ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Disney has become the first Hollywood studio to sell more than $7 billion in tickets globally in one year. And 2016 isn't over yet. NPR's Andrew Limbong reports on how Disney did it.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR")
CLIFF EDWARDS: (Singing) When you wish upon a star...
ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: It's a nice thought, but Disney didn't get rich by wishing. It was far-sighted business strategy that made "Captain America: Civil War" this year's most successful film. Moviegoers spent more than a billion dollars to watch Tony Stark and Steve Rogers fight and moralize over power.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR")
CHRIS EVANS: (As Steve Rogers) The safest hands are still our own.
ROBERT DOWNEY JR: (As Tony Stark) If we don't do this now, it's going to be done to us later.
LIMBONG: And another billion to see a fish with memory issues in "Finding Dory."
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FINDING DORY")
ELLEN DEGENERES: (As Dory) Oh, no, how long do I have? I have to find my family.
ED O'NEILL: (As Hank) All right, now don't get hysterical. Uh-oh, not good.
DEGENERES: (As Dory) What? What is it? What happened?
LIMBONG: The movie that put them over the $7 billion mark, the recently opened "Rogue One."
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY")
ALISTAIR PETRIE: (As General Draven) Can you be trusted without your shackles?
FELICITY JONES: (As Jyn Erso) Let's just get this over with, shall we?
LIMBONG: Those three movies were made by Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm, all of which Disney owns. So no wonder they're making so much money. They beat the $6.89 billion record set by Universal last year. I can hear some of you now. It's all the same, big sequels and remakes.
MARK HUGHES: If you look at these films and they feel like they're just the same thing to you, then I think you're not looking deep enough and paying attention to the storytelling that's going on.
LIMBONG: Mark Hughes is a film critic and a writer for Forbes.
HUGHES: "Captain America: Civil War" is very much a continuation of Marvel's deconstruction of the whole idea of a national security state. If you look at "Zootopia" and all you see are talking animals...
LIMBONG: "Zootopia" also made a billion dollars, by the way.
HUGHES: ...Then you're missing the fact that this is a very strong commentary on racism in society and on the ways that our prejudices can be swayed to go along with or to accept or to outright participate in discrimination and persecution of minorities and other groups.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "ZOOTOPIA")
GINNIFER GOODWIN: (As Judy Hopps) You probably didn't know, but a bunny can call another bunny cute. But went other animals do it, it's a little...
NATE TORRENCE: (As Clawhauser) I am so sorry.
LIMBONG: Hughes says Disney is masterful at selling to different audiences worldwide.
HUGHES: They're able to look at the various target demographics, and they know that each of these properties has its own unique aspects that appeal to a variety of different viewers.
LIMBONG: We'll see if that strategy works when the fifth "Pirates Of The Caribbean" movie comes out next year. Andrew Limbong, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.