July 22 sees the release of Ice Age: Collision Course. In the film, Scrat’s (Chris Wedge) epic pursuit of his elusive acorn catapults him outside of Earth. He then accidentally sets off a series of cosmic events that transform and threaten the planet. To save themselves from peril, Manny (Ray Romano), Sid (John Leguizamo), Diego (Denis Leary) and the rest of the herd leave their home and embark on a quest full of thrills and spills, highs and lows, laughter and adventure while traveling to exotic new lands and encountering a host of colorful new characters.
Queen Latifah, Keke Palmer, Jennifer Lopez, Simon Pegg, Wanda Sykes, Seann William Scott and Josh Peck are back reprise their roles. Some of the colorful new characters are voiced by new cast members Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Jessie J, Nick Offerman, Melissa Rauch, Michael Strahan, Max Greenfield and Neil deGrasse Tyson. This cast of characters joins what could be the most prolific year for animated movies ever. On Sunday nights, FOX boasts of its animation domination. 2016 can boast of animation domination of its own.
According to boxofficemojo.com, six of the top twelve grossing movies are animated: Finding Dory, The Jungle Book, Zootopia, The Secret Life of Pets, Kung Fu Panda 3 and The Angry Birds Movie. I’m counting The Jungle Book, because even though there is a live action element, it’s a CGI-heavy film. Not only is Finding Dory the top grossing animated movie of 2016 so far, it’s the top grossing film of 2016 so far period. To put this in perspective, only two of the top twelve grossing films of 2014 and 2015 were animated. This was a dip from 2012 and 2013 when five and three animated films made the top twelve respectively in those years. 2011 might have been the nadir for animated films when only one animated film, Cars 2, broke into the top twelve.
In fact, in the past decade, only one year comes close to 2016 in terms of animation success. The last time an animated film was the highest grossing film of the year was in 2010 when Toy Story held the honor. Besides 2016, 2010 was the only year in the past decade with at least five films in the top twelve for the year. Along with Toy Story 3, the other films to make the top twelve were Despicable Me, Shrek Forever After, How to Train Your Dragon and Tangled. Those five films grossed $1.3 billion in North America alone without adjusting for inflation. In 2016, the aforementioned six animated films have grossed $1.6 billion in North America – so far. The Secret Life of Pets and Finding Dory are both still riding high at the big office and will significantly add to their grosses.
Ice Age: Collision Course looks to join the group tomorrow. The four previous Ice Age movies grossed an average of $182 million. If Ice Age: Collision Course grosses anywhere near that, it will surpass The Angry Birds Movie which is tenuously holding onto the number twelve spot with $106 million. Assuming Ice Age: Collision Course bumps The Angry Birds Movie out of the top twelve, that still leaves six animated movies. I went back over two decades and no other years come even close to 2010 and 2016. Why didn’t I go back further? It wasn’t until the 1989 release – and success – of The Little Mermaid, that perked studio ears up to the earning potential of animation.
I realize we’re only a little more than halfway through the year, but 2016 just might be the prolific year for animated movies ever. With its built-in brand name and the fact that it’s opening in the most theaters this weekend over its closest competitors, Star Trek Beyond and Lights Out, Ice Age: Collision Course seems to be a safe bet to pad 2016’s stats.