Part 6

Animated Films
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Examples

The Emergence of Pixar:

A division of Lucasfilm (and Industrial Light and Magic (ILM)), created in 1979 and known as the Graphics Group, was purchased by Apple Computer's Steve Jobs for $5 million, renamed Pixar Animation Studios, and made an independent company in 1986. [Note: ILM had created the startling, first completely CGI-animated character - the 'stained-glass knight' in Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), bringing the film a Best Visual Effects nomination.]

Disney-Pixar FilmsPixar Studios (and director John Lasseter) and Disney, in a 1991 deal worth $26 million, created the first completely computer-generated animated feature film - the landmark Toy Story (1995) - Pixar's feature debut film, and everything evolved from there. The visuals were entirely generated from computers, creating a wonderfully-realistic 3-D world with lighting, shading, and textures, that included real toys in supporting roles (Etch-A-Sketch, Slinky Dog, the plastic toy soldiers, Mr. Potato Head, etc.). The story itself dealt with the anxiety experienced by a toy (cowboy Woody) upon the arrival of a rival plaything (spacetoy Buzz Lightyear) -- mirroring the tension felt by a child when a younger sibling is born. The tale also referenced the historical change in genre emphasis in the 50s when westerns were supplanted by science-fiction films. It scored three Oscar nominations: Best Original Score, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Original Song ("You've Got a Friend"), and at the box-office totaled $192 million (domestic) and $373.5 million (worldwide).

The surprise hit of 1995, however, was Best Picture-nominated Babe (1995), the charming and highly entertaining story of the title character - a talking barnyard pig with a talent for sheep herding. Fox released the disappointing Anastasia (1997). DreamWorks and Pacific Data Images (PDI) released the second computer-animated feature film in history - the adult-oriented Antz (1998), with Woody Allen's voice for a misfit, individualist worker ant named Z. At about the same time, A Bug's Life (1998), a children's-oriented, computer animated tale based upon Aesop's fable The Ant and the Grasshopper, was released by Pixar and Disney (their second teaming).

Toy Story 2 - 1999The year 1998 also showcased other animated films, including the low-budget Rugrats Movie (1998) (based upon the characters on Nickelodeon's TV series), and DreamWorks SKG's' epic - the animated musical feature The Prince of Egypt (1998) about the Hebrew Exodus from Egypt - the most expensive classically-animated feature at the time, budgeted at $60 million.

Pixar's sequel to its successful 1995 computer-animated hit was released in 1999 with Disney (their third collaboration) - Toy Story 2 (1999), again with Woody the Cowboy and Buzz Lightyear. So were two hand-drawn animations from Warner Bros: the critically-acclaimed animated adventure Iron Giant (1999) by director Brad Bird (his feature debut), about a fifty-foot robot befriended by a nine year-old boy, and the animated musical The King and I (1999). Sony Pictures brought to life E.B. White's classic children's story Stuart Little (1999) featuring a clothes-wearing and talking white mouse (voice of Michael J. Fox) - it was a hugely successful film, with a combination of computer animated characters and live action.

Animations at the Start of the New Century - Disney and Others:

As CGI became more prominent, would traditionally-animated, old school cel-animated films (like this one) be destined to become non-existent and outdated relics of the last century? Disney's "Experimental Era" began, following after its "Disney Renaissance" in the previous decade:

