The Disney Renaissance in Four Charts

(Update: Thanks to Daniel’s important hint in the comments l I added Brother Bear and Home on the Range to my analysis – which I initially totally forgot. Interestingly, the text doesn’t even need a change, since both movies did nothing exceptional on the box office front and continued the trends I write about.)

Soon, Disney will try to redeem its name in the world of 2D animation with The Princess and the Frog. Personally and frankly I couldn’t care less since I’ve begun to dive into the world of anime and watched some highly creative stuff they’ve done. But that’s only me, one little blogger with a mad mind, so that’s okay.

Not regarding my personal taste regarding Disney movies I’ve done some “research” and put together all important numbers from all Disney (Update: 2D/classical) animated flicks since Little Mermaid.

Well, what can I say: it can only go up…

The Disney Renaissance - Gross Revenue

If I were one Disney exec living in the high skies of power at that time, I clearly would have had some nightmares regarding those numbers in the later years. And of course I also would have had massive parties with sex, drugs, Rock’n roll and all the other nasty stuff at the beginning of the so called Disney Renaissance.

Seriously, the revenues of the four first animated movies starting with Little Mermaid are mesmerizing, it goes up and up and up – until it so strikes out in a slope any skier dreams of. Pocahontas – in combination with the rise of 3D – ruined everything for Disney animated movies forever. The only spikes at the end of the line are Tarzan as well as Lilo & Stitch. And those two spiked don’t even come close to the old days of glory.

But it gets even worse for the Disney execs:

Ratio Gross Revenue and Production Costs

The graph above shows the ratio of production costs to grosses. This means that if a movie has a ratio of 200% it earned double the amount of money as it cost (not counting marketing costs or DVD/VHS).

The first big surprise is the fact that Aladdin made much more money for Disney than Lion King – which is kinda obvious since Lion King cost more than twice than Aladdin. The other big surprise is the downhill slope which seemingly never ends after Aladdin. With one exception late in the game it only goes down and I wouldn’t be surprised if any exec would have consulted his psychiatric counselor of choice on a daily basis.

Seeing those numbers I hoped for some kind of Deus ex machina regarding those numbers. Just as the viruses and bacteria wiped out the aliens in The War of the Worlds, I hoped that at least the international revenues would reverse everything.

International Grosses of Disney animated movies

Yeah, sure, world…hate me. My hopes were utterly destroyed, of course. As you can obviously see, everything on the international market (including USA) is more or less the same with only minor differences. Nevertheless there is one interesting detail: Treasure Planet is the only animated Disney movie ever to not even come close to the one hundred percent ratio. This movie truly bombed horribly. Home on the Range is the second lowest movie which almost reaches the mark.

But there is even more for your reading pleasure. Up to now I was working solely with pure economic values for the analysis, yet there are of course other factors like viewer opinion. So the following chart connects both revenues and respective IMDB ratings:

The Disney Renaissance in Revenue and Ratings

As you can see this graphs at least gives a possible hint to some connection that might exist between ratings and revenues. Since I am still in training to read tea leaves, I leave this chart to your interpretation.


So, what have we learned from these statistics?

One thing is clear: after Aladdin and Lion King, animated movies from Disney went south economically, which Disney never was able to overcome. Although some later movies as Tarzan gained more money than their predecessors, higher production costs diminished potential revenues for Disney, hence reducing the ratio further instead of increasing.

Pocahontas, in every way possible, is the big sin of the Disney Corporation (although the last movie – Home on the Range – ranks even worse regarding IMDB rating). If I were an exec who lived through the hells and horrors of that time and found out those numbers, I certainly would have slugged anyone responsible for Pocahontas.

But that’s only me thinking hypothetically.

In any way, I’m eager to see whether or not The Princess and the Frog will be able to end this Cycle of Doom.

What are your expectations?


  • g2010a

    Eh, you forget they own Pixar now. Technically the latest Pixar films have been Disney films… or are you focusing on the brand rather than the company?

