3 Major Animation Studios
Walt Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks have all created enough animation feature films to get audiences attention with large fan bases stretching across the globe. Each animation studio has gained substantial attention for their keen eyes when it comes to creating animation movies which get noticed, not only for their storyline's but their unique animation technology.
Animation movies are blockbusters in waiting as all three of the film studios in this comparison have proven with some of their more successful movies. Two animation movies have even passed the billion dollar mark, ranking in the top 12 grossing movies of all time, including Disney's Frozen and Pixar's Toy Story 3.
Everyone has a childhood favourite animation movie which is why most, would probably sway more towards Disney as the top contender out of the 3 studios. However since Pixar and DreamWorks started producing animation feature films, the animation world tipped upside down changing everyone's outlook of the animation genre forever.
If you are like myself, an animation nut, watching all animation movies as and when they are released, or just a fan of animation then read on to find out which animation company is leading the way.
Walt Disney Animation
Walt Disney Animation Studios, a division of Walt Disney Studios, produces animation feature shorts, films and television specials. The studio has produced 53 feature films, the first being Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), and its latest release being Frozen (2013). Walt Disney Animation are apart of one of the big six major studios in Hollywood, which gives them an edge with a serious amount of funding and backing for their projects.
In list order, Disney's weaknesses include:
- Operating in a competitive market - alongside Pixar (although, owned by Disney) and DreamWorks, Aardman Animations, Blue Sky Studios (subsidiary of 20th Century Fox) and Illumination Entertainment (subsidiary of Universal Studios) etc.
- Although a highly popular brand, Walt Disney Animation could put a dent in its own brand if it was to release unpopular (labelled bad) movies too often, even if they made a profit.
- Relying heavily on the child market with its animated feature film releases, as children change constantly in what they want to see in an animated movie. This making it unpredictable as to whether or not a Disney animated feature film will succeed or not.
In list order, Disney's strengths include:
- Division of a big six Hollywood studio, Walt Disney Studios.
- Longest running animation studio, which means they have experience in the field.
- In their time as an animation studio, they have gained worldwide recognition for their work, with a large fan base in love with Disney's animated movies.
- Known for their musical elements which are brought to the animated feature films, setting them apart from the competition (carving their niche).
- More animation film releases than any other animation studio, currently totalling at 53 feature films.
- Disney almost always see a profit from their animated feature film releases.
Disney Animation- Box Office
Disney Animation movies which passed a worldwide gross of $400 million include:
- Beauty and the Beast (1991) - Global Gross - $424,967,620
- Aladdin (1992) - Global Gross - $504,050,219
- The Lion King (1994) - Global Gross - $987,483,777
- Tarzan (1999) - Global Gross - $448,191,819
- Tangled (2010) - Global Gross - $591,794,936
- Wreck-It Ralph (2012) - Global Gross - $471,222,889
- Frozen (2013) - Global Gross - $1,272,346,009
Totalling just 7 of the giant 53 animated feature films which have been produced by Disney, have went on to gross $400 million or more, which is quite shocking. At the box office, a movie must gross more than $575 million to make it onto the top 100 grossing movies of all time list, which generally says it all, as to how competitive the market is.
Your Disney Verdict
Walt Disney's Animation Studios have evidently gotten stronger and more powerful as a Company since their first release back in 1937 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which was a mere taste of the success which was to come. Disney were once questioned for their abilities as an animation studio, by people who said Walt Disney's animation movies were ridiculous, and nothing more than a dream world. To be blunt, these days, we scream out for dream worlds to be created in Hollywood, so honestly where would we be today if it hadn't been for the risk takers and dreamers like Walt Disney.
As evidence of how far Disney have come with their animation division, here is the comparison between their first animation feature films global gross and their latest animation feature releases global gross;
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
- Global Gross - $7,846,000
- Budget - $1,488,423
- Frozen (2013)
- Global Gross - $1,272,346,009
- Budget - $150,000,000
Based on the strengths and weaknesses for Walt Disney Animation Studios, my verdict is simple, Disney's Animation division is stronger than ever with some great releases as of lately.
