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Disney Just Did Something That Hasn't Happened in More Than 26 Years

In recent years, Disney (NYSE: DIS) animation has been enjoying something of a renaissance. Over the past several years, the House of Mouse has released a number of critically acclaimed and fan-favorite animated hits, including Frozen, Zootopia, Moana, and Raya and the Last Dragon.

These masterful tales harkened back to earlier successes and have been the talk of Disney fans and investors alike. Many have likened the recent string of hits to Disney's critically and commercially successful period that began in the late 1980s. The company released a series of animated chart-toppers, including The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King, among others. Each was an instant classic and added to Disney's already sizable treasure trove of intellectual property.

Now, Disney's latest animated powerhouse -- Encanto -- has broken a record that has stood for nearly three decades.

Image source: Author.

A magical score

Billboard announced this week that Encanto's catchy tune, "We Don't Talk About Bruno," has become the highest chart-topping song from a Disney Animation film in 26 years, coming in at No. 4. on the Billboard Hot 100. That's quite the accomplishment, considering that it dethroned the Frozen anthem, "Let It Go," which peaked at No. 5 in April 2014 and became the theme song for a generation of Disney Princesses everywhere.

It's no secret that having one or more foot-tapping tunes only increases the popularity of the media giant's family-friendly hits. Furthermore, the Encanto soundtrack became just the sixth animated movie soundtrack in history to hit No. 1 in the Billboard 200 rankings.

That's not all. The Encanto soundtrack has reached No. 1 on both Apple Music and iTunes, and "We Don't Talk About Bruno" is the No. 1 song on Spotify's Top 50 U.S. charts. Oh, and it's also trending on TikTok.

The Encanto soundtrack was penned by none other than Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda, best known as the star of and creative force behind the Broadway smash hits In the Heights and Hamilton. Miranda also made a name for himself in his work with Disney, having written the soundtrack for Moana, and starred as Jack in Mary Poppins Returns.

Before "Let It Go" froze out the competition, only three other songs from Disney animated movies landed in the Top 5. Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle charted with "A Whole New World" from Aladdin, which hit the No. 1 spot in 1993; Elton John's "Can You Feel the Love Tonight" from The Lion King peaked at No. 4 in 1994; and Vanessa Williams' rendition of "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas also peaked at No. 4 in 1995. That puts "We Don't Talk About Bruno" in pretty exclusive company.

Image source: Getty Images.

It isn't all about the box office

It's easy to understand why ticket sales and overall box office make all the headlines, but once the theater is dark, other factors come into play. For example, the persistent popularity of Frozen and the ongoing refrain of "Let It Go" led Disney to release Frozen 2. This marked the first time in the company's then 82-year history that it released a sequel in theaters for an official Disney "princess" movie. It's worth noting that both animated feature films generated more than $1 billion in box office.

The importance of a buzz-worthy soundtrack shouldn't be underestimated. The Disney marketing machine was working overtime as legions of pint-sized Frozen fans serenaded their patient parents, all the while petitioning them to return to the theater, play the Blu-ray on an endless loop, and add a Queen Elsa dress to their most-favored list of clothing for 24-hour wear.

To support the demand, Disney released more than 5,000 Frozen books in 41 languages and sold more than 3 million Elsa and Anna dresses, and more than 4.1 million consumers shelled out for the soundtrack. In all, Frozen merchandise generated billions of dollars in additional sales, with the tally increasing every year.

Ultimately, "We Don't Talk About Bruno" may not have the staying power of "Let It Go," and Encanto may never reach the level of cultural phenomenon that characterized Frozen. That said, breaking a 26-year-old record and nearing the top of the Billboard charts is a good start -- one that Disney's marketing department has no intention of squandering.

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Danny Vena owns Apple and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns and recommends Apple, Spotify Technology, and Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2024 $145 calls on Walt Disney, long March 2023 $120 calls on Apple, short January 2024 $155 calls on Walt Disney, and short March 2023 $130 calls on Apple. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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