Islander, fell shy of the $93.6 million five-day opening that "Frozen" earned in 2013. Disney currently holds the top six five-day Thanksgiving debuts of all time.

"Moana" pulled in $55.5 million on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, helping Disney secure the top eight three-day Thanksgiving debuts of all time.

The film holds a 98 percent fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes and was highly praised by critics and audiences.

"'Moana,' which sounds on paper like another rehash of the established and well-worn 'Disney Princess' narrative, but in practice is a progressive and rousing tale that becomes the crown jewel of the latest renaissance from the company," Andrew Parker, a writer with The Global and Mail and a top-rated critic on Rotten Tomatoes, said in his review.

The film is the feather in the cap of Walt Disney Animation Studios, which has cemented itself as a powerhouse in the animation business over the past 10 years.

The studio, which had box office highs in the late '90s with "Mulan" and "Tarzan," saw sales dip for almost a decade. While films still preformed well, garnering between $100 million and $350 million between 2000 and 2010, the company was unable to surpass $400 million at the box office until "Tangled" in 2010.

"Tangled" earned more than $591 million globally that year and marked a turning point in Disney Animation Studio's revitalization. The following year, "Wreck-It Ralph" garnered $471 million globally and then "Frozen" in 2013 broke the $1 billion mark.

The average Rotten Tomatoes score for the Disney Animation films that followed "Tangled" is more than 90 percent, and the company says their average global box office gross is over $800 million.

Disney acquired another animation company, Pixar, in 2006. Pixar, has released a new film about once a year since 1995. The animation company, which works independently from Disney Animation, has garnered great success with films like "Finding Dory," "Inside Out" and its "Toy Story" franchise.