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'Frozen' is cash machine for Disney

April 1, 2014: 3:06 PM ET

By Brian Stelter

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Disney's 'Frozen' melted hearts and is now the biggest animated movie ever. But its success goes beyond the box office.

Just how big is Disney's "Frozen" franchise?

  • The movie has grossed more than $1 billion in ticket sales around the world.
  • It was released in November in the United States, yet it still ranked among the top 20 on last weekend's box office chart.
  • Its soundtrack has topped Billboard's album chart for seven straight weeks, and is expected to remain there this week.
  • DVD and Blu-ray sales of the movie totaled 3.2 million on its first day of release.
  • It ranked as Amazon.com's (AMZN) bestselling kids' movie of all time based on pre-order sales alone.
  • A movie clip of the song "Let It Go" has been seen on YouTube more than 165 million times.

  • And now the movie has made enough money at the box office to surpass "Toy Story 3" (another Disney film ... albeit from Pixar) and become the No. 1 animated film of all time.

Disney (DIS) announced the milestone on Sunday after a weekend's worth of box office receipts were tallied in Japan. (The movie opened in theaters there on March 14.)

Related: Disney buys YouTube video producer Maker Studios

At the same time, "Frozen" became one of the top ten highest-grossing movies of all time. It bumped another Disney flick, "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," out of the top ten.

The records don't take inflation or higher ticket prices into account. Still, it was a huge achievement for Disney and a demonstration of the enduring power of big media companies to create big new franchises -- even in a fragmented media marketplace.

Disney bragged in a press release that the movie "remained in the top 10 films at the domestic box office for 16 consecutive weeks, the longest run by any film since 2002."

Related: How things got ugly between Disney's ABC and Josh Elliott

What's striking about "Frozen" is how it continues to resonate, thanks in part to "Let It Go," which won the Oscar for best original song.

"Frozen" also won the Oscar for best animated feature -- marking the first time that Walt Disney Animation Studios picked up that award. The Oscar wins were perfectly timed for the DVD release of the movie.

Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, celebrated "Frozen" at the company's annual shareholder meeting last month. By then, it was clear that the movie would beat "Toy Story 3," it was only a matter of when.

"As you know, animation has always been the heart and soul of Disney; and with the phenomenal global success of Frozen we have achieved one of our most important goals – returning Disney to its rightful place as one of the greatest animation studios in the world," Iger said.

"We couldn't be any prouder of this movie or this historic achievement," he added.

Shareholders are happy too. Disney's stock is up more than 40% in the past year and is just 3% below its all-time high.

While "Frozen" isn't the only reason for Disney's success on Wall Street, the resurgence of the company's animation studio obviously isn't hurting. And with Fortune reporting in January that a Broadway version of "Frozen" could be in the cards, Disney investors may be singing about Elsa, Anna and Olaf for years to come.

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Paul Lamonica
Paul R. La Monica
Assistant Managing Editor, CNNMoney

Paul R. La Monica is an assistant managing editor at CNNMoney. He is the author of the site's daily column, The Buzz, and also tweets throughout the day about the markets and economy @LaMonicaBuzz. La Monica also oversees the site's economic, markets and technology coverage.

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