30 Highest Grossing Media Franchises of All Time

Most Expected or Unexpected Top Franchises?

When you think about money, you usually aim for the luxurious brands or franchises known for selling expensive products or just providing services that not everyone can’t pay. 

However, what if we tell you that media franchises have nothing to envy from other niches or companies in different fields? Instead, they are pretty dominating the world regarding money, popularity, and how much people love them. Thus, if you’re looking for money and grossing companies, you should have a look into them. 

These franchise businesses have made billions, and billions from movies, TV shows, books, toys, and the types of products and content just keep growing. However, their products tend to be the main reason behind their revenues? 

How is that possible? This is probably your question. 

This is why we decided to focus on them and show people that media franchises are conquering the world in their own way without even realizing it. 

And for those who were suspicious of it already, we will just lend you a hand to let you know the ones people love the most (including us) and why they are making so much money since they started. 

Pokémon (1996) – $105 Billion

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It all began with the Japanese release of Pokémon Red and Green on February 27, 1996, making the company the highest-grossing of all time and remains strong despite the second place coming a bit near. 

But what has made the brand so popular over the years? Is it only about video games? Mostly. However, the company is a masterclass at brand management and the main reason why Pokémon has become the most popular franchise in this niche and many others. 

It is difficult to quantify Pokémon’s success. The past few years show that games, movies, merchandise, and other activities and products are the main reason for the franchise’s net worth to reach about $105 billion. 

However, this is difficult to measure since The Pokémon Company stopped reporting its total value on its website after some time. This is mostly an estimate, but, without a doubt, it is the topper of this list. 

If you don’t believe us, just think about all the new series, TV shows, merchandise, games, and any type of product the company has come up with over the last years and how it has grown so far. After all, who doesn’t want to buy at least one? 

Hello Kitty (1974) – $80 Billion

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Sanrio was founded in 1960 by Shintaro Takaji. It has 50,000 products and 15,000 shops. This makes it the sixth-largest licensor in the world. According to License Global, it ranks behind Disney (DIS) and Mattel (MAT). 

What does Sanrio have to do in all this? That it is the owner of the cute Hello Kitty figure, we all know about. 

Hello Kitty first appeared on November 1, 1974, on a small vinyl coin purse. It has since become the foundation of this modern business empire. 

Hello Kitty fans can purchase shoes, paper towels, and panini makers, as well as chopsticks and wine. You can also eat Hello Kitty dumplings in Hong Kong or fly to Taiwan on a Hello Kitty plane.

The company has grossed most of its net worth and revenue thanks to merchandise only, making it the highest-grossing for products.

Winnie the Pooh (1924) – $75 Billion

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Winnie the Pooh was created by the English author, A.A. Milne, and illustrator, E.H. Shepard. This franchise is based on a fictional character of the same name from the books published in 1926. 

The anthropomorphic bear is one of Disney’s most iconic characters and has made appearances in several animated films as well as live-action adaptations for television broadcast and home video releases. 

Along with being shown at multiple Walt Disney Parks worldwide, Pooh appears on many branded products such as clothing, plush toys, mugs, etc., making it one of Disney’s highest-grossing media franchises to date.

Mickey Mouse (1928) – $70 Billion

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The character was created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks in 1928, making it one of the oldest still-active franchises in Hollywood. 

So far, Mickey has starred in over 130 films, including “Steamboat Willie” (1928), “Plane Crazy” (1929), and “The Band Concert” (1935). 

Over the years, he’s also appeared on television shows such as “The Mickey Mouse Club,” “House of Mouse,” and “Mickey Mouse Works.” 

His appearances in films, shows, and all the merchandise produced around the brand’s mascot have made them billions over the years. Although you wouldn’t expect it to be lower than Winnie The Pooh, the difference isn’t that much, with over $70 billion worldwide at mostly theatres and merchandise alone.

To this date, there’s no a single person who hasn’t heard or seen Mickey Mouse, and we have to admit that it is one of our all-time favorite ones, and we’ve spent some money on this franchise. 

