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2017 hasn't been the greatest year for animation. And yet, for one particular franchise, 2017 has been an amazing year. Specifically, when it comes to box office receipts. Thanks to a remarkable global performance for Despicable Me 3, the franchise has now become the highest-grossing animated franchise in the world bringing in a total of $2.428 billion dollars, just slightly edging out the Ice Age series who previously held the record.
The Despicable Me franchise is probably not the one you would peg as the highest-grossing in the world, and part of the reason for that is that, while the franchise has no problem making money domestically, it's much bigger on the global stage than it is here at home. According to Deadline, Despicable Me 3 has now grossed over $900 million around the world, but only about $250 million came from North America. It's just another example of how global the box office has become.
Despicable Me also has taken the box office crown with fewer films than it took Ice Age to do it. Somehow, there have been five Ice Age movies, while there have only been four in the Despicable Me series (in case you had mentally blocked the existence of Minions). Of course, the fact that either franchise has that many movies is the main reason that either one is even in competition from a crown like this one. While you might expect the granddaddy of animation, Disney, to be in contention, the fact is that, while the Mouse House has been more open to theatrical sequels in recent years, after being against them entirely for decades, there simply aren't very many Disney titles that have more than two movies. The Cars franchise can be counted as having five films only if you include the Planes spin-offs, and nobody does that. Beyond that, you only have the Toy Story series which is sitting at three entries with a fourth planned for release in 2019. Still, that franchise sits at less than $2 billion globally, so it's not going to be competing for the top even if part four sets records.
Domestically the Despicable Me franchise still has a way to go to overcome an entirely different animated franchise. Shrek is the box office champ here with a total take of just over $1.4 billion, while Despicable Me sits at just over $1.2 billion. It may take the planned Minions sequel for the franchise to become the highest-grossing animated series here, though there has been talk of a new Shrek movie too, so perhaps the two will remain in competition for the next few years.
While animated films overall have been more miss than hit this year, the folks of Illumination haven't really noticed.