The film’s performance was especially surprising in China, where Zootopia’s gross actually expanded 139% from its opening weekend, pulling in a $56.5m weekend. The movie has now accrued $109m in China (a record for a Disney/Pixar movie in the People’s Republic) and could go on to surpass the $149m gross of Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda 3 to become the highest-grossing animated feature of all-time in China.
Should Zootopia outgross KFP3 in China, it would be a hugely embarrassing blow to Dreamworks head Jeffrey Katzenberg, who has hinged his company’s future on the Chinese market, and who has spent years building Oriental Dreamworks on the theory that he understands what kind of animation Chinese audiences want to see. Kung Fu Panda 3 was supposed to have been perfectly calibrated to Chinese tastes, yet the film could cede its box office record to Disney, which made no such attempt with Zootopia to custom-design the film for Chinese audiences.
On the bright side for KFP3, the film was the #2 film around the world last weekend, after Zootopia, thanks to a major offshore expansion. The film added $28.6m internationally, boosting its foreign total to $219.5m. Domestically, the film earned an estimated $1.7m in its seventh weekend, lifting its US total to $136.4m. Its global gross is $355.9m to date, and it will almost certainly end up underperforming compared to the first two films in the franchise.
Let’s also take a moment to make a general point about animation. The top three film releases in the United States this year so far are Deadpool ($328.1m), Zootopia ($142.6m), and Kung Fu Panda 3 ($136.4m). Not only are two of those films animated, but Deadpool was directed by an animator. Hollywood doesn’t give our art form or its practitioners much (if any) respect, but audiences have made it abundantly clear whose work they prefer.