Star Wars (1977) – $66 Billion

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Star Wars’ first movie was released in 1977, and it has continued to be a popular series throughout the years, with 12 films so far.  

The highest-grossing film was “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope,” which made over $1 billion worldwide. 

Although this series has been around for a long time, it’s still one of the most successful franchises out there today, not only because of the movies but thanks to the animated series, spin-offs, and merchandise. 

The main reason it continues to go strong in popularity could be its universal themes that many people can relate to and its high-quality effects like CGI and practical effects used in the films. 

It will continue to make money for Disney until they decide to stop making new movies or retire the series altogether, and to be honest, we hope they continue bringing more content, especially after “The Mandalorian” and similar series they have planned so far despite the bit disappointment with the most recent trilogy. 

It seems many people can agree with us, considering how much it has grossed and continues to do so. 

Anpanman (1973) – $60 Billion

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Anpanman is a Japanese media franchise created by Takashi Yanase that ran from 1973 to 2013. 

To be more specific, Anpanman is a children’s superhero picture book and has been quite popular among people in Japan and worldwide. 

The story centers on the adventures of an anthropomorphic bread bun who likes to eat anpan with red bean paste filling called “an” or sometimes “Anko.”

He has friends who are all food items, for example, Curry-Kun (a curry dish), Milk Boy (milk carton), and more. Together, they fight against the evil Baikinman (“bakery man”), who wants to put them all into his bakery so he can make people’s favorite foods himself and take over the world.

Its merchandise has sold worldwide since its release, and there’s no need to say it is one of the most popular anime for children in the world. Although we would say, it is also for adults that feel nostalgic and continue to enjoy it. 

Disney Princesses (2000) – $45 Billion

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There’s a lot to love going around them, and we are sure you have, at least, watched one of those famous movies out of curiosity, with your children or some friends. 

Disney princesses are classics, and people love seeing them everywhere, especially in Disneyland during the nighttime shows. 

Now, it can be hard to keep up with which Disney princess is which, especially if you’re not caught up on the latest movies and shows. That’s why we put together this quick top, so you have an idea of the most popular ones: 

  • Rapunzel from “Tangled.”
  • Belle from “Beauty and The Beast.” 
  • Ariel from “The Little Mermaid.” 
  • Snow White from “Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.”
  • Cinderella from the film with the same name. 

Of course, most princesses from the franchise are over two decades old, and since they debuted, all of them have brought great revenue to Disney. However, when the franchise was officially open, it is when the billions started coming. 

Mario (1981) – $36 Billion

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Mario is a video game series of platform games created by mainly Shigeru Miyamoto and developed and published by Nintendo. 

The gameplay consists of the player controlling Mario, or his brother Luigi in multiplayer mode, who can run, jump, crouch, climb ladders or vines, throw punches and use items. 

As an Italian plumber who lives in Brooklyn with his brother, he must go on a quest to save Princess Peach from Bowser. 

Mario has appeared in over 200 video games since 1981, which have sold more than 600 million copies worldwide. 

After all that introduction, we know you are asking, “who doesn’t know Mario?” However, we bet you didn’t know some details like all the money Nintendo makes from this franchise alone. 

Besides the video games, the merchandise and crossovers with other franchises have made Mario a favorite when it comes to characters, and we love every single game even when some hate a few like “Mario Party Advance.”

Jump Comics (1968) – $34 Billion

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Jump Comics is a Japanese manga publisher. It is the highest-grossing media franchise in its country, and we can quite understand why. 

Founded in 1968, Jump has published many iconic series and characters such as “Dragon Ball Z,” “One Piece,” “Naruto,” and “Bleach.” 

The most popular mangas that are still ongoing not only include “One Piece” but also “Seraph Of The End” or “Owari no Seraph” in its Japanese name, “Dr. Stone,” “Black Clover,” “Boruto” and the most recent hit, “Jujutsu Kaisen.” 