  • Walt Disney Pictures was very busy in the year 2000, releasing the computer-animated Dinosaur (2000) about prehistoric life, and the hand-drawn animated comedy-adventure The Emperor's New Groove (2000).
  • Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001), its first cartoon produced in 70 mm since The Black Cauldron (1985), blended CGI with traditional hand-drawn animation, and was based on the Jules Verne action epic, but it faced stiff competition from other animated features. Another Disney hand-drawn effort, Lilo & Stitch (2002), about a lonely Hawaiian girl and her blue extra-terrestrial friend, was one of the studio's major box-office hits. Disney's hand-drawn, big-budget, sci-fi animation Treasure Planet (2002), an outer-space version of Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island, flopped.
  • A significant development may have been signaled when Walt Disney Studios, after releasing the great-looking, feature-length theatrical film animation Brother Bear (2003) in November (also a nominee for Best Animated Feature Film), announced that this would be their last 2-D animated film for the foreseeable future, since it was switching to the 3-D, full-CGI style originally popularized by Pixar. However, Disney's last release in the traditional 2-D animation style was Home on the Range (2004).
  • Disney released its first in-house computer-animated film, Chicken Little (2005), with a partial 3-D release, about a beleaguered young Chicken Little (voice by Zach Braff) who was humiliated by his claim that the sky was falling, and subjected to scorn by most of the town. The young cluck was estranged from his embarrassed single father Buck Cluck (voice of Gary Marshall) but vindicated when the "sky" actually fell, in a parody of a War of the Worlds-style invasion.
  • Disney's animated The Princess and the Frog (2009) (with three Oscar nominations), a modern day retelling of the classic story The Frog Prince. It was the studio's first traditional 2-D animated film in 5 years. It also featured the studio's first-ever black female protagonist, an African-American princess named Tiana (voice of Anika Noni Rose). Its box-office was $104 million (domestic) and $267 million (worldwide).
Walt Disney Animation Studio Feature Films (1937-present)
The Decade of the 2000s
No. Title Screen Title (Year) Notables
Dinosaur (2000)
  • a stunning, CGI animated 'photo-realistic' adventure film - the second Disney CG 3D animation (following Fantasia 2000)
  • a hybrid animation - the dinosaurs and special effects were CGI while most of the backgrounds were live-action (filmed on location)
  • the animation's hero was Aladar, an Iguanodon separated from his dinosaur family and raised by lemurs
  • the most expensive theatrical film release of the year (at $127.5 million)
  • the 11th highest-grossing (domestic) film of 2000, at $137.8 million, and $349.8 million (worldwide)
  • some reviewers were critical of the 'talking' dinosaurs
The Emperor's New Groove (2000)
  • an expensive film production ($100 million), with $89.3 million (domestic) revenue, and $169.3 million (worldwide)
  • a buddy comedy, with some homage paid to Hans Christian Anderson's tale The Emperor's New Clothes, about a vain, arrogant, spoiled, teenaged emperor named Kuzco (voice of David Spade) ruling in a South American jungle nation - who was accidentally turned into a llama; the plot revolved around his dangerous return to his kingdom with good-hearted peasant Pacha (John Goodman) to reclaim his throne
  • a one-time Academy Award nominee: Best Original Song (My Funny Friend and Me)
  • with a direct-to-video sequel, Kronk's New Groove (2005)
Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
  • the second Disney animated feature film to be rated PG (the first was The Black Cauldron (1985))
  • one of the few widescreen (anamorphic) animated Disney features, with a considerable amount of CGI
  • a hybrid genre film: a sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, action animation - it was the first Disney sci-fi feature film animation
  • inspired by the works of Jules Verne
  • performed poorly at the box-office - the 26th highest-grossing (domestic) film of 2001, at only $84 million, and $186 million (worldwide) - with a production budget of $120 million!
  • the animation opened with a great cataclysm from the past, then jumped ahead to the year 1914; the central character Milo Thatch, a linguist, theorized that a great civilization from the past thought to be mythical had actually existed -- the lost city of Atlantis
  • with a direct-to-video sequel - Atlantis: Milo's Return (2003)
Lilo & Stitch (2002)
  • a very successful animation -- the 14th highest-grossing (domestic) film of 2002, at $145.8 million, with $273.1 million (worldwide); with a production budget of $80 million
  • with one Academy Award nomination: Best Animated Feature Film, losing to Studio Ghibli's anime Spirited Away (2001, Jp.)
  • the plot was set on Kauai, and told about two orphaned sisters, Nani (Tia Carrere) and younger Lilo Pelekai (Daveigh Chase); Lilo befriended an alien creation of mad scientist Dr. Jumba Jookiba (David Ogden Stiers), a lifeform known as Experiment 626, renamed as Stitch
  • followed by direct-to-video Stitch! The Movie (2003) and Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005)
Treasure Planet (2002)
  • based upon Robert Louis Stevenson's 1883 novel Treasure Island, although set in space as a sci-fi adventure; the story was about teenaged Jim Hawkins' quest for the treasure of fabled Space Pirate Captain Flint, voyaging on the Legacy accompanied by absent-minded Dr. Delbert Doppler (an anthropomorphic dog)
  • it was the first film to be released simultaneously in regular and IMAX theaters
  • with one Academy Award nomination: Best Animated Feature Film, losing to Studio Ghibli's anime Spirited Away (2001, Jp.)
  • the 69th highest-grossing (domestic) film of 2002, far behind Lilo & Stitch, at only $38.2 million, and $109.6 million (worldwide), with a production budget of $140 million - a major box-office failure
Brother Bear (2003)
  • the second-to-last traditionally animated theatrical film produced by Disney, until The Princess and the Frog (2009)
  • the story was about the coming-of-age of an ancient Alaskan wilderness dweller named Kenai, whose totem or "spirit animal" that he given was "The Bear of Love"; after an act of murderous vengeance, Kenai was transformed into a bear, and was forced to go on a quest to restore himself
  • the 34th highest-grossing (domestic) film of 2003 with $85.3 million, and $250.4 million (worldwide)
  • with one Academy Award nomination: Best Animated Feature Film, losing to Finding Nemo (2003)
  • with a sequel Brother Bear 2 (2006)
Home on the Range (2004)
  • the last traditionally-animated, 2-D theatrical film produced by Disney, until 2009
  • the story was about three heroine dairy cows Maggie (Roseanne Barr), Mrs. Calloway (Judi Dench), and Grace (Jennifer Tilly), living at a farm known as "Patch of Heaven" - when threatened with foreclosure, the trio were forced to capture cattle rustler Alameda Slim (Randy Quaid) to collect a bounty to save their idyllic home
  • this was the last Disney film to use the CAPS digital ink-and-paint system in use since 1989
  • it was a major box-office bomb (the 65th highest grossing film of the year), with a production budget of $110 million, and poor revenues; with $50 million (domestic) and only $104 million (worldwide)
Chicken Little (2005)
  • it was Disney's first film to be completely produced via computer animation (CGI), and Disney's first CG film not created-produced by partner Pixar; it was released in 3-D (Disney's first film to be released in this format)
  • also, this was Disney's second single-story animated feature film (after Robin Hood (1973)) to use anthropomorphic characters
  • it was loosely based on the fable about Henny Penny (Chicken Little) who falsely and hysterically cried out "The Sky Is Falling!"; the characters included young nerdy male rooster Chicken Little (Zach Braff), his widowed father Buck Cluck (Garry Marshall), his bucktoothed best friend - an ugly often-teased duck named Abby Mallard (Joan Cusack), a cowardly, anxious morbidly obese pig known as Runt of the Litter (Steve Zahn), a scuba-helmeted goldfish known as Fish Out of Water (Dan Molina), and mean female tomboy-bully Foxy Loxy (Amy Sedaris)
  • an expensive film, with a production budget of $150 million, and somewhat successful; the 14th highest-grossing (domestic) film of 2005, with $135.4 million, and $314.4 million (worldwide)
Meet the Robinsons (2007)
  • loosely based on William Joyce's 1990 picture book A Day With Wilbur Robinson
  • the story told about 12-year old orphan/child inventor-prodigy Lewis, who journeyed 30 years into the future in a time machine to find a family, he was joined by fast-talking 13 year-old friend Wilbur Robinson to pursue man-child Bowler Hat Guy and his evil robotic bowler hat Doris (DOR-15), and acquire Grandfather Robinson's missing false teeth
  • the 29th highest-grossing (domestic) film of the year, with $97.8 million, and $169.3 million (worldwide), but with a estimated production budget of $150 million
Bolt (2008)
  • in the story (similar to the premise of The Truman Show (1998)), genetically-altered, super-powered white shepherd dog Bolt (John Travolta) had spent his entire life on a TV set; when 'human' Penny (Miley Cyrus) was kidnapped off the set, Bolt escaped from his on-set Hollywood trailer for a rescue mission to fight against evil mad scientist Dr. Calico (Malcolm McDowell), with help from female alleycat Mittens (Susie Essman) and hamster Rhino (Mark Walton)
  • one of the first films in Disney's so-called "Revival"
  • it was the first computer-animated feature film to use non-photorealistic rendering
  • moderately successful as the 22nd highest-grossing (domestic) film of the year, with $114 million (domestic), and $310 million (worldwide); and with a production budget of $150 million
  • an Academy Award nominee for Best Animated Feature Film, won by Wall-E (2008)
The Princess and the Frog (2009)
  • based upon E.D. Baker's 2002 children's novel The Frog Princess, a version of the classic fable, The Frog Prince
  • the 32nd highest-grossing (domestic) film of the year, with $104.4 million, and $267 million (worldwide), and with a production budget of $105 million
  • it was notable as Disney's first implementation of a black title character - an African-American princess named Tiana (voice of Anika Noni Rose); the setting was 1920s New Orleans
  • the first Disney animated feature film since Home on the Range (2004) to be traditionally animated
  • a three-time Academy Award nominee: Best Original Song (Almost There), Best Original Song (Down in New Orleans), and Best Animated Feature Film, won by Up (2009)

