Toy Story 2
The 1999 sequel to 1995’s critically and commercially acclaimed Toy Story, this second installment finds Buzz Lightyear and the gang trying to rescue their pal Woody from the clutches of a remorseless toy dealer.While the first movie had won accolades from critics and audiences alike, the sequel was a huge step forward in terms of story and characterization, and raised the bar for what a children’s movie could do. It took in $246 million as the 20th Century wrapped up, for a total of $350 million after inflation.
In 2001, a hideous ogre with a Scottish accent voiced by Mike Meyers made his big-screen debut. Children everywhere were delighted, and the flagship effort in a highly profitable franchise was born.Full of tongue-in-cheek references to other films, it kept mom and dad amused while junior reveled in the glorious fart humor. It raked in $268 million at the domestic box office, or $358 million today.
Shrek the Third
By 2007, the Shrek franchise had already proven itself a highly profitable commodity, making a third trip back to the well mandatory. Featuring the voices of Monty Python alumni John Cleese and Eric Idle, as well as that of radio host Larry King as Doris the Ugly Stepsister, the third installment did even better than the original, with domestic box office receipts of $323 million, or $369 million today.
Despicable Me 2
Released in 2010, the original Despicable Me took in $252 million. Naturally, this meant that there had to be a sequel, which was delivered to salivating children in the summer of 2013.Adorable tykes across this great nation returned to the multiplexes to delight in the antics of Gru (Steve Carell) and the Minions, who could be seen gracing pajamas, cookies and other merchandise everywhere you looked. The movie earned $368 million, or $374 million in today’s dollars, and was also nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar. It lost, but the filmmakers could console themselves by crying into a pillow made of money.
Monsters, Inc. is the story of two creatures that help power their hometown of Monstropolis with the screams of the children they scare. It features the voices of John Goodman, Billy Crystal and Steve Buscemi, and is the rare children’s film that parents could actually enjoy along with their kids.It opened to huge box office totals in November 2001, with only the first Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings movies able to knock it off its lofty perch. It earned $290 million in its theatrical run, or $388 million in today’s dollars.
If you are the parent of a girl under age 10 or so, then you do not need the plot of 2013’s Frozen encapsulated for you. The musical fantasy, which raked in $400 million ($406 million today), is the subject of maniacal fandom, and your daughter – or maybe even your son – has probably been more than happy to talk your ear off about it since its release.Frozen reached its box office total through repeat viewings, and it spawned sing-along events at theaters that became the kiddie equivalent of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The plethora of Frozen-themed birthday parties and little girls dressed up as Princess Elsa at Halloween should be a big hint to parents
that their children are not about to “let it go” any time soon.
Toy Story 3
Coming 11 years after Toy Story 2, moviegoers could have been forgiven for wondering what more the franchise could possibly have to say. However, critics and moviegoers alike were stunned to find that the third installment was in fact the best of the series, and it took in $415 million, the equivalent of $451 million today.
Like Big Hero 6, it won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. Also like Big Hero 6, there may have been more than a few parents in the theater who did not expect it to be as tearful as it was. Despite the movie ending on a note that seemed to rule out another sequel, a fourth installment is currently scheduled for 2017.
Finding Nemo is like Bambi, in that it belongs to the long, proud tradition of Disney films in which the main character’s mother gets killed, thereby necessitating years of therapy for the little children who saw it.The story of a lost clownfish from the Great Barrier Reef, the 2003 film took in $380 million at the domestic box office, or $489 million after inflation. It was the highest-grossing
G-rated film ever made until Toy Story 3 conquered it with its unadjusted box office gross.
Shrek 2 was released in 2004 and followed the adventures of the unsightly ogre and his newly betrothed wife Fiona. It parodies such well-known children’s stories as The Wizard of Oz and The Little Mermaid, and also introduced Puss in Boots, a swashbuckling Mexican cat voiced by Antonio Banderas.
The most popular film in the entire franchise, it earned $441 million at the domestic box office, the equivalent of a staggering $553 million today. A fourth film, Shrek Forever After, was released in 2010, but the status of a much hinted-at fifth film remains shrouded in mystery.
The Lion King
It should come as no surprise that The Lion King is the highest-grossing animated film of all time. A stone cold classic beloved by children for over 20 years – and maybe a few of their parents too – the 1994 movie inspired three video games and a musical now in its 18th year on Broadway.
The movie’s domestic box office take of $423 million is impressive even before it’s adjusted for inflation, at which point it reaches a Titanic-esque $676 million. It leaves every other animated movie on this list in its dust, with the cruel and unrelenting force of a wildebeest stampede.