The Weekly Shonen Jump is almost a tradition for most Japanese, and we have to admit that we do our best to get a copy and some of the volumes from our favorite mangas (you caught us, we are otakus all the way and not only for this). 

This magazine line is one that is often referred to in several films and movies whenever they are set in Japan or are focused on the country’s culture. 

With about 1.6 million copies per week, most of the revenue comes from the simple sale of the weekly issue and other parts of the franchise, and additional merchandise from the mangas featured. 

Harry Potter (1997) – $31 Billion

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Harry Potter is a series of novels written by British author J. K. Rowling and followed the film series. 

The books have won numerous awards and sold more than 400 million copies worldwide, making them part of the highest-grossing novel series worldwide. 

The franchise has grown thanks to novels, movies, attractions, video games, merchandise, and other activities and products exponentially. It continues to add more with the new films scheduled that follow the storyline differently. 

Harry Potter is a favorite for many, and we love it as much as we are sure you do. People can’t wait to get a new video game, product, and let’s not talk about new novels written by the genius Rowling. 

To summarize it, Harry Potter doesn’t really need an introduction. 

Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008) – $29 Billion

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Marvel Cinematic Universe has broken many records over the last decade. Right now, it stands as the highest-grossing film franchise and highest-grossing American media franchise of all time, with over $29 billion in global box office revenue only. 

Marvel isn’t a new name for anyone here, but it is a fact that it has entered this highest-grossing list thanks to the film universe that started with “Iron Man” and the incredible performance by Robert Downey Jr. 

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures has released the films. So far, the series comprises twenty-four feature films, crossover media including animated television series, short movies, comic books, video games, and merchandise such as collectible action figures.  

The franchise started with the previous film mentioned and was followed by “The Incredible Hulk” in 2008, “Iron Man 2” in 2010, “Thor” and “Captain America: The First Avenger” in 2011.

To this date, people just continue to be hyped about the next phase of the franchise. With the soon release of “Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Eternals,” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” people are ready to empty their pockets and keep adding billions to the franchise. 

Spider-Man (1962) – $27 Billion

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Spider-Man is Marvel’s favorite superhero and character to this date. 

The franchise was first created in 1962 by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko when he appeared in the “Amazing Fantasy #15” and has since spawned major motion pictures, a Broadway show, a couple of musicals, countless video games, and several movies. 

Spider-Man remains one of Marvel’s most consistently profitable properties and highest-grossing media franchises of all time.

There isn’t much to say about this one, considering that every Spider-Man film always waits for the audience like crazy, especially the most recent one set for December 17, 2021. 

Gundam (1979) – $26 Billion 

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Gundam is a media franchise with many incarnations, including an anime, manga, and video game series. It was created by Yoshiyuki Tomino and Hajime Yatate in 1979. 

More than a franchise or movie like many people know it, the concept is about giant robots or mechas that are named “Gundam” and are so popular to the point of people relating the concept of robots and mechas with anything that has to do with the company. 

Gundam has been adapted into other formats such as anime (1979), manga (1982), and video games (1988). There have also been live-action television series adaptations produced in 2004, 2005, 2012, and 2013. 

There are many formats and merchandise around this figure, and yes, you guessed it right, we also have some (to not say many). 

Batman (1939) – $26 Billion

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Created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger in 1939, it is DC Comics’ most popular character of all time. 

Regardless of what most people believe, Superman doesn’t really stand a chance when it comes to popularity. Thanks to how relatable Batman’s character ended up being for most comic fans at the time. 

Of course, this expanded and has continued to be popular since then thanks to all the films, series, and animated shows by the company, to the point of having one of the spots on the top of highest-grossing movies thanks to “The Dark Knight Rises,” which had a budget of $250 million and grossed $1.086 billion, and then having the film “Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice” higher in the rankings. 

Batman has appeared in many video games, shows, volumes, and merchandise. 

