Just like a lot of other people today, I woke up to the news that DreamWorks have plans to release a sequel to the questionable; The Boss Baby, part of me was surprised and part of me saw this coming. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the fact a film that was so slated on the internet could possibly be successful enough for a sequel, the weirdest part is; The Boss Baby is actually the 49th highest grossing animated film of all time, that’s right in a world of such amazing animated films like Spirited Away, How To Train Your Dragon and Coraline, The Boss Baby made it into the top 50.

This got me thinking about other films that have been teased relentlessly online but that actually did really well at the box office, for example: Minions, who thought the world needed more minions? Well whoever did must be proud as it’s actually the 2nd highest grossing animated movie of all time. I know, I know; take a moment. With The Emoji Movie set for release this summer, I thought now was the best time to try to figure out what it is that gets people into the cinema to see animated films and what I believe contributed to their success.

Just a note: I’m not saying that these are the exact reason that these films were successful, nor am I saying that if you include these things your animated film it will be successful, I’m just theorising. I will only be focusing on a select few films within the top 50 highest grossing animated films otherwise this post will never get finished.

Feeding Off of Nostalgia

An obvious one, I know what with all the 80s movie remakes and Disney live action films that have come out over the last few years but this really seems to be working! Let’s look at number 3, 4 and 17 in our top 50 list; Toy Story 3 (3/50), Finding Dory (4/50) & Monsters University (17/50). All 3 of these films were released over 10 years after their predecessor with Toy Story 3 arriving 11 years after Toy Story 2, Finding Dory 13 years after Finding Nemo and Monsters University 12 years after Monsters Inc. Now this isn’t me saying that Pixar aren’t a good studio, they’re fantastic at telling stories, what I’m saying is, if a film you liked as a kid receives a sequel when you’re in your teens/ an adult , you’re going to want to see it! you’re going to want to see how your favourite characters have grown up (or grown down in the case of Monsters University) you’re going to want to find out what they’ve done to your favourite characters and stories. I know a lot more people who saw one of those films over a new Pixar story at the cinema, this is a little unfair for me to say though as Pixar are a reliable powerhouse, if you go to see a Pixar movie, you don’t expect to be disappointed because they’re good at what they do! which leads me onto my next point…

Respectable Sources

With 8 of the top 50 highest grossing animated films being produced by Walt Disney Animation (I’m not even including Pixar in that 8) It’s clear to see that if you stick a familiar name/brand to a movie, a lot of people will be interested and will trust that what they’re going to see is of high quality, for example; how many people will see a Quentin Tarantino film or a Christopher Nolan film or even a Tim Burton film without researching into it simply because they trust that the film is going to be good and they want to see the latest thing that the director has come up with? The same is done with Disney, The Walt Disney Company have a big fan base, fans who are willing to experience everything that the studio have to offer as they are fans of their previous work, I know people whom have never been interested in Star Wars or Marvel, suddenly giving it a chance once it was taken over by Disney. The films that I’m referencing from the Top 50 list are; Moana (22/50), Big Hero 6 (20/50), Zootopia (5/50), Tangled (29/50) and Frozen (1/50) Again, I’m not saying that this is the only reason Disney are successful, they obviously had to be great film makers in order to gain the success that they have, I’m just saying that if you have a recognisable name on a film, more people are likely to see it than a film made by a studio that nobody has heard of (sorry smaller animation studios), this is why in trailers and on posters you’ll often find “from the creators if ________ and _______” Studio’s are attempting to build up a rapport with audiences, if you’re happy with their previous works, you’ll love their latest production! kind of thing.


A vague one, I know but this is something that I’ve noticed when watching film trailers with families or children. I’ve found that adults are more likely to watch a film with their children if they can relate to it, hear me out. I’m referencing The Secret Life of Pets (11/50) from the top 50 list here. I remembering seeing the trailer for The Secret Life of Pets and not thinking too much of it, I still haven’t seen it as honestly, it doesn’t interest me (once again, again; this doesn’t make it a bad film, I just can’t say whether I liked it or not) however my pet loving family and I’m guessing other pet loving adults saw this and began to recognise their own pets in the characters of the film, the trailer showcased what pets “really do” when you leave them home alone which involved some cute and comical misadventures, I believe that the audience seeing the characters of the film doing this and imagining their own pets doing the same almost charmed them into wanting to see more, I think audiences like being able to relate to what they’re seeing on the screen whether it’s through their pets or themselves. I almost believe that the How To Train Your Dragon films do something similar as Toothless resembles a cat and lets face it, cat people always love being reminded of their furry friends. I know this is kind of a vague entry, I could be totally off with this one, perhaps a lot of people went to see it because it had cute animals in it, they’re a big seller for a lot of people.