Pixar Animation Studios, a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company, produces animated feature shorts and films. The studio has produced 14 feature films, the first being Toy Story (1995) and its latest release being Monsters University (2013). Since Pixar are apart of the Walt Disney Studios Company, which is one of the big six Hollywood studios they have good funding and a recognised brand to back their company.
In list order, Pixar's weaknesses include:
- Operating in a competitive market- Walt Disney Animation, DreamWorks, Aardman Animation, Blue Sky Studios (subsidiary of 20th Century Fox) and Illumination Entertainment (subsidiary of Universal Studios) etc.
- The stakes are high- Pixar invests a lot of money into their projects, which can have a negative effect on the company if the movie flops. For instance in 3 Pixar movies recently, they invested budgets of $200 million, and the movies include Toy Story 3, Cars 2, and Monsters University, which luckily paid off as all 3 went on to become a box office success.
- Long development time for each movie- Pixar take their time when it comes to producing movies, which causes them to produce less movies overall each year. If they were to produce more movies each year then they would increase the earning potential for the company if those movies were to succeed at the box office.
In list order, Pixar's strengths include:
- A strong CGI-animation company which they use to create their animation feature shorts and films.
- Not the longest track record, with 14 feature film releases, however all of these movies have gone on to make a substantial profit.
- In their time as an animation studio, they have gained commercial and critical success worldwide for their work.
- Pixar are well known for producing original films and Pixar have made a promise to produce one original movie each year with sequels every other year.
- Pixar are well known for only accepting scripts from people working for Pixar (whether this is a strength, is up for debate).
Pixar Animation- Box Office
Pixar Animation movies which passed a worldwide gross of $400 million include:
- Toy Story 2 (1999) - Global Gross - $485,015,179
- Monsters, Inc. (2001) - Global Gross - $562,816,256
- Finding Nemo (2003) - Global Gross - $936,743,261
- The Incredibles (2004) - Global Gross - $631,442,092
- Cars (2006) - Global Gross - $461,983,149
- Ratatouille (2007) - Global Gross - $623,722,818
- WALL-E (2008) - Global Gross - $521,311,860
- Up (2009) - Global Gross - $731,342,744
- Toy Story 3 (2010) - Global Gross - $1,063,171,911
- Cars 2 (2011) - Global Gross - $559,852,396
- Brave (2012) - Global Gross - $538,983,207
- Monsters University (2013) - Global Gross - $743,559,607
A total of 12 out of the 14 movies produced by Pixar have gone on to gross more than $400 million, which is quite amazing considering only 2 movies grossed under $400 million worldwide. Then again, even the 2 which didn't hit the $400 million mark, still grossed more than $300 million, which is still an amazing achievement (Toy Story- global gross- $361,958,736 and A Bugs Life- global gross- $363,398,565).
Your Pixar Verdict
Pixar's Animation Studios have produced some of the more memorable animation feature films which stand out from the crowd, with original and unique storyline's. Pixar's arrival changed the way audiences saw animation as for the first time, an animation studio was able to compete with Walt Disney's animation movies. Pixar made their movie début with Toy Story (1995), which exceeded expectations, both commercially and critically with an original storyline unlike any other. Even today Pixar's Toy Story, is seen as being one of the best animation movies ever made due to how realist the CGI-animation was.
As evidence of how far Pixar have come since their first movie release in 1995, here is a comparison between their first animation feature films global gross and their latest animation feature releases global gross;
- Toy Story (1995)
Global Gross - $361,958,736
Budget - $30,000,000
- Monsters University (2013)
Global Gross - $743,559,607
Budget - $200,000,000
Having looked at Pixar's releases, past and present, it is clear to see that Pixar are doing well in terms of producing animation movies everyone wants to watch. My verdict, based on the information shown above for Pixar, is that they are stronger now and going strong. They are a stones throw away from dominating the animation film market, however they still need to continue the success they have been gathering recently.