Dragon Ball (1984) – $24 Billion

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Dragonball is a Japanese anime and manga franchise that Akira Toriyama created. 

The series follows the adventures of Goku, who, along with other characters such as Bulma and Krillin, fight various enemies in order to achieve their goal: Finding seven magic balls called Dragon Balls. 

These dragon balls, when brought together, can grant a wish. The story covers approximately eighteen years’ worth of material (from early childhood to late adulthood) before ending at volume 42 with the defeat of Majin Buu. 

This manga has also been adapted into an American live-action television show produced by Funimation Entertainment which aired from 1996 to 1998. 

To this date, the anime continues releasing several episodes and seasons. 

Barbie (1959) – $24 Billion

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Barbie was first introduced to the world in 1959, and since then, she’s had a huge impact on popular culture. 

Barbie is not only an iconic fashion doll; she’s also a symbol of empowerment for women across generations. She has been credited with having changed what it means to be feminine by letting girls take control of their own lives and destinies. 

She’s inspired careers in everything from design to engineering, and her success shows no signs of slowing down with new movies being released every year!   

The impact that Barbie has made throughout the years is undeniable: for over 50 years, customers around the globe have enjoyed playing out their fantasies through this blonde doll, and the franchise just continues to expand with the release of different designs and Barbie figures that represent a specific style of the women nowadays. 

Fist of The North Star (1983) – $22.2 Billion

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Fist of the North Star is a manga series written by Buronson and illustrated by Tetsuo Hara. 

The story centers on a post-apocalyptic world where civilization has been destroyed by nuclear war, pollution, genocide, and other catastrophes. 

It follows the adventures of martial artist Kenshiro as he fights against various enemies with his deadly martial art Hokuto Shinken to find his kidnapped fiancée, Yuria. 

Ken’s allies Toki and Rei fight against rival martial artists from the Nanto Seiken school led by Raoh, who wishes to conquer the future world ruled from Eden by Emperor Souther.

The original manga was serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump from 1983 until 1988 for 27 volumes. Since then, the franchise has sold lots of merchandise. The main character has become a symbol of culture in Japan and for many worldwide, leading the franchise to sell millions on merchandise, copies of the manga, and more products or activities focused around the story. 

Cars (2006) – $22.1 Billion

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Cars has been a huge success in terms of sales, with more than 200 million units sold across 150 countries worldwide since 2006. 

The film has also won various awards, including the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film at the 79th Academy Awards as well as BAFTA Awards for Best Animated Film and Outstanding Debut in 2008. The film was nominated for the Golden Globe award for the best-animated feature but lost to Ratatouille (2007). 

Since the animated movie’s release, a few additional short films and series have been added to the franchise along with tons of merchandise, including bags, control cars, toys, and many more. 

This franchise has brought lots of money for Disney, and you can notice by the ones it has through the entire list that this company is unstoppable in the media world. 

One Piece (1997) – $22 Billion

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One Piece is a Japanese manga series written and illustrated by Eiichiro Oda. It has been serialized in Shueisha’s Weekly Shōnen Jump magazine since 1997 and has been collected into 99 tankōbon volumes as of 2021.

The story follows the adventures of Monkey D. Luffy, a young man whose body gained the properties of rubber from accidentally eating a Devil Fruit; along with his crew of pirates, named the Straw Hats (from “Straw Hat”), who are searching for the world’s ultimate treasure known as “One Piece” to become the next King of the Pirates.

The games, appearance of the characters, and popularity since the manga release have hyped Japanese and the international audience, making it one of the longest shonen mangas still running with over 1,000 episodes and over 900 for the anime series. 

The merchandise, weekly release, and more products and activities have brought 20 billion on average. 

Toy Story (1995) – $20 Billion

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Toy Story is an American computer-animated film series created by Pixar Animation Studios. John Lasseter directed the first two films, and the third was co-directed by Lee Unkrich. 

In 2011, Disney acquired Pixar’s characters for $7.4 billion in a deal that put them under the control of its own animation division, Walt Disney Animation Studios. 

