While it was a good weekend in some respects for Walt Disney Studios, it was a bad one in others. “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” dominated the box office charts yet again. However, the other major release of the weekend was Disney’s new animated adventure family film, “Strange World.” The film failed to find a major audience over the holiday weekend.
Ultimately, per Box Office Mojo, “Strange World” only managed to muster $11.8 million domestically for the three-day weekend and a less than impressive five-day weekend total of $18.6 million.
Disney’s “Strange World” Bombs On Opening Weekend
According to Deadline, “Strange World” is now looking like a failure that will lose an estimated $147 million for Disney. The film was not made on an insignificant budget. Per Variety, it cost $180 million, and that’s likely before marketing. This likely makes “Strange World” into Disney’s biggest failure or money loser of the year.
From about 2010 onward, Disney was going through a time of unprecedented success with its animated feature division. Some even argued the animation studio was going through another animation renaissance, much like the period from 1989 to about 1999 with what was considered The Disney Renaissance period.
In 2010, Disney Studios released “Tangled.” In 2012, the studio released “Wreck-It Ralph.” In 2013, it produced a megahit in “Frozen.” This was followed by “Big Hero 6” in 2014, “Zooptopia” and “Moana” in 2016, and “Frozen II” in 2019. All of these films were big hits for the studio and most were critical darlings. Some of those films also brought in multiple Academy Awards.
See the movie that critics call ""GENUINE AND THRILLING""!
— Disney's Strange World (@strangeworld) November 27, 2022
Disney Animation Studios started seeing some hiccups due to the global pandemic. “Raya and the Last Dragon” was released day and date in theaters and only ended up making $130 million worldwide. 2021’s “Encanto” received a theatrical release, but it didn’t find much of an audience in theaters, making only $96 million domestically and about $256 million worldwide. It wasn’t until the film hit streaming that audiences started discovering and falling in love with the film.
“Strange World” actually did not perform to badly with critics. It’s currently rated at 74% on Rotten Tomatoes. Also, sometimes there is not always a magical formula for how movies will perform at the box office.
Plenty of high-quality and amazing films have failed to find an audience in theaters. Case in point is the original “Blade Runner,” or for an animated family movie example, Brad Bird’s “The Iron Giant.” Both of those films are recognized as all-time classics, but they essentially bombed in theaters.
“Strange World” actually looks to have a strong pedigree behind the camera. It was co-directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen. Hall is an Oscar-winning filmmaker for Disney’s “Big Hero 6.” He also co-directed “Moana.” Nguyen co-wrote “Raya and the Last Dragon” before this movie.
The film also has a star-studded voice cast with the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Gabrielle Union, and Lucy Liu.
Some have argued the film should have been released straight to streaming on Disney+ instead. However, it still would have lost money that way without any type of theatrical release.
One thing that does look certain at this point is that the second resurgence of Walt Disney Animation Studios appears to be over at this point. It’s not impossible for Disney Animation Studios to find its footing again, but that decade of the studio seeing unprecedented success appears to have ended with “Frozen II.”
As reported by The Blast, one thing that Disney does have going for it is that Bob Iger has returned as the company CEO, after his previously appointed successor, Bob Chapek, was unceremoniously ousted. According to Deadline, it is expected that Iger will likely return certain power of distribution back in the hands of studio creative heads to steer the direction of theatrical products. However, time will ultimately tell.