    • Gunther Heinrich

      You are right, they own Pixar now (which cost some massive amount of money) and I didn’t forget that fact.

      For one, I did focus on 2d animated movies and for the other Disney’s Treasure Planet is the last 2d animated movie they made and which I put into my analysis. This was 2002, long before Disney acquired Pixar in 2006.
      So, you can say that I analyzed the data according to the situation as it was in those years, beginning with the Disney Renaissance (two companies).

      If you’d like to say that the present directly influences the past (one company) you can say, of course, that I analyzed the brands.

      • Kim

        Hi, Gunther.

        I am a high school English teacher in California; one of my students is writing a research paper on animation and has your blog on the four charts of the Disney Renaissance listed as a source on his Works Cited page. I tracked down the blog since his information was incomplete, and looked in vain for a citation on where you found the numbers in your charts. What was your primary source? He cannot use your information unless he finds out where you got the information because (I am sure you will understand) blogs are not considered scholarly sources.

        Thanks for your help!


  • Daniel

    No, treasure planet is not the last 2D animated movie they made. Home on the Range is. And before that there was Brother Bear, which released after Treasure Planet. But I guess those two movies were so forgettable (especially HotR) that I don’t blame you for not remembering them or even knowing they existed.

    • Gunther Heinrich

      Oh crap! Damn it! Of course, you are absolutely right. There were two additional movies after Treasure Planet. And I even know Brother Bear – as I was rather surprised by that fact when hearing about this movie some years ago.

      To save my honor (somehow): my goal from the beginning was to not only cover the whole Disney Renaissance, but also the 2D animated movies until they – as far as I know – decided to close down their big animation studios in Burbank. Considering the small but important difference between a decision and the actual closing I slowly begin to understand why I totally missed those two.

      Well, time to update the charts and this post…

  • i tink that Lion King should also be considered as one the best animated films on the market ;;

  • Gray Stanback

    Two things:
    One, You forgot Dinosaur, which is technically a Disney Rennaisance film. It should go just before Atlantis.
    Two, What WERE the marketing costs for these movies?

    • Gunther Heinrich

      Technically, the Disney Renaissance era of Disney ended with Tarzan (for whatever reasons) so I basically extended the time frame beyond that. Judging by the numbers above you could even go further and end the Rennaissance with Pocahontas.

      Dinosaur either way is not relevant for the analysis. Sure, it might fall into the time frame I used for the analysis but that movie is 3D animated, not 2D animated. It might not be that clear now that I reread some of the post so: the analysis purely is about classical animated flicks Disney is well known for.

      Regarding the marketing costs: I thought for some time to add those numbers to the analysis. But I didn’t do that as marketing is a whole different beast. One thing that makes it problematic is the fact, that marketing costs are not the same as production costs. For example: if one movie doesn’t fare that well at the box office, Disney could’ve booked additional ads in TV or newspaper or on the net. It’s highly situational. But perhaps I will do another analysis including those costs as there might be some interesting results.

  • i would say that Lion King is one of the best animated films that i have ever watched “,-

    • Gunther Heinrich

      If you haven’t done it already: you definitely should watch Fooly Cooly.

  • RJ

    “The first big surprise is the fact that Aladdin made much more money for Disney than Lion King – which is kinda obvious since Lion King cost more than twice than Aladdin.”

    Didn;t Aladdin cost $28 to make while Lion King cost $45?

    • Gunther Heinrich

      Yeah, it’s amazing what a “slight” difference in production costs can make. As far as I remember your numbers are correct.

  • Paul

    it’s over

    • Gunther Heinrich

      The world?

  • Me

    Sorry, but I used these as examples of what you shouldn’t do when graphing for a class I’m teaching. The line graphs don’t make any sense – you can’t plot line graphs for discontinuous data (i.e. the line itself and all points along it are supposed to represent a relationship).


  1. Kayla Mckay

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