For 11 years from 1995 to 2006, a few films were released, but since 2007 there have been three releases each year; generally, one animated feature film and two short films or television specials per year. 

The franchise isn’t only popular among children and young people, and adults who remember the first and medium releases over the years. 

We personally love the story of Andy and his amazing friends and how it shows the process of growing and friendship. Of course, we own some of the most iconic figures, and we don’t regret spending some of our salaries back in the days to get them. 

Lord of The Rings (1937) – $20 Billion

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The Lord of the Rings is a series of three high fantasy novels by English author J. R. R. Tolkien, written in 1954 and 1955.

It tells the epic story of Frodo Baggins, a hobbit who journeys across Middle-earth to destroy the One Ring, which Sauron has possessed for centuries. 

The Lord of the Rings was published on September 21, 1954, when Tolkien was 46 years old; it became an instant success with 12 hardback editions being released within six months in 1955 at multiple publishing houses around the world, including Allen & Unwin in London and Houghton Mifflin in Boston. 

It has since been reprinted many times and translated into various languages worldwide. 

The films based on the movie are part of the highest-grossing films of all time, and the merchandise along with the newest stories taking place in the same “universe” have kept the books’ popularity, and sales just continue growing. 

Well, it’s not like we are hardcore fans (or maybe yes), but the editions for each of the books are stunning and worth buying every single time. 

James Bond (1953) – $20 Billion

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James Bond is a fictional character created by novelist Ian Fleming in 1953. He is the protagonist of the James Bond series of spy novels, films, comics, and video games. 

The character has been played for seven different actors since the first movie in 1963, which came out with the name of “Dr. No,” starring Sean Connery. 

To this date, 2021, Daniel Craig has brought the character since “Casino Royale” in 2006, “Quantum of Solace” in 2008, “Skyfall” in 2012, “Spectre” in 2015, and fans all over the world have been waiting “No Time to Die” since April 2020. 

Figures, toys, films, soundtracks, and all types of merchandise and activities have made the franchise one of the most popular worldwide when it comes to this type of film and characters. 

Yu-Gi-Oh (1996) – $20 Billion

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Yu-Gi-Oh didn’t start as an anime or manga like many belief. Instead, it is a trading card game from Japan that was developed and published by Konami. 

Since its publication date 22 years ago, the game has been popular and has been adapted to anime.

The audience in the USA received the trading card collectible game quite well to the point of publishing it from 2002 to 2008 before the owner returned to Konami in the latter year to the present. 

The game has sold over 25 billion cards worldwide, and the merchandise and anime have collected a great part of the franchise’s revenue. 

Though many believe Yu-Gi-Oh isn’t popular anymore, it remains strong in the Japanese and US audiences, including some countries in South America and in Canada. 

Peanuts (1950) – $19.1 Billion

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Peanuts is a comic strip written and illustrated by Charles M. Schulz. Peanuts’ popularity derives from its simplicity and use of universal emotions and experiences as an integral part of its humor. 

Every day people can relate to Charlie Brown’s frustrations, Lucy’s strong willfulness, Snoopy’s anger at his owner, or Linus’ devotion to his security blanket. 

The characters are timeless because they represent human nature so well without being too complex for the average person to understand. 

They also change over time, with different social issues such as women empowerment or mental illness awareness becoming key parts of their stories, allowing the audience to grow alongside them as society changes around.

The merchandise around the characters has been quite popular over the years, being Snoopy the favorite character for many when purchasing toys, shirts, and any type of product. 

Also, in popularity, the ranking is usually topped by this beautiful dog. Despite its ending in 2000, people still look for the strips and read the story from official sources. 

Transformers (1984) –   $17.2 Billion

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Transformers is an American media franchise principally created by Hasbro and Takara Tomy. 

The original Transformers toy line was introduced in the 1980s, followed by a television series in 1984. 

This was followed by the “Beast Wars” TV series, which became its own franchise. 

