Warner Bros. released “Happy Feet” in theaters on November 17, 2006, giving it some prime real estate ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday. With a $100 million budget, they were counting on the film to be a big hit. The only obstacle in the way? Bond, James Bond. The film opened on the same weekend as “Casino Royale,” which served as Daniel Craig’s introduction to the role of 007. While it is almost certainly true that “Casino Royale” will live on longer in the greater public consciousness, this initial battle at the box office was one that James Bond could not win.
“Happy Feet” debuted at number one domestically, taking in $41.5 million, narrowly beating “Casino Royale,” which finished with $40.8 million (even if Bond finished bigger worldwide with $605 million). That set up the animated film for a nice, happy little run topping the domestic charts for a pretty incredible three weeks. In the end, it grossed a really impressive $198 million in North America to go with $187 million overseas for a grand total of $385 million. That, in turn, paved the way for a (slightly less successful) sequel, 2011’s “Happy Feet Two,” which would keep Miller away from his return to “Mad Max” for another five years.
As for the eventual release of “Fury Road,” for as much as it is remembered as one of the greatest action movies ever made, it earned a decent-but-not-great $367.4 million during its run in theaters, meaning that it is Miller’s silver medal directorial effort behind those dancing, singing penguins in the number one spot. It’s hard to make this stuff up. But, as they say, truth is often stranger than fiction.