DreamWorks also released its second feature-length animated film The Road to El Dorado (2000) (loosely based on The Man Who Would Be King (1975)), and Fox produced the visually-striking science fiction epic Titan A.E. (2000) combining classic animation and CGI (before closing down its traditional animation division).

Final Fantasy - The Spirits Within - 2001The second collaboration of DreamWorks and PDI was for the immensely successful (the box-office champ of 2001 and the first Best Animated Feature Film Oscar winner) and colorful fairy-tale farce Shrek (2001), a computer-animated film that added elements to CGI such as fire, liquids, digital humans, and clothing, and featured a green, swamp-living, misfit ogre (with voice of Mike Myers). The most talked-about (but commercially unsuccessful) computer-animated film of the early 21st century, however, was Sony's Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001), a photo-realistic (hyperReal), science-fiction tale by director Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of the interactive, role-playing, futuristic video game) that advertised itself as "Fantasy Becomes Reality." It simulated human actors with CG and was the first computer-generated feature film based entirely on original designs - no real locations, people, vehicles, or props were used.

Kaena: The Prophecy (2004), the first full-length 3D-generated animated film from France, with voices of Kirsten Dunst, Richard Harris, and Anjelica Huston, told a sci-fi fantasy tale about a free-spirited teenaged girl who must solve the mystery of a dying 100-mile tall tree. Writer/director Kerry Conran's feature film debut, the retro-futuristic sci-fi adventure film set in the late-1930s Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) was the first live-action studio release in which every scene was at least partly computer-generated - supplemented with human actors (including Jude Law and Gwyneth Paltrow). The entire special-effects laden movie was shot against blue/green screens with human actors in front.

Similar in sheer creative inventiveness was the ground-breaking Waking Life (2001), an impressionistic and stylized R-rated film from director Richard Linklater - it was first digitally shot as a live-action film before 30 artists graphically 'painted' the characters via computer (with a process called "interpolated rotoscoping") to create the illusion of a cartoon in motion. [Note: Similarly, Sin City (2005) and Linklater's own A Scanner Darkly (2005) digitally rotoscoped live action.] Also, Paramount's Nickelodeon films introduced a totally-original computer-animated feature starring a whiz kid who saves his alien-kidnapped parents, titled Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001). And Warner Bros.' poorly-received summer release, Osmosis Jones (2001), with part live-action and part-animation, was about a white blood cell cop (voice of Chris Rock) who hunted down lethal germs in a zoo-worker's (Bill Murray) body.

Monsters, Inc. - 2001The widely-anticipated Monsters, Inc. (2001), Disney's fourth computer-animated comedy with Pixar, featured a one-eyed, lime-colored ball named Mike Wazowski (with voice of Billy Crystal), and his scare-factory buddy James P. "Sulley" Sullivan (voice of John Goodman). As of 2013, it was the seventh-highest grossing animation of all-time.

20th Century Fox's animation-adventure Ice Age (2002) starred creatures that are trying to reunite a human baby with its parents. The computer-generated characters include Manny - a woolly mammoth (voice of Ray Romano), Sid - a talkative sloth (voice of John Leguizamo), Diego - a saber-toothed tiger (voice of Denis Leary), along with Scrat - a prehistoric squirrel that desperately tries to stash an acorn. [Note: It was followed by a sequel Ice Age 2: The Meltdown (2006).] The second film from the same team was Robots (2005), a slapstick, science-fiction animated film about clunky, nuts-and-bolts androids featuring Robin Williams (his first voice in an animated feature since 1992) as the voice of Fender.

Due to pressures brought to bear on the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the reknowned organization finally acknowledged that full-length cartoons (animations!) deserve their own Oscar awards category, Best Animated Feature Film, beginning with films eligible in the year 2001. According to the Academy's rules, an 'animated film' must be at least 70 minutes in length, have a significant amount of major animated characters, and be at least 75% animated. The first animated feature film to win the Oscar in the new category was DreamWorks SKG' revisionistic Shrek (2001). It counteracted the traditional Disney animation formula for a fairy tale with its main character - an ugly, greenish ogre (voice of Mike Myers) who saved pouty, fiercely independent Princess Fiona (voice of Cameron Diaz) from a female, purple fire-breathing dragon, with a pop music soundtrack (featuring songs by Joan Jett, Smash Mouth, and others).