Pop Culture Reminders

I know I keep repeating myself, I just want to make sure that we’re all on the same page here but this is just what I believe, it is not proven in any way. Lets have a look at Sing (24/50), The Boss Baby (49/50) and the upcoming Emoji Movie. As embarrassing as it is for people of the internet, staying cultural sells. Now, I don’t really know anything about the Emoji Movie but what I do know is a lot of people these days have smart phones and a lot of people use and understand Emoji’s in today’s world, if this film was made back in the early 2000’s it would be a flop because Emoji’s weren’t as iconic, with me so far? Now if we look at Sing, again I haven’t seen Sing so I could be really off again but from the trailers and clips I’ve seen, There’s a singing contest (similar to the culturally accurate The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, The Voice, American Idol, etc.) but with animals to keep kids interested and from the trailer, I noticed many current popular almost karaoke songs, some that adults enjoy (eg: Crazy in Love – Beyonce, Butterfly – Crazy Town, Stay With Me – Sam Smith, Under Pressure – Queen, etc.) and songs that kids find funny as well as remember the lyrics for (eg: Bad Romance – Lady Gaga, Shake it Off – Taylor Swift, Anaconda – Nikki Minaj, 9 to 5 – Dolly Parton, Firework – Katy Perry, Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen, etc.) hearing familiar songs can help persuade parents to take their kids as surprisingly, I know; not all adults like animated films, regardless of what they’re about, so throwing something familiar and bearable into the films encourages those parents to take their kids to see the film. Onto The Boss Baby, now I don’t know much about this film but from the trailer; it’s a war against who is the cutest; puppies or babies, what’s one of the most liked and searched things on the internet? puppies and kittens, DreamWorks once again, keeping it cultural.


This one kind of ties in with what I said earlier about Disney being a reliable studio, you know what you’re getting, in this entry I’m referencing The Simpsons Movie (38/50) and The Lego Movie (50/50) to put it simply, fans of the TV show and the toy franchise will be interested in a film that they’re already a fan of. If you’re not a fan of either, it’s like taking your favourite snack and making a meal of it, you recognise it, you know you like it so you’ll most probably like the bigger version of it! and again, similar to Disney, if it’s already well established, parents are more likely to take their kids to see it because they know what usually happens in an episode of The Simpsons or they know the premise of Lego. I’d just like to add I think the wonder of The Lego Movie also boosted interest in it as a lot of people believed that the entirety of The Lego Movie was made using a bunch of Lego kits and stop motion animation techniques, like the kind of videos you’d find on youtube. It was however all done using CGI, no real Lego here folks, but boy did they do a good job at emulating real Lego bricks, right?!

The Power of Merchandising and Memes

Never underestimate the power of the internet. I am of course referencing the top 2 highest grossing animated films of all time; Frozen (1/50) and Minions (2/50), I’ll get to Minions, but first lets look at Frozen. I believe Frozen was such a success due to 2 things; merchandising and “Let it Go!” first of all, can you get anything not with Anna or Elsa’s face on? lunch boxes, lamp Shades, towels, blankets, shoes, notebooks, laptop cases, alarm clocks, hairbrushes, you name it! there’s probably a Frozen version of it. How has merchandising helped? Lets be honest, If it’s a big company like Disney, anything that makes money is worth investing in and bleeding dry, with Frozen 2 out in 2019, don’t expect to see any less of Anna and Elsa any time soon. Kid’s are pretty easily influenced, if they saw a Frozen Musical Door Mat (which is a real thing) which isn’t really something they’d use, they’ll want it just because it’s Frozen! and the more Frozen stuff gets made, the more kids are seen with it, the more other kids are curious, the more they ask their parents, the more kids see the film. Well that’s my take on it! Now how to get kids interested in the film in the first place, now I’m sure there’s multiple reasons why children and adults alike enjoy Frozen, however I know the biggest craze when Frozen came out; every child and adult was singing “let it go, let it gooooo!” (you can thank talented song writing duo; Kristen Andersen Lopez and Robert Lopez for that!)  not only are these lyrics catchy and relatable, they’re also easy for kids to pick up, I know kids that know the song back to front, every word, every note, every choreographed dance move, I know some kids that only know parts of the song and I know kids that literally only know “let it go, let it go.” but sometimes that’s enough for a child’s little sponge brain to fall in love with a film, if it’s familiar to them and it’s seen around a lot, kid’s are going to get attached (sorry parents who were hoping that they’d Let it Go… that was lame, I apologise for that too)

Lets now move onto Minions and let me tell you, I saw Minions for my sister’s birthday as she’s a fan and there really isn’t much I can say about the film, I thought it was lacking a lot and I really didn’t find anything I particularly enjoyed about it, that’s not just me saying that to look cool as I am a fan of the Despicable Me films but take the cute kids away and create a film primarily focusing on the comedy relief and there’s not that much you can do with it! Similar to Frozen, Minion merchandising is E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E, I’ve seen clothes, I’ve seen figures, I’ve seen headphones, even a bruise cooler??? I’ve seen pencils, I’ve seen key rings, I’ve seen plushes and I’ve seen fancy dress. I’ve even seen cuff links, now someone please tell me this, what adult who wears a SUIT regularly enough to use cuff links wants tiny Minions on their wrists? (but at the end of the day, if you like Minions, it doesn’t matter what other’s think, you do you.) So similar to Frozen when you’re exposed enough to something, you’re going to gain an interest. I believe the childish jokes eg; repeating the word: Banana and using fart guns really solidifies what a good film is to a child, so that helps boost sales. Now if you use any kind of social media, you must be well aware of the Minion memes floating around, memes that have no correlation to Minions themselves that half of the population find entertaining in themselves and half of the population find entertaining that others genuinely find them entertaining. I believe this causes ironic viewing, groups of friends that go to see Minions for a laugh and to make fun of it, I believe the same will happen to the Emoji movie come this summer.

I’m pretty sure that’s everything I thought of when researching this topic, I’m sorry if I gave you war flashbacks reminding you of Let It Go and Minion memes! I know I didn’t cover that many films in this but maybe I’ll write more another time. Let me know if you think there are any other contributions to what makes an animated film higher grossing than others! Stay tuned for more animation posts on here and on nerdoutwordout.com