The Walt Disney Company is just shy of celebrating its 100th year in operation which is a pretty impressive feat that will certainly be celebrated. Since its founding in 1923, Disney has become a powerhouse in family-friendly entertainment especially when it comes to animated movies. In fact, they’ve released so many animated movies that they’ve created a classification system to identify which movies were released in which decades.
The animation magic started in 1937 with what is now known as “The Golden Age.” It spanned less than a decade and according to Disney historians, ends in 1942 and includes the release of five classic films. The following era was “The Wartime Era” which saw shorter films with lower budgets due to World War 2. Things picked back up in 1950 when “The Silver Age” began. Over the course of the 1950s, Disney released eight movies that have all become classics. While many, if not all, of the movies in these two ages, are classics, they didn’t always perform well at the box office. Since these movies are so old, some of the box office numbers were hard to find meaning some include re-releases while others are simply the original box office take.
13 Golden: Dumbo – $1.3 Million
Dumbo’s current box office earnings are probably a lot higher than the $1.3 million recorded on various box office sites such as Box Office Mojo. However, that was the original box office total for this classic Disney movie.
While that might seem like a flop, it was actually Disney’s most successful movie in the 1940s because it was made for less than a million dollars and was the shortest film they created. Today, Dumbo is a beloved classic and an even more beloved character amongst Disney fans.
12 Silver: Alice In Wonderland – $5.6 Million
Released in 1951, Alice In Wonderland became the second “Silver Age” film released by the studies. Despite being a cult classic today, it wasn’t well-received upon its release and only took home an estimated $5.6 million at the box office in 1951.
This was a huge disappointment for the studio and led Walt Disney to air the movie on television during his Disneyland TV series. Since its original release, Alice In Wonderland has grown in popularity and has been rereleases in theaters several times. The popularity has even earned this classic story several live-action adaptations.
11 Silver: The Sword In The Stone – $22.2 Million
The Sword in the Stone was a long time in the making at Walt Disney Animation Studios since they originally acquired the rights to the story in 1939. However, the movie didn’t see the light of day until December 1963 making it a part of the “Silver Age.”
Over the course, of its entire theatrical history, The Sword in the Stone has earned an estimated $22.2 million. This includes its original box office release as well as two re-releases in 1972 and 1983.
10 Silver: Sleeping Beauty – $51.6 Million
Released in 1959, Sleeping Beauty became the eighth and final movie released during Disney’s “Silver Age.” During its initial run, Sleeping Beauty took home an estimated $5.3 million at the North American box office.
This was not great considering the movie was made for $6 million making it the most expensive animation movie at the time. Over the years, Sleeping Beauty has grown in popularity and has been re-released several times upping its box office earnings to $51.6 million.
9 Golden: Fantasia – $76.4 Million
Released in 1940, Fantasia was one of Walt Disney Animation Studio’s most ambitious projects at the time. It marked the studio’s third feature-length movie and consisted of eight animated segments set to classical music – making it completely original in the world of animation.
Fantasia released a little differently than other Disney movies, opening as a theatrical roadshow along 13 cities across the US where it earned an average of $352,000 at each stop. Thanks to re-releases over the next several decades, Fantasia was able to make $76.4 million and earned a sequel released in 1999.
8 Silver: Peter Pan – $87.4 Million
Peter Pan released in 1953 and marked the final Disney movie to be distributed by RKO Radio Pictures since Walt Disney later founded his own distribution company. It was also the final movie that all Disney’s Nine Old Men worked on.
During its initial release, Peter Pan earned $6 million making it quite successful against its $4 million budget. Today, the movie has made an estimated $87.4 million domestically, not adjusted for inflation.
7 Golden: Pinocchio – $121.8 Million
Disney’s 1940’s Pinocchio is an interesting movie to study considering it was originally a major flop for the studio. The movie was twice the cost of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs but the company only made a $1 million profit off of it. Like most classics, Pinocchio made most of its $121.8 million gross in re-releases over the next several decades.
And despite its box office failure, the movie was highly praised by critics becoming the first animated movie to win an Academy Award and has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
6 Silver: Lady And The Tramp – $187 Million
Lady and the Tramp came out in 1955 and became the first Disney movie to be released by their own distribution company. It also was managed to turn a profit during its initial release and spawned a direct-to-video sequel as well as a live-action remake.
During its initial run, the film took home $6.5 million, making it the most profitable movie at the time. It has since gone on to earn an international gross of $187 million.
5 Silver: Cinderella – $263.5 Million
Cinderella marked the beginning of the “Silver Age” when it hit theaters in 1950 and was also the second Disney Princess movie created by the studio. The movie is also credited with saving the company from the failures of the “Golden Age.”
4 Golden: Bambi – $267.4 Million
Bambi first opened in theaters in August 1942, becoming the fifth animated feature film for Walt Disney Studios. However, because of World War 2, it wasn’t as successful as the company had originally hoped.
Though there isn’t much data regarding how much Bambi originally made, thanks to several re-releases the movie has earned an impressive $267.4 million at the box office during its lifetime.
3 Silver: One Hundred And One Dalmatians – $303 Million
One Hundred and One Dalmatians was released in 1961 and is credited with saving the company from the poor performance of Sleeping Beauty. In fact, it was so profitable it became made the top 10 of highest-grossing movies of 1961.
During its initial run, the movie took home an estimated $14 million in North America alone. After four re-releases, it has earned $303 million, not adjusted for inflation, and has spawned several sequels and live-action adaptations.
2 Silver: The Jungle Book – $378 Million
The Jungle Book holds a special place in Walt Disney history because it was the final film produced by Walt Disney himself who passed away prior to its release in 1967.
Thankfully, the movie was met with rave reviews, becoming the second-highest-grossing animated movie at the time. It earned over $23.8 million during its first run alone and has since racked up a total of $378 million.
1 Golden: Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs – $418 Million
Without Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, there would be no Walt Disney Company. It was the first-ever animated feature-length movie created and thankfully was a critical and commercial success.
The movie premiered in 1937 and during its initial run earned over $8 million across the globe. Since then, the film has been re-released in theaters nearly every decade until 1993 where it has earned a lifetime gross of $418 million.
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About The Author
Danielle Bruncati (141 Articles Published)
Danielle Bruncati is a freelance writer for Valnet and an aspiring television writer from Southern California. She is a pop-culture enthusiast who enjoys writing and spending time with her dog.