DreamWorks Animation SKG, Inc., an independently run animation studio, creates animation feature shorts, films, television programs and virtual worlds. The studio has produced 29 feature films, the first being Antz (1998) and its latest release being How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014). DreamWorks SKG, the original owner of DreamWorks Animation SKG, was founded in 1994 by Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen, whose surnames make up the SKG at the end of the company's title. Now run independently, DreamWorks Animation SKG, has no involvement or financial support from DreamWorks SKG and vice versa. Not like DreamWorks Animation SKG need the financial support, with some of the highest grossing movies of all time produced by the company. Not to mention, all of its feature films together have made $11 billion worldwide (as of June 2013), with its $430 million average gross per movie released.
DreamWorks Animation's Weaknesses
In list order, DreamWorks Animation's weaknesses include:
- Operating in a competitive market- Walt Disney Animation, Pixar, Aardman Animation, Blue Sky Studios (subsidiary of 20th Century Fox) and Illumination Entertainment (subsidiary of Universal Studios) etc.
- Does not have a strong financial backing- long-term negative effect will cause a qualitative issue which the company must overcome. Unlike Disney, unfortunately DreamWorks Animation do not have any financial backing from a major studio, which can result in a smaller budget on movies depending and longer investments.
- Heavily relying on major studios for the distribution of their movies.
- Weaker brand name than Disney- this may have a long-term negative effect on the company's profit.
- Newer Animation Studio Company- This will have a long-term negative effect on the company's profit.
DreamWorks Animation's Strengths
In list order, DreamWorks Animation's strengths include:
- A strong brand name- DreamWorks (feels creative, unique and right for animation creation).
- Producing unique movies, which are aimed towards a broad market, appealing to both younger and older audiences.
- The right technology- allows DreamWorks Animation to create better movies.
- A loyal fan base- DreamWorks Animation have loyal fans, who specifically watch their movies purely because it is their movies (building trust).
DreamWorks Animation- Box Office
DreamWorks Animation movies which passed a worldwide gross of $400 million include:
- Shrek (2001) - Global Gross - $484,409,218
- Shrek 2 (2004) - Global Gross - $919,838,758
- Madagascar (2005) - Global Gross - $532,680,671
- Shrek the Third (2007) - Global Gross - $798,958,162
- Kung Fu Panda (2008) - Global Gross - $631,744,560
- Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa (2008) - Global Gross - $603,900,354
- How to Train Your Dragon (2010) - Global Gross - $494,878,759
- Shrek Forever After (2010) - Global Gross - $752,600,867
- Kung Fu Panda 2 (2011) - Global Gross - $665,692,281
- Puss in Boots (2011) - Global Gross - $554,987,477
- Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (2012) - Global Gross - $746,921,274
- The Croods (2013) - Global Gross - $587,204,668
- How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) -Global Gross - $424,129,000
A total of 13 out of the 29 movies produced by DreamWorks Animation have gone on to gross more than $400 million, which is a shame considering that is less than half of their feature film releases. However there were a few movies released by DreamWorks Animation which managed to hit the $300 million point, which is worth mentioning as a side note. Here are the movies which managed to hit $300, but not quite $400 million worldwide:
- Shark Tale (2004) - Global Gross - $367,275,019
- Over the Hedge (2006) - Global Gross - $336,002,996
- Monsters vs. Aliens (2009) - Global Gross - $381,509,870
- Megamind (2010) - Global Gross - $321,885,765
- Rise of the Guardians (2012) - Global Gross - $306,941,670
I brought up the point about the movies which hit the $300 million point in worldwide gross, to make it clear that DreamWorks do have more success than it originally seems like, looking at the $400 million point. In fact, only one DreamWorks feature film made a loss, which all in all, isn't a bad result for the company.
