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How much animation costs per minute to produce.

Author: Hurst Digital |

How much animation costs per minute to produce.

How much does animation cost per minute? It is a question that gets asked a lot and we wondered how much do big budget animated films cost to produce. Trawling a variety of sources for the top grossing animated films, plus a few historical big hitters to see how some iconic traditional animations compare, we tried to put the numbers into perspective.

Take a look at the table with inflation adjusted numbers for 2020 and conclusions below.

How much to charge for animation
Alternatively, if you are a business looking to cost an entire project, try out my animation price guide.
TitleYearRuntimeGross adjusted*Budget adjustedCost/ min adjustedReturn per $1 adjusted
The Lion King (remake)2019118$1,672,717,736$262,353,309$2,223,333$6.38
The Lion King (original)199489$1,569,674,509$78,331,275$880,127$20.04
Frozen II2019103$1,456,285,815$151,357,678$1,469,492$9.62
Finding Nemo2003100$1,299,074,211$131,789,532$1,317,895$9.86
Incredibles 22018125$1,276,777,394$205,466,992$1,643,736$6.21
Toy Story 32010103$1,263,460,818$236,609,861$2,297,183$5.34
Shrek 2200493$1,256,123,482$204,847,273$2,202,659$6.13
Finding Dory2016105$1,106,632,022$214,969,563$2,047,329$5.15
Despicable Me 3201796$1,090,103,660$84,194,190$877,023$12.95
Toy Story 42019100$1,083,110,091$201,810,237$2,018,102$5.37
Despicable Me 2201398$1,074,998,451$84,160,578$858,781$12.77
Ice Age 3200994$1,066,200,631$108,220,912$1,151,286$9.85
Snow White193788$1,021,330,000$26,871,979$305,363$38.01
Shrek the Third200793$994,048,653$199,068,977$2,140,527$4.99
Ice Age 4201288$985,669,110$106,741,661$1,212,973$9.23
Secret Life of Pets2016100$940,984,052$80,613,586$806,136$11.67
101 Dalmatians196179$936,225,101$22,432,260$283,953$41.74
Inside Out2015102$933,430,142$190,471,253$1,867,365$4.90
Shrek 4201093$890,363,935$195,203,135$2,098,958$4.56
Madagascar 3201293$839,238,081$162,921,483$1,751,844$5.15
Monsters University2013104$824,141,846$221,475,207$2,129,569$3.72
The Jungle Book196789$674,048,285$30,122,362$338,454$22.38
The Simpsons Movie200791$667,396,502$93,313,583$1,025,424$7.15
Sleeping Beauty195976$664,864,273$53,189,896$699,867$12.50
Lady and the Tramp195376$509,881,443$38,647,340$508,518$13.19

Adjusting for inflation is a complex affair, with even boxofficemojo.com seemingly rather inconsistent with their calculations. For instance they state total box office for The Lion King as $968,511,805 yet on their own inflation adjusted page it comes in lower at $815,540,983. They also quote Fantasia as making $778m adjusted for inflation, but the film made a loss on its $2.28m budget until the 1969 re-release, a full 29 years after it was produced. It then only made $25m domestic in its 1990 re-release, so I would take the historical numbers with a punch of salt!

Animation Cost Conclusions https://www.hurstdigital.net

The Lion King original just loses out to the remake for the top spot when adjusted for inflation, moving from 12th to 2nd position, but for the same franchise to hold both top positions is quite an achievement. Other big movers when inflation adjusted are Finding Nemo from 13th to 5th and Shrek 2 from 14th to 9th, demonstrating why these franchises landed further sequels.

Illumination Entertainment have clearly found the secret to big returns on their animation budgets, with 4 films on this top grossing list (Minions, Despicable Me 2 & 3 and The Secret Life of Pets), that have production costs less than half of Disney/ Pixar movies. https://www.hurstdigital.net

animation cost per minute
Minions made big returns on its first box office release

Historical films made big gains (some times suspiciously big, I’m looking at you boxofficemojo.com) when including their re-releases and adjusted for inflation with Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs and 101 Dalmations taking top positions.

The older traditionally animated films return on their original box office releases were generally quite low compared to modern standards and occasionally not even recouping costs in their first year in the box office. Though these films are often later regarded with critical acclaim and go on to make huge gains with subsequent re-releases.

Cost per minute animation
Fantasia had a poor initial run at the box office, but later gained critical acclaim

The cost per minute to produce the traditionally animated films from the 1930s – 1960 was much lower than today even when adjusted for inflation. This is likely due to low paid animators pulling excessive unpaid overtime, including an army of women in the Ink and Paint department who barely made enough money to cover the rent.

Overall, animation is a high cost and labor intensive way to get a story to the screen, but there are big returns to be made, particularly with re-releases as a new generation of young audience members discover the films.