Mummies: Thrifty Spanish Animation Hit Unwraps $50M At Worldwide Box Office And Provides Another Perspective On Family Comedy

Welcome to Global Breakouts, Deadline’s fortnightly strand in which we shine a spotlight on the TV shows and films killing it in their local territories. The industry is as globalized as it’s ever been, but breakout hits are appearing in pockets of the world all the time and it can be hard to keep track… So we’re going to do the hard work for you.

We’re off to sunny Spain this week to unwrap the story of Mummies — Warner Bros Pictures’ animated hit that combines ancient Egyptian tropes with classic family comedy. Now the second biggest Spanish animation ever, worldwide box office takings are over $50M and growing, and talks of a sequel are emerging.

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Name: Mummies
Country: Spain
Producer: 4 Cats Pictures, Warner Bros Spain
For fans of: Tad: The Lost Explorer, Capture the Flag, The Mummy, family animation
Worldwide distribution: Warner Bros Pictures

The filmmakers behind Mummies know a thing or two about animation. The group, including co-screenwriter/producer Jordi Gasull and director Juan Jesús García Galocha, among others, previously collaborated on such films as the Tad: The Lost Explorer franchise. The first movie in that series is the highest-grossing Spanish animation ever, and is now followed at No. 2 by Mummies.

Through April 16 the $12M-budgeted Mummies has grossed $52M worldwide and ranks as the No. 9 Spanish movie ever outside the home market.

Audiences have been high on the comedy adventure since it began global rollout via Warner Bros in January and February. Very early talks are under way with WB about a sequel. 

The film centers on three mummies who live in a secret underground city hidden in ancient Egypt. The trio is composed of Princess Nefer, former charioteer Thut and his younger brother Sekhem along with a pet baby crocodile. When the Pharoah arranges an impending marriage for the reluctant Nefer and Thut, he charges Thut with guarding a wedding ring belonging to the royal family. Enter ambitious archaeologist Lord Carnaby who manages to steal the ring via a portal into ancient Egypt, and the mummies end up in present-day London, embarking on a journey to recover it.

Gasull, who also co-wrote and produced the Tad movies and 2015’s Capture the Flag, tells Deadline he wanted to tell a love story between two mummies who “instead of being awful, they were beautiful.” Seeking a departure from the Tad films, which feature an archaeologist as protagonist, Gasull “did the reverse” with an explorer pitted as the baddie this time. 

He sees it as “another perspective for a new generation of kids. Tad is like Indiana Jones, Capture the Flag is like The Right Stuff and Mummies is like horror in a twisted way. An Egyptian friend tells me it’s the first time mummies are seen as good and beautiful in film.”

Race against time

Development on Mummies began in pre-pandemic 2018. But just as production was about to start, Gasull got a call from Warner Bros Italy who told him to prepare for the worst with Italy already feeling the brunt of Covid and confinement in Spain not yet afoot. Says Gasull: “We had a couple of weeks before everything shut down in Spain. I worked with my team on how to structure the work outside the studio with the technology.”

Although the movie was ready well before its early 2023 release, WB was opportunistic in finding the right release corridor. With limited new family offerings in the early part of the year and February half-term holidays for a lot of kids, rollout was slotted and the movie has exceeded expectations, seeing good holds (including a 60% increase in its third UK weekend). Mummies got a release domestically in late February and has grossed $4.3M; it will see additional play this summer there.

Even though some critics haven’t warmed to Mummies, the audience is what matters, says Gasull. “It’s a movie about an issue that is very important today: The theme is about commitment within yourself, with others, with your work and with who you are, and of course commitment in love. As it is harder and harder to commit in the new society, it’s relatable to everybody — you know sooner or later you will have to commit with yourself.”

He adds: “That’s why a small movie like this one has performed so well in unexpected ways.”

Balancing the budget

In terms of managing budgets, Gasull says: “We are very concerned about the resources that we have. We just have to work as much as we can the script, our knowledge and try to make it as good as we can in the process. We don’t have many possibilities to change scenes or lines; every time you make a change it’s a lot of money. It’s a very contained system in every step.”

While the Tad movies went through Paramount, Gasull set Mummies up at Warner Bros, making an essentially two-line pitch to Monique Esclavissat, who was EVP of International Productions at the time. Having seen his relatively small films released globally by not one but two Hollywood studios, Gasull’s relationship with the majors is fairly unique. “I feel very privileged, and also the professionals in both studios are great,” he says. 

Andrew Cripps, WB’s President of International Theatrical Distribution, calls Gasull “a very talented filmmaker and somebody I’d love to see us continue to be in business with.”

Gasull and Galocha’s next project is Buffalo Kids, inspired by Pedro Solis Garcia’s 2014 Strings (Cuerdas), which in 2018 landed the record of most awards won by an animated short film. Buffalo Kids is going the indie route, sold by Cinema Management Group and is lined up to feature Gemma Arterton, Sean Bean, Stephen Graham and Alicia Weir in the voice cast. 

Moving into live-action, Gasull’s 4 Cats, together with Mogambo and Anangu Group and Warner Bros Entertainment Spain has reached an agreement with Dorna to develop Idols, based on the MotoGP brand.

Opines Gasull: “It’s harder to cross borders with live action than animation, so it’s something we have to think about very carefully. I hope we can do an international movie that works very well too.”

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