The wildly-successful Finding Nemo (2003) - Pixar's and Disney's fifth collaboration, won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film! The undisputed box-office champ of its year, it was the tale of Marlin - a widowed clown fish's (voice by Albert Brooks) search in the Pacific Ocean, with a dopey and forgetful blue tang fish named Dory (voice by Ellen DeGeneres), for missing son Nemo with a withered fin. [It faced stiff competition from the wildly inventive and surreal French animated film The Triplets of Belleville (2003).] DreamWorks' version of Finding Nemo with an underwater gangster theme, the studio's first CGI-animated film, was the successful Shark Tale (2004), with voices provided by Will Smith, Renee Zellweger, Jack Black, Robert DeNiro and Angelina Jolie.

Director/screenwriter Brad Bird's ingenious Oscar-winning Best Animated Feature, the action-adventure The Incredibles (2004), Disney's and Pixar's sixth collaboration, was Pixar's first PG-rated film and the longest CG animated film to date (at 115 minutes). It told the tale of paunchy Bob "Mr. Incredible" Parr (voice of Craig T. Nelson), an ex-do-good Superhero suffering a mid-life crisis and living under-cover in suburbia, with his restless wife Helen (voice of Holly Hunter) - former rubber-limbed masked vigilante Elastigirl. Their children included long-haired daughter Violet (voice of Sarah Vowell) - capable of being invisible, son Dash (voice of Spencer Fox) - who could travel at supersonic speed, and baby Jack-Jack. The entire family was lured back into super-herodom against the evil Syndrome (voice of Jason Lee). With its four Oscar nominations (including Best Animated Feature Film), it was the most-nominated animated film since Aladdin (1992) (with five nominations).

Summary: Disney's Animated Collaborations with Pixar

In early 2006, the Walt Disney Co. bought longtime partner Pixar Animation Studios Inc. for $7.4 billion in stock, after a twelve year relationship in which Disney co-financed and distributed Pixar's animated films and split the profits (their previous deal expired in June 2006 after Pixar's delivery of Cars (2006)).

In summary, Disney's run of successful animations with Pixar are provided below. Their first five feature films grossed more than $2.5 billion (worldwide), giving Pixar the highest per film average gross of any production company at the time.

See detailed chart here: The Pixar-Disney Animations

The Pixar-Disney Animated Films
Disney-Pixar Collaborations
Millions of Dollars of Box-Office Gross (domestic)
Millions of Dollars of Box-Office Gross (worldwide)
Academy Awards
1. Toy Story (1995)
Nominated for three Academy Awards without a win
2. A Bug's Life (1998)
Nominated for one Academy Award without a win
3. Toy Story 2 (1999)
Nominated for one Academy Award without a win
The Animated Feature Film Oscar Category
First awarded in 2002 (for films released in 2001)
4. Monsters, Inc. (2001)
Nominated for four Academy Awards (Best Original Music Score, Best Animated Feature Film, Best Sound Editing) with one win: Best Original Song
5. Finding Nemo (2003)
Nominated for four Academy Awards (Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Music Score, Best Sound Editing) with one win: Best Animated Feature Film
6. The Incredibles (2004)
Nominated for four Academy Awards (Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound Mixing) with two wins: Best Animated Feature Film and Best Sound Editing
7. Cars (2006)
Nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Song) with no wins
8. Ratatouille (2007)
Nominated for five Academy Awards (Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Music Score, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing) with one win: Best Animated Feature Film
9. WALL•E (2008)
Nominated for six Academy Awards (Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Music Score, Best Original Song, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing) with one win: Best Animated Feature Film
10. Up (2009)
Nominated for five Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Sound Editing) with two wins: Best Animated Feature Film, and Best Original Score
11. Toy Story 3 (2010)
$1.067 billion
Nominated for five Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Sound Editing, Best Adapted Screenplay) with two wins, Best Animated Feature Film, and Best Original Song
12. Cars 2 (2011)
Not nominated in the Best Animated Feature Film category, breaking Pixar's streak
13. Brave (2012)
Nominated for one Academy Award, with one win: Best Animated Feature Film
14. Monsters University (2013) (aka M.U.)
Not nominated in the Best Animated Feature Film category
15. Inside Out (2015)
Nominated for two Academy Awards (Best Original Screenplay) with one win, Best Animated Feature Film
16. The Good Dinosaur (2015)
Not nominated in the Best Animated Feature Film category
17. Finding Dory (2016)
$1.029 billion
Not nominated in the Best Animated Feature Film category
18. Cars 3 (2017)
Not nominated in the Best Animated Feature Film category
19. Coco (2017)
Nominated for two Academy Awards with two wins, Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Score
20. Incredibles 2 (2018)
$1.24 billion
Nominated for one Academy Award (Best Animated Feature Film) with no wins
21. Toy Story 4 (2019)
$1.073 billion
Nominated for two Academy Awards with one win, Best Animated Feature Film, also nominated for Best Original Song
22. Onward (2020)
Nominated for one Academy Award (Best Animated Feature Film) with no wins
23. Soul (2020)

Nominated for three Academy Awards with two wins, Best Animated Feature Film and Best Original Score, and Best Sound

24. Luca (2021)
Nominated for one Academy Award (Best Animated Feature Film) with no wins
25. Turning Red (2022)
Nominated for one Academy Award (Best Animated Feature Film) with no wins
26. Lightyear (2022)
Not nominated in the Best Animated Feature Film category
27. Elemental (2023)
Nominated for one Academy Award (Best Animated Feature Film) with no wins

Pixar's CGI marvel, the adventure comedy Cars (2006), directed by John Lasseter, told an anthropomorphic story about a stock-car (Lightning McQueen, voice of Owen Wilson) on a journey to the races - including nostalgia for Route 66 in a forgotten town called Radiator Springs.

