Rolling in the Dough… Literally: The Highest Paid Animal Actors
Nothing warms the heart quite like an animal actor. They may not be able to talk, cry, or tell jokes, yet animal actors have managed to earn millions of actual dollars. Although animals can’t use debit cards and have no real need for money, that hasn’t stopped them from outearning the majority of their human counterparts.
Be it YouTube, TV, or theatres, animals have serious cache and, more importantly, serious cash. Today, we take a look at the highest-paid animal actors in the history of entertainment.
The Grumpy Cat legacy began in 2012 when her owner, Tabatha Bundesen shared her picture on the popular Internet aggregation website Reddit. Grumpy Cat’s signature pouty disposition broke the Internet. Owner Bundesen followed up the photo-op with a YouTube video, which racked up over a million views in just 24 hours.
Fast forward to today, Grumpy Cat presides over a $125 million empire. The cat earned that through a combination of merchandise, movies, YouTube views, and likeness rights. Not bad for an animal who’s favorite pastime was sleeping.
I’m sure the animal rights activists shouting “save the whales” had something altogether different in mind. Keiko, the 24-foot long Orca, was captured off the coast of Iceland in 1979 and was sold to the marine park industry shortly thereafter.
The whale lived the marine-park life until 1993 when Keiko was awarded the starring role in Free Willy. The film was a runaway success for all involved, including Keiko.
Over the course of her long and storied career, Keiko managed to rack up a net worth of $14 million.
Few expected a Cheers spinoff staring a radio-show psychologist and his friends to take off but take off it inevitably did. To this day, Frasier is celebrated as one of the best 90s era sitcoms ever created. But Frasier didn’t just make money for humans.
Moose, the spirited Jack Russell Terrier, was a fan favorite. Moose played Eddie the Dog. He received a shocking $10,000 per episode for a grand total net worth of $3.2 million.
Crystal the Monkey
Crystal the Monkey is one of Hollywood’s predominant movers and shakers — at least in the world of animal actors. Over her lengthy career, the cute little Capuchin monkey has earned acting credits in The Hangover Part II, Night at the Museum, We Bought a Zoo, Community, and Animal Practice.
With all these acting credits, Crystal the Monkey earned more than bananas. Her lead role in Animal Practice earned her a whopping $12,000 per episode. All told, Crystal has managed to rack up a net worth of $16 million.
Tara the Hero Cat
The Internet allows millions of people to earn money in unconventional ways. The same goes for animals. In the past, the only way an animal could earn their celebrity status was through acting gigs. Not anymore.
Tara the Hero Cat certainly didn’t follow a traditional career path. The adopted tabby made her international debut when a video of her saving her four-year-old owner went viral in 2014. The heroic sequence became the first YouTube video in history to rack up 20-million views in just five days.
So what does that mean in dollars? No one can say for sure, but it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of $100k a year.
Rin Tin Tin
Rin Tin Tin, the photogenic German Shepherd, was a trailblazer. The pupper’s storied career began when U.S. Air Corporal Lee Duncan discovered the dog while stationed in France during World War One. He brought the dog back to his home in Los Angeles and began showcasing “Rinty” at the LA dog show.
It wasn’t long before Rin Tin Tin’s skills were scouted by television producer Darryl Zanuck. What followed were countless movies, TV shows, and radio programs. The dog earned up to $2000 a week, which is closer to $26k in today’s dollars.
Nobody benefited from Rin Tin Tin’s historic success more than Pal, a.k.a. Lassie. The Rough Collie began his movie career at the tender age of four, capturing the hearts and minds of children the world over in the process.
Pal enjoyed a staggering 40 acting credits and earned roughly $4,000 a week, for a total net worth of over $13 million.
Boo the dog has a trademark on “the world’s cutest dog” mantle. Which, if you’ve ever seen a picture of the adorable little Pomeranian, is completely reasonable. Boo isn’t just the cutest dog in the world, but also one of the richest.
Boo’s owner Irene Ahn used her social media savvy to earn millions of Facebook likes, countless product endorsements, books, and even a line of stuffed animals. When all is said and done, Boo enjoys spoils to the tune of $1 million per year. Talk about a good boy.
Bart the Bear
Bart the Bear is far from your typical Alaskan Kodiak. He was adopted by Lynne and Doug Seus at the tender age of five weeks. Shortly thereafter, he became an actor.
Bart made his big-screen debut as a cub in the popular 80s TV series The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams. It wasn’t long before he cornered the acting-bear market. His acting credits include large parts in:
- The Clan of the Cave Bear;
- The Giant of Thunder Mountain;
- Legends of the Fall;
- 12 Moneys, and;
- The Edge.
All told, Bart was worth $6 million before his death at the age of 23.
Lil Bub went about success the hard way. The celebrity cat was the runt of the litter and was born with a handful of genetic mutations. A shorter lower jaw causes her tongue to constantly stick out, she has an extra toe on each paw, she suffers from dwarfism, and doesn’t have any teeth. In the natural world, her mutations would be a recipe for disaster. However, in the digital world, it’s a recipe for buckets full of cash.
It wasn’t long before the cat took over the net. Her Internet fame quickly translated into media appearances, Facebook likes, an award-winning documentary, and even a web series.
Lil Bub’s net worth can hardly be considered little. Her owner receives roughly $30k a year in YouTube royalties. Plus, they have donated more than $200k to various animal charities.