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Why The Highest Grossing Animated Movie Might Not Be Frozen II After All

"The Super Mario Bros. Movie" continues its meteoric rise to the top of the box office charts, with its total take continuing to balloon like it just took a mushroom. As of May 15, the film has grossed $1.2 billion worldwide, meaning it's now within the top 5 highest-grossing animated movies of all time. And the film is still doing well at the box office, so by the end of its run, there's a real possibility it could claim the number one spot, which begs the question of what is the highest grossing animated movie currently?

To emerge victorious, it'll have to outearn the present record holder — "Frozen II" — which holds a box office take of $1.45 billion. There's certainly a scenario where "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" beats it within the next few weeks; however, there's a bit of a caveat when it comes to what movie is actually the highest-earning animated movie. One could make the argument that the true winner is 2019's "The Lion King." While it follows in the trajectory of "live-action" Disney remakes, the film utilizes hyper-realistic CGI for its animals, so technically, it could be considered an animated film. "The Lion King" holds $1.66 billion worldwide, so if "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" wants the undisputed claim to the crown, it may have to beat that.

Lion King director Jon Favreau doesn't think the movie's animation

When "The Lion King" came out in 2019, it appeared no one could really make heads or tails on whether to consider it live-action or animated. Disney insisted the film was "live-action;" however, the Golden Globes nominated it for best animated feature. All but one shot of the movie was rendered digitally, so it's easy to see how such confusion has come up. 

President of Box Office Analyst, Doug Stone, had this to say: "I think of animated as a cartoon. I also don't think 'Lion King' is live-action. It's just a different animal." While the pun was surely unintended, the debate rages on, and director Jon Favreau has a similar opinion where he doesn't really consider "The Lion King" to be either one. He told SlashFilm, "It depends what standard you're using. Because there's no real animals and there's no real cameras and there's not even any performance that's being captured that's underlying data that's real. Everything is coming through the hands of artists. But to say it's animated I think is misleading as far as what the expectations might be."

For the sake of simplicity, it's probably easiest to say "Frozen II" is the highest-grossing animated film ever. It's clearly a cartoon and was meant to be considered animation, so when tracking the box office performance of "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," that's likely the best metric to go by. And besides, "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" will have enough competition coming down the pipeline when "Frozen III" inevitably comes out.