Pixar has released 19 films from 2001 to 2017 that have been eligible for the Animated Feature Film Oscar award. Of them, only five have failed to garner a nomination - both a sequel and a prequel: Cars 2 (2011) and Monsters University (2013), the The Good Dinosaur (2015), Finding Dory (2016), and Cars 3 (2017). Pixar/Disney's The Good Dinosaur (2015) marked the first time that Pixar released two feature films in the same year. Its earlier 2015 film was the massive Oscar-winning hit Inside Out (2015).

Finding Dory (2016) broke records on its opening weekend - it was the most successful and highest-grossing animated feature film debut (in its opening weekend) of all-time at $135.1 million, unseating Shrek the Third (2007), at $121.6 million (domestic). [Note: Until now, Toy Story 3 (2010) was Pixar's biggest opening ever, with $110.3 million.] Monsters University (2013), a prequel, was the 14th straight No. 1 debuting film in Pixar's 18-year history. It also had the second-highest opening ever for the Northern California-based company at $82 million, behind the $110.3 million launch of Toy Story 3 (2010).

RatatouilleThe first 27 feature films, through Elemental (2023), have garnered 50 Academy Awards® nominations, 18 competitive Oscar® wins (does not include John Lasseter's Special Achievement Award for Toy Story (1995)), and numerous other accolades. The first 25 animated films have raked in approx. $6+ billion (domestic) and over $14+ billion (worldwide) in revenue.

As of 2021, eleven of Pixar-Disney's films (out of 15 nominated films) have won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film (since the category was established in 2001): the 5th, 6th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 15th, 19th, 21st and 23rd films. Two of the films were also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture (Up (2009) and Toy Story 3 (2010)):

  1. Finding Nemo (2003)
  2. The Incredibles (2004)
  3. Ratatouille (2007) by writer/co-director Brad Bird, was a fable about a rat named Rémy (voice of Patton Oswalt) who lived in a Paris bistro-restaurant and had aspirations to be a chef.
  4. WALL•E (2008) was about a waste-removal robot named WALL•E (meaning Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) who in the year 2700 discovered the key to planet Earth's future after it was vacated and he was the last robot on Earth doing cleanup. When WALL•E met up with a cold-hearted female search robot named EVE from a space probe and fell in love with her, he chased her across outer space. Best Animated Feature Film-winning WALL-E's six nominations tied it with Beauty and the Beast (1991) as the most-nominated animated film.
  5. Up (2009), a CGI-animated film, was a coming-of-old-age tale. It told about a 70s year-old hero, cantankerous, bitter widower Carl Fredricksen (voice of Edward Asner) who launched his house into the air using hundreds of helium balloons to travel to South America, while slowly befriending an accidental stowaway Boy Scout named Russell -- it was the first animated film to get a Best Picture nomination since animated films received their own category in 2001.
  6. Toy Story 3 (2010)
  7. Brave (2012)
  8. Inside Out (2015)
  9. Coco (2017) - This Oscar win for Best Animated Feature Film marked Disney’s sixth straight victory in the category (for films that were nominated). It was the first Animated Feature Film winner with a Latino protagonist.
  10. Toy Story 4 (2019) - another Best Animated Feature Film Oscar winner
  11. Soul (2020) - another Best Animated Feature Film Oscar winner

Developments for Walt Disney Studios Animation:

The Marvel-Disney film Big Hero 6 (2014), inspired by a Marvel comic, earned the Walt Disney Animation Studio's seventh Oscar for Best Animated Film. It marked Marvel's first major win at the Academy Awards, and Walt Disney Animation Studio's second victory (in a row) in the animation category since its previous year's win for Frozen (2013).