Your DreamWorks Animation Verdict
DreamWorks Animation Verdict
DreamWorks Animation SKG may not have been around for quite as long as Disney or in fact Pixar, but they have created many titles, most of which have had a positive outcome. DreamWorks Animation has carved a niche for itself in the market quite nicely, which aims towards a broad market, younger and older which is worth pointing out as it allows families to find a bit of humour which can appeal to all ages, which Disney and Pixar haven't done quite as well in my opinion. A DreamWorks Animation movie, is unlike any other, with unique storyline's, unique characters (usually funny) and unique settings. DreamWorks Animation is today's favourite for a lot of people, with a more up to date appearance, which reflects in the movies grossing over time. DreamWorks made their movie début with Antz (1998), which did alright at the box office, considering it was their first ever animation movie release.
As evidence of how far DreamWorks Animation have come since their first movie release in 1998, here is a comparison between their first animation feature films global gross and their latest animation feature film releases global gross;
- Antz (1998)
Global Gross- $171,757,863
- How to Train Your Dragon 2
Global Gross- $424,129,000
Having looked at DreamWorks Animation's releases, past and present, taking into account the vast number of weaknesses which the company has, it is easy to see that DreamWorks have not got quite as much power as Disney or Pixar. The fact remains that DreamWorks Animation SKG operate independently, which weakens their company substantially when it comes to investments, as they do not have the strong financial backing like Disney have. So, my verdict for DreamWorks stands at, great future prospects in terms of what success could lye in DreamWorks future, however at the present time, DreamWorks lack financial backing to be the strongest contender out of the three, Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks Animation.
Settling the Feud!
Settling the feud, once and for all! Well, all things considered, Walt Disney have proven to have the muscle when it comes to finances, being a major studio in Hollywood (one of the ''Big Six'') certainly has its advantages. On the other hand, Pixar, a subsidiary of Walt Disney Studios, has proved they can bring in the money, with an average gross of $607 million (per movie release). Not forgetting, Dreamworks Animation SKG, Inc., an independently run animation studio, which comes in second place behind Pixar, with an average gross of $430 million average (per movie release).
So, just which of the three major animation studios is in the lead, leaving the other two playing a game of catch up? The answer is simple, taking into account, the amount of movies currently being made by the studios, the gross profit made per movie, the flexibility in finance and the quantity and quality of the movies being produced, would be Pixar Animation Studios.
Why Pixar? Well, I have chosen Pixar because of the success rate which they receive per movie, which is phenomenal, however I have taken into account that Pixar are currently only producing a single movie each year but the success per movie cannot go unnoticed.
In second place, Walt Disney Animation, which have done unbelievably well in the last couple of years, showing glimpses of the success, Walt Disney Animation had back in the 90's with the likes of Tangled (2010), Wreck-It Ralph (2012) and the latest release, Frozen (2013). It also just so happens that Frozen (2013) is Walt Disney Animation's highest grossing movie so far, currently standing at a worldwide gross of $1,272,346,009, placing at number 5, on the top grossing box office movies of all time list.
Last but in no means least in third place, DreamWorks Animation, which have done very well in the last few years, with a new animated film series which seems to have hit off well, called How to Train Your Dragon (2010), which has recently had a sequel released, How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014), with a third instalment due out in 2016. Some may wonder why DreamWorks Animation, isn't placed at number 1. My reasoning is simple, DreamWorks Animation, simply lack consistency in big profits, exceeding into $500 million or more, lack backing for funding, and their brand name, although strong, is weaker than Disney's which can have long-term effects on profit.
