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Most Expensive Animated Films Ever Made

Written by ACR StaffMarch 6, 2017
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You’re probably thinking there’s no way an animated film could cost as much as making a live action movie. After all, animated films don’t require building elaborate sets from the ground up, travelling with cast and crew to exotic countries, designing hundreds of intricate costumes, or hiring the highest paid actors in the world, right? Wrong! For every costly component of creating a live-action film, there’s a pricey one for animation too. And an animated film could take even longer to complete—even with talent working around the clock. 

In fact, major studios such as Pixar typically have more than 600 creative people working on a movie around the clock for three to four years. That’s just an average. Each hour of film is 100,000 frames or more. A single frame could take 11-12 hours of creative time. Thousands of storyboard drawings are involved (Pixar’s average is 4,000+) and it could take 10 months to create a mere 22-minute animated cartoon. Most short live action films take just a few days to shoot. And what about all of that technology? According to Slate, “animation is a highly computing-intensive task. For a movie of the size of Toy Story (1995),” which had a production budget of $30 million, “you need a server farm with 5,000 or more machines running all year. That is a lot of computing power, support personnel and energy.” 

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To top it off, animated films typically feature the voice talent of major actors that command millions. So much for not having to hire the highest paid actors in the world! And the list goes on and on. 

So we’ve established that animated films are expensive to make. But how much do they actually cost? While it is estimated that it takes a minimum of $50 million to produce a decent animated film today, studios routinely spend hundreds of millions of dollars to produce films with the potential to earn millions (if not billions) at the box office. Disney×Pixar and DreamWorks Animation lead the pack. 

Let’s take a look at some of the most expensive (fully) animated films ever made and their estimated earnings to date. 

Tangled (2010), Disney Animation Studios
Estimated Budget: $260,000,000
Worldwide Earnings: $591,794,936          
Cast: Mandy Moore, Jeffrey Tambor, Ron Perlman. . . 

Toy Story 3 (2010), Disney×Pixar
Estimated Budget: $200,000,000
Worldwide Earnings: $1,069,818,229       
Cast: Tom Hanks, Don Rickles, Michael Keaton, Joan Cusack, Tim Allen, Ned Beatty. . . 

Finding Dory (2016), Disney×Pixar
Estimated Budget: $200,000,000
Worldwide Earnings: $1,022,617,376
Cast: Diane Keaton, Ellen DeGeneres, Idris Elba, Ed O’Neill, Kate McKinnon, Ty Burrell. . . 

Monsters University (2013), Disney×Pixar
Estimated Budget: $200,000,000
Worldwide Earnings: $743,588,329
Cast: Helen Mirren, Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Steve Buscemi, Sean Hayes . . . 

Cars 2 (2011), Disney×Pixar
Estimated Budget: $200,000,000
Worldwide Earnings: $560,155,383
Cast: Michael Caine, John Turturro, Owen Wilson, Joe Mantegna, Bonnie Hunt. . . 

The Good Dinosaur (2015), Disney×Pixar
Estimated Budget: $200,000,000
Worldwide Earnings: $334,342,692
Cast: Frances McDormand, Steve Zahn, Sam Elliot, Anna Paquin, Jeffrey Wright. . . 

Brave (2012), Disney×Pixar
Estimated Budget: $185,000,000
Worldwide Earnings: $554,606,532
Cast: Emma Thompson, Craig Ferguson, Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly. . .           

WALL-E (2008), Disney×Pixar
Estimated Budget: $180,000,000
Worldwide Earnings: $532,590,994          
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Kathy Najimy, John Ratzenberger, Jeff Garlin 

UP (2009), Disney×Pixar
Estimated Budget: $175,000,000
Worldwide Earnings: $731,542,621
Cast: Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Delroy Lindo, John Ratzenberger. . . 

Monsters vs Aliens (2009), DreamWorks Animation
Estimated Budget: $175,000,000
Worldwide Earnings: $381,000,000
Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Rainn Wilson, Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Stephen Colbert. . . 

How to Train Your Dragon (2010), DreamWorks Animation
Estimated Budget: $165,000,000
Worldwide Earnings: $500,000,000
Cast: Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, America Ferrera, Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson. . . 

Wreck-It-Ralph (2012), Disney Animation Studios
Estimated Budget: $165,000,000
Worldwide Earnings: $471,000,000
Cast: Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, America Ferrera, Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson. . . 

Frozen (2013), Disney Animation studios
Estimated Budget: $150,000,000
Worldwide Earnings: $1,276,480,335
Cast: Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Josh Gad, Alan Tudyk 

Zootopia (2016), Disney×Pixar
Estimated Budget: $150,000,000
Worldwide Earnings: $1,024,000,000 billion
Cast: Octavia Spencer, Idris Elba, Shakira, J.K. Simmons, Jason Bateman, Ginnifer Goodwin, Bonnie Hunt. . . 

Moana (2016), Disney×Pixar
Estimated Budget: $150,000,000
Worldwide Earnings: $586.6 million
Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Nicole Scherzinger, Jermaine Clement, Alan Tudyk. . . 

Sources 

Box Office Mojo. Box Office Mojo, an IMDb Company, n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2017. 

"Movies, TV and Celebrities." IMDb. IMDb.com, n.d. Web. 02 Mar. 2017. 

Viswanathan, Balaji. "Why Do Animated Films Cost So Much to Make?" Slate Magazine. The Slate Group LLC, 20 June 2013. Web. 02 Mar. 2017. 

Zeke. "Most Expensive Animated Movies Of All Time." New York Film Academy (NYFA). New York Film Academy (NYFA), 18 Sept. 2014. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.