Pixar's newest feature, Coco was a solid box office success in the United States and was loved by critics and audiences alike, but its success here is nothing compared to what the film has done in China. China has become a huge market for Hollywood films, but nobody expected Coco to do as well as it has. The film has grossed $167 in the country, which isn't just a lot of money. It's more than every movie Pixar released in China, combined.
You read that right. Every Pixar movie released in China prior to Coco had made a combined $166.97 million at the Chinese box office. Once Coco crossed the $167 million mark, which happened over this past weekend according to Forbes, the film single-handedly doubled Pixar's total box office in the region.
Pixar's previous total is a combination of 12 films, rather than the 18 the studio has produced, because six features, including the likes of Wall-E and The Incredibles, were never released in China. While that would seem to make Pixar's take in China seem out of proportion, the fact is that the reason several films were never released there is that Pixar has never had success in China. The highest grossing Pixar movie in China prior to Coco was Finding Dory with an unremarkable $38 million. Coco was expected to do no better than that itself, this level of success was a surprise to everybody.
The exact reason why Pixar movies tend to do so badly in China is unclear. Other animated films, like those from Disney's main studio, or the Illumination films such as the Despicable Me franchise, do perfectly fine there. While Pixar's films tend to resonate well with a North American audience, something about them doesn't seem to work in China.
By the same token, it's unclear what exactly works so well about Coco. Culturally, the story is further separated from China than any of the other lesser performing films Pixar has released. And yet, something about the story of a Mexican boy who travels to the Land of the Dead is just working. Nobody is as surprised as Coco's director Lee Unkrich, who tweeted his shock at the news that his film was doing so well.
While Coco is the biggest Pixar movie in the history of China, it's only in 16th place of 19 Pixar films domestically. The movie has put up a perfectly respectable total, but in this case, it seems that Coco actually resonates more with China than it does the US.