Other ways of settling the feud include:
Profits (Past Decade, 2004-Present)
- Total gross from all movie releases - $3,533,259,771
- Total gross from all movie releases - $5,875,369,784
- Total gross from all movie releases - $10,636,272,369
Highest Overall Gross (past decade) - Winner - DreamWorks Animation
Production Efficiency (Past Decade, 2004-Present)
- Total movies produced - 9 (averaging 1 movie release per year)
- Total movies produced - 9 (averaging 1 movie release per year)
- Total movies produced - 22 (averaging 2 movie releases per year)
Most Feature Films Released (Past Decade) - Winner - DreamWorks Animation
Average Gross Per Movie (Past Decade, 2004-Present)
- Average gross per movie - $350 million
- Average gross per movie - $607 million
- Average gross per movie - $430 million
Highest Average Gross Per Movie (Past Decade) - Winner - Pixar Animation
Thank you for taking the time aside to read this article, if you have any thoughts then please drop them in the comments box below.
Dreammore (author) from British Empire on November 25, 2016:
Thanks for leaving a comment, a huge fan myself of DreamWorks Animation and my top favourite DreamWorks (animation) movie has to be How to Train Your Dragon (2010). Brilliant movie, and their entire selection of currents and up-and-coming releases are all well worth the time and money to watch.
Cj on November 25, 2016:
Maybe Pixar will be the top of the three in making profits bt i still love Dreamworks the best! The stories are funny and erm funny again (their jokes are very original i would say)!Altho i love also the Disney n Pixar films bt i support Dreamworks fully!The Croods, HTTYD movies and also series, madagascar movies, kung fu panda movies, the road to el derado...Disney often produces meaningful movies(which is very good though) whereas Dreamworks n Pixars produce light hearted movies n also meaningful of course(bt nt every movies haha) Going to watch Trolls(i know it had been came out for weeks aldy haha but time..) Looking forward to Boss Baby n Coco!
Dreammore (author) from British Empire on November 22, 2016:
Thanks for the comment. A bit of a late reply but that would not have been a problem.
Dreammore (author) from British Empire on November 22, 2016:
Sorry for the late replies.
Thanks for the hi.
Jason Mackenzie from Perth WA 6000 on November 10, 2016:
Disney represents my childhood. I love big hero! I believe there'll be more good productions from Disney in near future :)
Val on November 04, 2016:
Tangled, Wreck-it-Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6 and Zootopia, and the upcoming Moana which is getting incredible early buzz? Disney, gentlemen, is on top again.
Natasha on September 28, 2016:
I'm going to write a report about comparing these 3 entertainments. I will leave your site on my report. Is it OK? Thank You.
jenna on September 28, 2016:
Hi I'm Jenna.
Dreammore (author) from British Empire on June 20, 2016:
Pixar is like yourself my favourite studio, having also made some of my all-time favourite animated movies, including Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and probably Toy Story 2. But, as you have quite rightly said, Pixar have slumped slightly due to their irritability in focusing on mediocrely made sequels, but Toy Story's have always remained great entertainment (and emotion driven), but the others are a little average for my taste. However, thankfully for the studio there is a Toy Story 4 in their line-up for up-and-coming movies, so that should shed some more positive light on the studio.
DreamWorks, like you have said, offer the fun and laughs but little of the emotion.
Which just leaves Walk Disney Animation studios who have slid from their top spot on the animation scene since the 90s, but with the outrageous success of Frozen and Zootopia, it is likely that the studio may be battling for the top spot again. Good luck Disney.
Ced Yong from Asia on June 20, 2016:
For over ten years since Finding Nemo, I was a hardcore Pixar fan. To the extent I make a whole ritual of watching any Pixar movie; sitting very str8 when the light hops in etc. (LOL) Because of that, I tend to disregard the films by the other two. On another level, I would confidently say that Pixar, at its peak, way surpassed competitors because of its superiority in storytelling. There were meaning and emotion in its tales, not just comedy and action. Many DreamWorks movies, for example, were just comedic fun.
