With all of the talk about prime release dates and would-be blockbuster seasons, there is a long and healthy history of animated features kicking proverbial box office butt in the first few months of the year. We’ve got The LEGO Movie, the first two Ice Age movies,Rio and Rio 2, Rango, and a bunch of DreamWorks Animation movies scattered around this general area (Monsters v Aliens, The Croods, How to Train Your Dragon) over the years. Due to happenstance or circumstance, Walt Disney hasn’t released an in-house major-league toon in this spot since Meet the Robinsons way back in 2007. And now, with basically every other animation distribution channel having its way with the pre-summer season, it’s time for the Mouse House to kick a little butt here too. Enter Zootopia, which may well be the fairest of them all.
Bolstered by clever marketing campaign (including viral posters that spoofed popular and Oscar-nominated 2015 releases), near-perfect reviews, and the good fortune of having an uncommonly crowd-pleasing trailer play on nearly every single theatrical print of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Zootopia kicked off the month with a terrific $19.469 million Friday. The Friday figure includes $1.7m worth of Thursday previews, which is a record for a non-Pixar Walt Disney animated feature. The hard Friday number is merely the second best in this relative calendar point for an animated film. It trails only Ice Age 2 ($21m back in 2006) and is ahead of Monsters v Aliens ($16.7m in 2009), The Lorax ($17.5m in 2012), and The Lego Movie ($17m in 2014) regarding animated openings for this period.