There are also several movies, including over four live-action films, with others planned after 2021 and beyond that will be a shared universe between Michael Bay’s previous Transformer franchises and this one. 

In total, there have been over three billion Transformers toys sold worldwide since 1984, and the movies have grossed millions even when they are not among the highest-grossing ones. 

Besides the toys, some games, including the characters like Optimus Prime, have brought the franchise more revenue over the years. 

Call of Duty (2003) – $17 Billion

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Call of Duty is a series of shooter games published by Activision. The video games are set in different times, being the first one set in World War II. 

The modern times, Cold War, futuristic worlds, and outer space, are part of the scenarios the creators have set the next few games after the first one released in 2003. 

There are other media franchises based on the games, such as board and card games. 

The highest-grossing Call of Duty game is Black Ops III, selling over 26 million units in 2015 despite the critics and how unpopular the game was in terms of quality. 

However, commercially, the revenue performed quite well. In contrast, the rest of the following games and previous ones remained quite strong in generating income for the franchise along with merchandise and additional activities and media items. 

Neon Genesis Evangelion (1994) – $16.3 Billion

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Neon Genesis Evangelion is a Japanese media franchise that began as a manga, debuting in December 1994 to make sure people were excited for the anime release that came after in 1995, which Hideaki Anno wrote.

The series is about 14-year-old Shinji Ikari, who arrives in Tokyo-3 and is recruited by his father Gendo into the organization NERV to pilot one of its giant mecha called EVA units against monstrous beings known as Angels. 

The series was immensely popular both domestically and abroad, spawning manga adaptations and video games along with two films: “Death & Rebirth” (1997) and “The End of Evangelion” (1997). 

In June 2007, TV Asahi named Neon Genesis Evangelion the greatest anime of all time. 

Since 1994, the franchise has earned lots of money from anime reproductions, products, toys, merchandise all over Japan and worldwide as one of the most popular animes and stories to this date. 

KochiKame (1976) – $16.3 Billion

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KochiKame is a Japanese manga created by Osamu Akimoto. It has been serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump and has received anime adaptations, video games, and original video animations. 

The story follows the misadventures of Kankichi Ryotsu, a detective from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department’s Second Division who was part of the traffic division before transferring over to homicide investigations. 

The manga runs from September 21, 1976, to September 17, 2016. With over 135 volumes, the manga has sold more than 156 million copies in Japan. 

In terms of highest-grossing media franchises, KochiKame comes at number 28 with total revenue of $16.3 billion approximately. 

Who doesn’t love this Japanese manga? It’s one of our personal favorites, and we would spend thousands in merchandise and volumes just like many others. 

Super Sentai (Power Rangers) (1975) – $16.2 Billion

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It is a Japanese superhero team series produced by Toei Company and Bandai. 

The Super Senta or Power Rangers franchise and series have been running for over forty years now. While it originally started in Japan, the Power Rangers have exploded to include large followings worldwide. 

It has spawned twenty-eight different television series since 1975 and three feature-length theatrical movies, and a long list of merchandise, including toys, clothing, and video games that continue to make power rangers popular among kids and adults. 

Dora the Explorer (2000) – $15.8 Billion

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Dora the Explorer is a media franchise owned by Nickelodeon. Dora first appeared on television in 2000 and has since become one of the highest-grossing media franchises due to the popularity among children and all the merchandise, including bags, toys, and school tools and utensils. 

The show’s success can be attributed to its appeal as an educational tool and a commercial product. 

The idea for “Dora” came from Chris Gifford, who was working at Nickelodeon in 1997 when he met Valerie Walsh, also at Nick, while they were touring preschools together looking for ideas for new ideas shows. 

The series centers on Dora, a seven-year-old Latina girl who embarks on a series of adventures with her friend, a monkey named Boots. 

The franchise includes “Dora” and five other shows: “Go Diego Go!” which debuted in 2005; “Dora & Friends: Into the City!” (2014), and many others.

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