The Most Expensive Fully-Animated Movies
Mon, April 19, 2021

The Most Expensive Fully-Animated Movies

Toy Story 3 gets much closer to the struggles of the toys as they realize that Andy’s leaving for college and their fate will be left up in the air. / Photo by: Steve Jurvetson via Flickr

 

Animation may look easy, but a lot of work actually goes into making sure that every detail is perfect. Great fully-animated movies don’t just become the best right away; whenever animators and storytellers aim to push the boundaries of animation, what people don’t realize is that they’re actually finding ways to present viewers with fresher and fresher concepts. 

Animators develop full computer programs to animate hair, for instance, and even spend years studying and learning all they can about special themes they want to add in their films, like how the Kung Fu Panda team spent years figuring out how best to incorporate the moves into their films. Variables like this can make making these movies really expensive, but when the warm response to it is received, all that hard work feels really euphoric for the creators. 

Here are some memorable fully-animated movies that racked up quite huge bills on the path to the big screen. 

“Tangled” (2010)

Cost to Make: $260 million 
Worldwide Earnings: $591,794,936

Believe it or not, “Tangled” came out about a decade ago and is still very much beloved by Disney fans all over the world. Not only was it successfully able to put a more unique spin to the classic Rapunzel story, but much of the hard work that also went to the movie involved the use of 3D CG animation. The reason “Tangled” looks both real and also computer-generated was because the animators wanted it to strike a balance between looking like the traditional 2D Disney aesthetic with sort of a modern twist. 

It paid off handsomely, and the $500 million payout, as listed by Animation Career Review, a website for finding information about various animation schools, was more than worth the cost to make the movie. 

“Toy Story 3” (2010)

Cost to Make: $200 million 
Worldwide Earnings: $1,069,818,229

At two million, the third installment of the Toy Story franchise pulled in quite the hefty earning thanks, in large part, to the nostalgia attached to this already-beloved franchise. According to The Things, a website covering pop culture, the charm of this movie is it is more separate from the original storyline as the first two movies. While they are all connected with the underlying struggle of the toys to insist that they are, and forever will be, Andy’s toys, the third movie gets much closer to the struggles of the toys as they realize that Andy’s leaving for college and their fate will be left up in the air. 

“Finding Dory” (2016) 

Cost to Make: $200 million 
Worldwide Earnings: $1,022,617,376

Considering so many people have been waiting on this movie, Disney made the right decision to splurge the “Finding Nemo” sequel. According to The Things, the reason behind Finding Dory’s big-budget is because Disney invested in a new version of RenderMan that allowed them to animate the water a little better. 

Finding Nemo could only animate direct light, but the new version of RenderMan they used in Finding Dory, RenderMan RIS, made it so that they could animate “every single drop of water” in such a way that they, too, reflected and refracted light. 

 

The reason behind Finding Dory’s big-budget is because Disney invested in a new version of RenderMan that allowed them to animate the water a little better. / Photo by: BagoGames via Flickr

 

“Monsters University” (2013) 

Cost to Make: $200 million 
Worldwide Earnings: $743,588,329

In the growing list of well-done Disney movie sequels, “Monsters University” follows closely with the look and feel of its first movie. Set in the beautifully-crafted Monsters University, this movie served as a prequel to the first movie, following the story of James “Sully” Sullivan and Mike Wazowski before they became the best buds they were in Monsters Inc. 

It’s a heartfelt tale of friendship, failure, and never giving up and therefore, according to Money Inc., the movie garnered many glowing reviews for delivering on the topics it aimed to tackle. While it was worth a hefty 200 million, it still grossed a whopping $700 million in total. Win-win!

“Cars 2” (2011) 

Cost to Make: $200 million 
Worldwide Earnings: $560,155,383

After its release, it quickly became a fan-favorite for its decision to shift the focus of the story away from Lightning McQueen and onto Mater, the lovable rusted hunk of metal that quickly endeared itself to the audience after the first film. Set in Europe and in Japan, the cars are brought on a mission around the world trying to stop international espionage. 

Money Inc. does say that the movie got mixed reviews, though, but it still grossed above and beyond its initial budget so it’s still a win. 

“The Good Dinosaur” (2015)

Cost to Make: $200 million 
Worldwide Earnings: $334,342,692

If there’s one thing that Disney does exceptionally well, it’s depicting emotion in the most understated of ways. That’s precisely what makes “The Good Dinosaur” an effective film about the impact of our families in our lives. From the get-go, the movie played out like a nature documentary, the animation looking so astoundingly real people would be shocked to find out it was animated in the first place.