Sadly though, Pixar seemed to be on a downslope. Sinking into sequel hell, as some say. I've honestly not enjoyed any Pixar movie that much since Toy Story 3. On the other hand, Disney shines with Frozen and this year's Zootopia. The way I see it, Disney is going to replace Pixar as Oscar animated film favourite. It's really quite sad, in a way, for me to see this happen.
Myron on May 10, 2016:
DreamWorks wins for me.
Most of their story plots are simply hilarious!!! I don't laugh as much when I watch the other two.
mike on August 14, 2015:
in my opinion,all three are great,however I would lean personally towards dreamworks as they make really memorable films my favourite being shrek 2,while all the shreks were top notch,disney also make great films with more classics than the other 2,while Pixar have made some great releases too,but to me even though they have the weakest funding are the best ,which is dreamworks,because in my opinion it should be about the quality of the films and not as much funding etc.,they have made some really great films which you would fall in love with,however I think you have a very good list,with some great points being raised,you really did your research!
leltop on May 11, 2015:
How to train your dragon has a gross of more than 600 million, might wanna change it.
Dreammore (author) from British Empire on March 05, 2015:
I like the point that you have made about Pixar and Lasseter, as it is down to John Lasseter that we have such a thriving Pixar studio, which has produced some of the best childhood memories- including the likes of Toy Story. But, Disney have not completely stepped away from animation, or in fact, at all. Disney have recently produced an animated feature film which grossed over a billion dollars (Frozen), which was a first for Disney animation studios. This brought back faith that Disney are getting set for an animated comeback, which in all honesty, would be welcomed by me, as I haven't seen Disney at this level since the 90's.
Vu on February 28, 2015:
I think that Disneys recent success can be attributed to the acquisition of Pixar and Lasseter taking control of the culture and bringing the magic back to Disney.
Dreammore (author) from British Empire on February 24, 2015:
I too love all of the animation studios, mostly because of the unique difference in the style of animation that they all bring to life on the big screen. And although I love both Disney (whom as you said were at there best in the past, especially in the 90's which was their glory decade) and DreamWorks, my favourite animation studio as of late is Pixar, as they are constantly surprising audiences with their creative and original ideas.
DreamWorks are an imaginative animation studio creating some of the biggest animated hits each year, most recently being that of How to Train Your Dragon 2, plus, not to mention they are also the most frequent when it comes to the releases. This of course being the likelihood behind your and a lot of other peoples sway to the favouring of DreamWorks, and who can argue when they also have the best studio intro of them all.
Riham on February 24, 2015:
Disney was more appealing to me in the past, but lately DreamWork has been my favorite. I still love all the three animation studios.
Dreammore (author) from British Empire on November 02, 2014:
Good to hear back from you again Patrick, and thanks for following. I too like the number of animation studios producing films, as it keeps them all on their toes and forces them to create better films. Illumination Entertainment is a shining example of a competitive studio, since their films seem to be getting better after each year that passes. Thank you Patrick for sharing your thoughts.
Patrick Rijnders from The Netherlands on November 01, 2014:
Illumination is definitely doing some great work. There are good, creative people working there and they are raising the bar. It's good that there are so many studios out there right now, because they are really pushing each other to make better things.
Dreammore (author) from British Empire on November 01, 2014:
I couldn't agree more with everything which you have said. I too have also watched Disney movies my entire life, but as you said, you can't go wrong with any of the animation studios out there today. It truly is the perfect time to get into watching animated feature films as animation studios are releasing some all-time great films, not to be missed. Personally, I'm intrigued by Illumination Entertainment as they have released some great films (one of which being Despicable Me; 1 & 2), and are set to release more interesting titles in the upcoming year.
Patrick Rijnders from The Netherlands on October 31, 2014:
Wow, you did your research! Personally, I'd go for Disney, because I've been watching their movies all my life, but you really can't go wrong with either of them nowadays. And the good thing is that there are a lot of other studios out there who also make great animated movies and who are growing bigger and bigger. Fox, Universal, Sony... It's a good time to be a fan of animation.