Walt Disney Animation Studio Feature Films (1937-present)
The Decade of the 2010s-2020s
No. Title Screen Title (Year) Notables
Tangled (2010)
  • the story was based upon the classic fairy tale from Brothers Grimm of a long-haired girl named Rapunzel, who was imprisoned in a tall castle by a witch; the only entry into the castle was by her lengthy hair draped down, signaled when the witch called out: "Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair"; the witch attempted to thwart Rapunzel's growing love for a prince
  • the film adopted a straight-forward narrative (without Shrek-style humor), and took six years to develop, with an exorbitant production budget of $260 million - making it at the time the most expensive animated film ever made
  • the 14th highest-grossing (domestic) film of the year, with $200.8 million, and $591.8 million (worldwide)
  • the film blended CGI and traditional hand-drawn animation with non-photorealistic rendering
  • its original title Rapunzel, was changed to Tangled, to increase market share by implying that it was gender-neutral
  • the film introduced Disney's first CGI Princess (the next was Merida in Disney/Pixar's Brave (2012))
  • an Academy Award nominee, for Best Original Song (I See the Light)
  • followed by the CGI sequel short, Tangled Ever After (2012)
Winnie the Pooh (2011)
  • inspired by the 1926 A.A. Milne stories - and based upon three previously-unadapted Pooh stories
  • a direct sequel to Disney's earlier The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (1977)
  • reportedly, the last Disney film to be made using traditional animation techniques (the last film traditionally animated in the series was Home on the Range (2004))
  • most of Disney's revenue from the Pooh Franchise has been from merchandise
  • the 109th highest-grossing (domestic) film of the year at $26.7 million, and $49.9 million (worldwide), and with a production budget of $30 million; very poor box-office revenues
Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
  • in the story, arcade game center inhabitant "Wreck-It Ralph" (John C. Reilly) was fed up with being labeled a 'bad-guy' in a 1980s 8-bit video game titled Fix-It Felix Jr. that glorified its hero: Felix (Jack McBrayer); he rebelled and dreamt of being a hero within another sci-fi Hero's Duty game that featured a hero named Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch); his rogue efforts caused a Cy-Bug enemy to take over another of the arcade's racing games, Sugar Rush, where he met and assisted a "glitch" racer named Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman)
  • a CGI-animated film
  • a very successful film: the 13th highest-grossing (domestic) film of the year, with $189.4 million, and $471.2 million (worldwide), with a production budget of $165 million
  • one-time Academy Award nominee: Best Animated Feature Film, losing to Brave (2012)
Frozen (2013)
  • inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's original lengthy 1845 fairy tale The Snow Queen; this Disney animation was the second instance of using an Andersen fairy tale as the basis of a full-length feature film (the first was The Little Mermaid (1989))
  • in the story, fearless Princess Anna (Kristen Bell) journeyed with rugged iceman Kristoff (Jonathan Groff), his loyal pet reindeer Sven, and a naïve singing snowman Olaf (Josh Gad) to find her estranged sister Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel); her quest was also to end the eternal frozen winter of their kingdom of Arendelle unwittingly unleashed by Queen Elsa after her coronation
  • it was the 6th highest-grossing (domestic) film of the year at $400.7 million, and $1.28 billion (worldwide), with a production budget of $150 million
  • at the time, it was the highest-grossing (worldwide) animated feature film of all time
  • at the time, it was the highest-earning (domestic) film with a female director until surpassed by Warner Bros.' Wonder Woman (2017)
  • created as a 3D CGI animation, and considered one of the strongest and best of Disney's animated releases since the year 2000
  • a two-time Academy Award Oscar winner: Best Original Song (Let It Go), and Best Animated Feature Film
Big Hero 6 (2014)
  • this was Disney's first animated film featuring Marvel Comic's superhero characters; it was inspired by Marvel's superhero comic book series of the same name
  • created as a 3D CGI animation
  • the story was set in the futuristic fictional city of San Fransokyo, where two young robotics prodigies lived: brothers Hiro (Ryan Potter) and Tadashi Hamada (Daniel Henney); when a crisis instigated by mysterious, Kabuki-masked criminal (later revealed to be San Fransokyo Institute of Technology robotics teacher Professor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell) - also known as Yokai) threatened the city, Hiro formed a superhero team (with his deceased older brother's four best friends) to combat the villain with Tadashi's upgraded and modified Baymax (Scott Adsit) fighting and flying robotic machine
  • it was the 9th highest-grossing (domestic) film of the year at $222.5 million, and $657.8 million (worldwide), and with a production budget of $165 million
  • an Academy Award winner (its sole nomination): Best Animated Feature Film
Zootopia (2016)
  • this was Disney's third single-story animated feature film (after Robin Hood (1973) and Chicken Little (2005)) to use anthropomorphic characters
  • the film was set in the city of Zootopia, where cheerful and idealistic bunny rabbit Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) had taken a job as a police officer; she crossed paths with fast-talking con-man Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a wily red fox - an unlikely partner who helped her solve a missing-persons case; together, they also had to face a threatening conspiracy of savage predatory mammals
  • a highly-successful film - the 7th highest-grossing (domestic) film of the year at $341.3 million, and $1.024 billion (worldwide), with an estimated budget of $150 million; it was Disney's highest-grossing (domestic) film since Frozen (2013)
  • at the time, it became the sixth animated feature film of all-time to pass $1 billion (worldwide), following Frozen (2013), Minions (2015), Toy Story 3 (2010), Despicable Me 3 (2017), and Finding Dory (2016)
  • an Academy Award winner: Best Animated Feature Film - this marked the 3rd film in Disney's series of Animated Feature Films to win the Oscar, after Frozen (2013) and Big Hero 6 (2014); it was competing in the category against another Disney film, Moana (2016)
Moana (2016)
  • the feature animation's story was set in the Polynesian islands of the South Pacific
  • it was significant for featuring a title character who was Polynesian (the second after Lilo in Lilo & Stitch (2002)); she was also the first Polynesian Disney Princess
  • conventionally animated with CGI
  • the story revolved around young, 16 year-old strong-willed future chieftess, Princess Moana Waialiki (Auli’i Cravalho) on the island of Motunui, who embarked on an adventure across the ocean seas to repossess the stolen heart of her island's benevolent creator goddess named Te Fiti, with assistance from the legendary, dark, shape-shifting demi-god Maui (Dwayne Johnson)
  • the 13th highest-grossing (domestic) film of the year at $248.8 million, and $690.8 million (worldwide), with an estimated production budget of $150 million
  • with two Academy Award nominations: Best Animated Feature Film (competing against Disney's own Zootopia (2016) that won), and Best Original Song (How Far I'll Go)
Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
  • sequel to the earlier Wreck-It-Ralph (2012)
  • the first sequel from the studio since Fantasia 2000 (1999)
  • with one Academy Award nomination: Best Animated Feature Film (lost in competition against Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018))
Frozen II (2019)
  • sequel to the earlier Frozen (2013), and set three years later
  • the highest-grossing Disney Animated Studio Film of all-time, at $466.9 million (domestic), and the second-highest grossing (worldwide) behind The Lion King (2019) at $1.406 billion

The Present State of Animated Films:

Robert Zemekis directed The Polar Express (2004), a film that further developed motion capture technology. It was marked by the first innovative use of the process of 'Performance Capture' -- an advanced motion capture system by which an actor’s live performances were digitally captured by computerized cameras, and became a human blueprint for creating virtual, all-digital characters. This allowed actor Tom Hanks to play many very different characters (the boy, the father, the conductor, the hobo, and Santa Claus) in the same film. Zemeckis went even further with this technique in his later films (either produced or directed) including the haunted house film Monster House (2006), and the modern adaptation of the epic poem Beowulf (2007). As advances were made in the technique, it was clear that it would become more widespread and sophisticated as a special effects technique in the 2000s and into the future.

Curious GeorgeOne of the few big-budget cel-animated films being released in the crowd of CGI films was the adaptation of Margret and H.A. Rey's classic children's book series titled Curious George (2006), starring the inquisitive monkey named George and Will Ferrell as the kind Man in the Yellow Hat who transported the orphaned George from Africa to America for a series of misadventures. George Miller (known for Babe (1995)) directed Happy Feet (2006) - the best Animated Feature Oscar-winning CGI-animated song-and-dance musical. It told about a group of Antarctic Emperor Penguins (created by CGI) who prided themselves on each having a "heartsong" to attract a mate. One young and unique penguin, named Mumble (voice of Elijah Wood) - the son of Elvis-like Memphis (voice of Hugh Jackman) and breathy Norma Jean (voice of Nicole Kidman), was considered an outsider because he couldn't sing but his real talent was tap-dancing.

