Disney is having a good year. 2016 might be rough for others but not for the studio which is, once again, dominating the box office. The House that Mickey Built is head and shoulders above the competition, even with a few missteps. All the investments they’ve made – in Pixar, in Marvel, in animated films with good scripts and strong characters – are paying off and it’s a beauty to behold.
The year isn’t even done (Doctor Strange is still on the way) but we decided to take a look at some of the biggest smashes Disney has had so far. We also want to look at their bombs too but, well, there aren’t many of those.
The Finest Hours (January 29)
Domestic: $27,569,588/Foreign: $24,529,532
Disney positioned this live-action drama in January when the box office was seemingly empty and ready to be taken. But it didn’t pan out despite a heavy marketing push. The movie failed to connect with audiences and crashed and burned, leaving Disney with one of its few rare misses. Many studios would have been shaken up by this swing and a miss. Not Disney, who knew the best was yet to come.
Zootopia (March 4)
Domestic: $340,361,033/Foreign: $676,100,00
We all expected Zooptopia to be a hit. But we didn’t expect something like this. Zootopia was a hit from the start and just kept growing and growing. This was the full package: not only was the animation gorgeous, the script was terrific too. It was engaging, it was socially aware, it was a fascinating mystery that contained clever twists. This was an all-around brilliant film. Audiences ate it up like carrots, pushing this brand new property to over a billion dollars. That’s a lot of money, especially for a film that isn’t a sequel or spin-off. Speaking of sequels, how long until we get Zootopia 2? The directors have already suggested it’s possible.
The Jungle Book (April 15)
Domestic: $358,041,523/Foreign: $571,800,000
Disney hoped Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book would light the box office on fire but they didn’t think it would become the phenomenon it is. Again, the success of the film is due largely to the wonderful casting and script. Unlike other studios, Disney isn’t content to release just good-looking films, they want well-made ones too. We’ve all seen movies that look spectacular but fall flat in every other department (coughBatmanVSupermancough) but Disney won’t let that happen with their films. The Jungle Book was a runaway success and guaranteed that we will be seeing many more live-action adaptations of Disney animated classics. If you thought The Jungle Book was big, just wait for Beauty and the Beast.
Captain America: Civil War (May 6)
Domestic: $403,857,288/Foreign: $743,657,000
I’m starting to sound like a broken record here but we all knew Captain America: Civil War was going to do business. It’s Disney, it’s Marvel, it’s a no-brainer. The film opened huge (though not as big as many predicted) and was greeted with rave reviews from critics and the comic book faithful. In fact, some (yours truly included) think Civil War might be the best Marvel movie yet. It sounds strange but the release of Captain America: Civil War was actually a bit boring. We all knew it was going to be great and an explosive hit and everything played out like expected. It all went according to Disney’s plan. That’s a testament to the power of these characters and the power of Disney’s relationship with Marvel.
Alice Through the Looking Glass (May 27)
Domestic: $74,279,668/Foreign: $175,100,000
Just when Disney was flying as high as Falcon, they fell back down to Earth.
What made Alice Through the Looking Glass a flop? Many things. The gap between the first film and this sequel didn’t help. Yes, the first Alice film made over a billion dollars but that was long ago and people had moved on. Was it the domestic abuse allegations leveled at Johnny Depp right as the movie debuted? That sure didn’t help. Perhaps it was the release date, smack dab in the middle of a busy holiday season. Maybe it was sequel fatigue. Maybe it was the abysmal reviews. Maybe it was everything combined. No matter the reason, Through the Looking Glass was a dark mark on Disney’s record. No one recovers from failure faster than Disney, especially because they always have another hit right around the corner.
Finding Dory (June 17)
Domestic: $286,277,856/Foreign: $111,900,000
Disney’s next film was certainly a hit. Unlike Alice Through the Looking Glass, here is a sequel fans were clamoring for. However, while the movie was likely to be a huge smash, would it be any good? Pixar hasn’t been that impressive when it comes to their sequels (looking at your, Cars 2!) so many were afraid Finding Dory would be as limp as a fish out of water. Not so! The movie pleased audiences even if it didn’t reach the heights of Finding Nemo. Let’s face it: we all love that little forgetful fish. The movie debuted with a jaw-dropping $136 million, the best for an animated film. Its second week saw the movie beating Independence Day: Resurgence. Not too shabby at all, Disney.
Now, will Disney/Pixar parlay the success into a third movie? Hey, if Cars gets another sequel, Dory deserves one too!