Walt Disney Animation Studio Feature Films (1937-present)
The Decade of the 2020s
No. Title Screen Title (Year) Notables

Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)
  • set in the fictional Southeast Asian realm of Kumandra
  • featuring almost entirely non-white characters; amongst Disney princesses, Raya was the first Southeast Asian Princess
  • opened in the spring of 2021 in theaters and on Disney+ with premier access
Encanto (2021)
  • a computer-animated musical fantasy comedy
  • it marked the studio’s first return to South America in more than twenty years, and featured a diverse and charming family of Colombians
  • it was the second Disney animated film released in 2021 (following Raya and the Last Dragon)
  • original songs were written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (it was his first musical film)

Strange World (2022)
  • a computer-animated science-fiction adventure film, with the tagline: "Journey to a place where nothing is as it appears!"
  • the Clades, a family of explorers, ventured into an uncharted and treacherous land with fantastic creatures
  • the second Walt Disney Animation Studios film to be rated PG for action/peril and some thematic elements by the MPA, after Frozen II (2019)
  • the first Disney animated film to receive a "B" grade on CinemaScore from audiences, the lowest for any animated Disney feature
Wish (2023)
  • a musical-fantasy film, about a 17 year-old girl named Asha who lived in the kingdom of Rosas in the Mediterranean Sea, who wished upon a star to save Rosas and overpower sorcerer Magnifico, with the tagline: "Be careful what you wish for"

DreamWorks' Shrek Installments:

Sequels were inevitable for the most successful animations, so DreamWorks' Shrek 2 (2004) appeared, with its original character-voices including Mike Myers (as green ogre Shrek), Cameron Diaz (as Fiona), and Eddie Murphy (as wise-cracking Donkey). The fairy tale couple returned from their honeymoon to find the bride's family in the land of Far, Far Away - Shrek's in-laws King Harold (John Cleese) and Queen (Julie Andrews), who are unhappy with her decision to marry an ogre. Additional characters included talk-show host Larry King as the voice of Fiona's Ugly Stepsister, Rupert Everett as foppish Prince Charming, Antonio Banderas as Zorro-style assassin Puss-in-Boots, and Jennifer Saunders as a plotting fairy godmother. [The third installment was Shrek the Third (2007), which brought back the entire cast from the second film, as well as adding additional stars, while the fourth installment Shrek Forever After (2010) took Shrek, suffering from a mid-life crisis and family life, to an alternate universe after signing a magical contract with Rumpelstiltskin. where the trickster reigned with witches. Shrek had only one day to receive "true love's kiss" from Fiona, a hefty Brunhilde-like leader of the Ogre Resistance.]

DreamWorks' Shrek Films
Title Screen
Millions of Dollars of Box-Office Gross
Millions of Dollars of Box-Office Gross
Domestic Notables
(as of the end of 2017)
Shrek (2001)
17th highest-grossing animation of all-time; PG-rated
Shrek 2 (2004)
2nd highest-grossing animation of all-time; PG-rated
Shrek the Third (2007)
12th highest-grossing animation of all-time; PG-rated
Shrek Forever After (2010)
25th highest-grossing animation of all-time; PG-rated

See all DreamWorks' Animated Feature Films Title Screens

Dreamworks/PDI would revisit the insect world, with Bee Movie (2007), about a bee named Barry B. Benson (voice of comedian Jerry Seinfeld) who had a forbidden friendship with a New York City florist named Vanessa (voice of Renée Zellweger), with an all-star cast including Alan Arkin, Kathy Bates, Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Larry King, William H. Macy, and Oprah Winfrey, among others. The Oscar-nominated, dark, autobiographical black and white 2-D animated film Persepolis (2007, Iran/Fr./Us) based on her best-selling graphic novels, illustrated how political repression during the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran extended deeply into the life of the coming-of-age main female character, Marjane (or Marji) Satrapi (voice of Chiara Mastroianni), through various anecdotes.

With original storylines drying up, syndicated comic strip characters, such as the lazy, wise-cracking orange feline named Garfield (voice of Bill Murray), became an animated star in the live action/CGI hybrid film Garfield: The Movie (2004). The wacky and fast-paced, primitively-animated film The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004), with its main character -- a yellow man-made sea sponge with legs and a red tie -- was a spin-off from the long-running Nickelodeon TV cartoon show. Another effort from the DreamWorks animation team (and released by Paramount), PG-rated Over the Hedge (2006), was a loose adaptation of a popular newspaper comic strip of the same name. It told the story of a group of wildlife forest animals, led by a turtle named Verne (Garry Shandling) and mischievous raccoon RJ (voiced by Bruce Willis), who felt the effects of encroaching human beings. It became the tenth highest grossing film of 2006, with the possibility of a sequel, but was overlooked for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.

Waltz with Bashir (2008) was the first animated film to be nominated in the Best Foreign Film Oscar category. Functioning partially as an oral-history documentary, the introspective, dream-like anti-war polemic was a confessional account of director Ari Folman's devastating and traumatic experience as a young Israeli soldier during his country's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and its massacre of Palestinian refugees. It took two years to animate, and was done by a team of artists who combined hand-drawing with the latest technology - resulting in thick-lined, near-monochromatic animated images frequently seen in strange yellowish light. The animators based their drawings on staged and videotaped interviews, although the end result looked similar in some ways to the rotoscope technique used in Linklater's film Waking Life (2001).

The SimpsonsThe longest-running, prime-time television cartoon series was The Simpsons - it premiered in December 1989 on the FOX channel. The iconic, culturally-significant animated show was created by Life in Hell cartoonist Matt Groening. An offshoot was their first feature length film, The Simpsons Movie (2007), starring the yellow-skinned, irreverent and misfit family featuring oafish father and nuclear plant manager Homer (voice of Dan Castellaneta), worrywart gravel-voiced, blue-haired mother Marge (voice of Julie Kavner), 10-year-old mischievous, troublemaker son Bart (voice of Nancy Cartwright), 8-year-old ecologically-minded, overachieving vegetarian Buddhist sister Lisa (voice of Yeardley Smith), and pacifier-sucking toddler Maggie.

Groening was also responsible for the science-fiction spoof Futurama that first aired in 1999 - a highly popular but less successful series set in the next millennium, starring "Generation-X" slacker Phillip J. Fry (voice of Billy West) - a 20th century NY pizza delivery boy who was cryogenically frozen by accident for 1,000 years, and woke up in a retro-futuristic world. It too was adapted into a feature-length film, Futurama: Bender's Big Score (2007), the first of a planned four films.

The Ultimate 3-D:

The decade of the 2000s saw advancements in 3D and an explosion of releases of both 3-D films and IMAX films. There were many varieties of 3-D, including Disney Digital 3D, Real D 3D, InTru3D, D-BOX, and IMAX 3D. And with many more theatres converted to the 3D format, that meant increased demand and bookings (and ticket prices) for 3D films. Would 3D be the future of filmmaking, a logical extension of CGI?

Disney's and Robert Zemeckis' Beowulf (2007) was released simultaneously in standard 2-D and non-Imax 3D versions and had the biggest 3-D rollout of any film in history (to date). Disney's and Zemeckis' 3-D A Christmas Carol (2009) was an adaptation of Dickens' 1843 classic story in which Jim Carrey played multiple roles, including old miser Scrooge (at different stages of his life) and the three Christmas ghosts. It was released in both Disney Digital 3-D and IMAX 3-D (it was the first Disney animated film released in this format), and to date, it was the most expensive 3D animation film ever made, budgeted at a production cost of $200 million.

The DreamWorks sci-fi spoof of 50s monster movies Monsters vs. Aliens (2009) was the first computer-animated feature film to be shot directly in stereoscopic 3-D -- dubbed the Ultimate 3-D. Previously, 3-D CGI films were made in a non 3-D version and then dimensionalized. The film was about the growth of Californian Susan Murphy (voice of Reese Witherspoon) who was hit by a meteor on her wedding day and grew to monstrous size (49 feet and 11 inches) and was named Ginormica.

Spy Kids 3D: Game Over (2003)More 3D animated releases in the 2000s included: The Polar Express (2004), Chicken Little (2005), Monster House (2006), Meet the Robinsons (2007), Bolt (2008), Coraline (2009), Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009), Up (2009), Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009), The Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), G-Force (2009), Astro Boy (2009), Disney's motion-capture A Christmas Carol (2009), James Cameron's and 20th Century Fox's science-fiction tale Avatar (2009), and Pixar's Toy Story 3 (2010) - to name just a few. Toy Story 3 (2010) quickly became the highest-grossing G-rated movie ever, and became the first 2010 release to cross $400 million in domestic gross box-office. A total of 10 3D animated features were wide-released in 2009 - a record. And four of 2010's 10 highest-grossing movies were animated - and released in 3-D: Pixar's Toy Story 3 (2010), Despicable Me (2010), Shrek Forever After (2010), and How To Train Your Dragon (2010).

In 2011, it was remarkable that the Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature film was not a Pixar film (no Pixar films were included among the nominees either), but Rango (2011), director Gore Verbinski's Western comedy-adventure.

Older films were also re-released in 3-D: The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D (2006, original 1993), Toy Story in 3D (2009, original 1995), and Toy Story 2 in 3D (2009, original 1999), and there were indications that the next phase of the 3-D Renaissance would be more 3D re-releases of classic blockbusters, such as Star Wars (1977), The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003), The Matrix (1999), Top Gun (1986), and Titanic (1997).

Wallace & Gromit Claymation and other Aardman Productions:

The British clay-animation studio Aardman Animations was most famous for the Wallace and Gromit series of 30-minute shorts with clay-animated characters, the first of which was A Grand Day Out (1989). Wallace was a befuddled, cheese-addicted Englishman inventor, with a silent, wily companion dog named Gromit. Before becoming recognized, Aardman produced by a series of popular television ads featuring singing California Raisins (named A.C., Red, Stretch and Bebop), along with claymation expert Will Vinton.

Wallace & GromitAardman's writer-director Nick Park was responsible for these hits: its first Oscar-winning Creature Comforts (1989) which examined how anthropomorphized zoo animals felt about being placed in confined locations. The thirty-minute mystery Wallace and Gromit - The Wrong Trousers (1993), its second Wallace and Gromit short, with a frantic toy-train finale - was the Academy Award winner for Best Animated Short Film. Likewise, Aardman's third half-hour short with Wallace and Gromit titled A Close Shave (1995) also won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film.

And then along with DreamWorks, Aardman produced their first feature film - the remarkable prison-break parody Chicken Run (2000) about an imprisoned group of egg-laying chickens plotting an escape. Mel Gibson starred as a cocky Yankee rooster. Its denial of a Best Picture nomination led to the creation of the Best Animated Feature category - first available for eligible films in the year 2001. The horror spoof Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (2005) was the first feature-length film starring the pair, and the first stop-motion/'claymation' film to win the Best Animated Feature Academy Award.

The animated comedy Flushed Away (2006), was co-produced by Aardman Feature Films and DreamWorks Animation - it was Aardman Films' first completely CGI film about an aristocratic rat named Roddy (voice of Hugh Jackman) whose life was ruined by a low-brow ruffian rat named Sid (voice of Shane Richie). The film was originally to be stop-motion claymation, but due to the abundance of water effects, the entire film was transformed into CGI -- however, the characters still resembled Aardman's trademark plasticene characters.

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