Last week, Disney released the 61st animated classic, “Strange World”, around the world. The film introduces a legendary family of explorers, the Clades, as they attempt to navigate an uncharted, treacherous land alongside a motley crew that includes a mischievous blob, a three-legged dog and a slew of ravenous creatures. The voice cast also includes Dennis Quaid as Searcher’s larger-than-life explorer father, Jaeger, and Lucy Liu as Callisto Mal, Avalonia’s fearless leader who spearheads the exploration into the strangeworld.
Disney had some amazing success with releasing films over the Thanksgiving weekend, with “Frozen”, “Frozen 2”, and “Zootopia”, all pulling in over a billion dollars. But unfortunately, “Strange World” is going into the flop pile, along with “Home on the Range”, “Black Cauldron”, and “Treasure Planet”. But in general, many of the films being released in the past couple of years, they’ve failed to bring audiences back to cinemas.
“Strange World” pulled in $28 million globally over the long weekend, falling behind the Marvel juggernaut, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” and the Netflix limited release, “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery“.
There are many reasons why “Strange World” hasn’t connected with cinema-goers. While the film received some advertising online through trailers, posters, interviews and world premieres, it was very noticeable that Disney cut back the traditional advertising campaign, as many people didn’t know the film was out.
Disney might have looked at early reviews, trailer stats and other reasons, to scale back the advertising campaign for the movie, which they knew just wasn’t going to pull in the numbers required.
There are many other issues with the release of “Strange World”, such as featuring a gay storyline, which Disney has refused to cut out of the film to get a release in many countries around the world, because it would impact on the story too much. This resulted in the movie being released in fewer countries, but will also have, unfortunately, had an impact on some families deciding to skip the film. The advertising campaign also did a poor job in telling audiences what the movie was about. The film didn’t have many tie-in promotions with other products, which also helps gain awareness of a film’s release.
Had Disney decided to send “Strange World” straight to Disney+ when they realised the box office success was going to be less than desired, the company would have gotten even more bad publicity. Sending the first animated film from Disney with a lead gay character to streaming, would have been another PR disaster and would have continued the lousy publicity that Disney has had from sending “Turning Red” and “Luca” directly to Disney+.
According to multiple sources, including Deadline, cinema chains have been told that “Strange World” is only going to have a short release window in theatres as they are planning on putting the film onto Disney+ for Christmas. This decision to speed up the release of “Strange World” onto Disney+ will also have had the opposite effect, with many people deciding that they would just wait a few weeks for the film’s digital release, rather than going to the cinema.
Following the huge success “Encanto” had last Christmas, with its quick release on Disney+, it is likely, one reason Disney is doing the same thing with “Strange World”. While “Encanto” has been a massive success on Disney+, at the box office, it only pulled in around $230 million globally.
Families haven’t been returning to cinemas in the same numbers since the pandemic. With a cost of living crisis and recession underway, families are less likely to go to the cinema, instead waiting for a streaming release. This is where “Strange World” is expected to find its fans and become a success over the Christmas period for Disney+.
“Strange World” follows many other sci-fi animated Disney films that have failed to connect with audiences. Disney ultimately had to continue with the release of “Strange World” at cinemas, but it looks like this release might have cost Disney almost $150 million. But it was probably the only option available, as the bad publicity of a shift to Disney+ would have been much worse.
While Disney hasn’t officially announced when “Strange World” will arrive on Disney+, they will likely wait another week or two, to try to claw back a little more money, as once the announcement is made, the box office numbers will drastically drop.
Hopefully, “Strange World” will get a second chance at success with a Disney+ release, but it also shows how animated family films are struggling to find box office success, as very few titles, regardless of studio, are doing so. And have families gotten trained into waiting for a quick release on streaming, following the release of “Raya And The Last Dragon”, “Encanto”, “Lightyear”, and “Onward”?
Did you go see “Strange World” over Thanksgiving, or are you waiting for a Disney+ release? Let us know on social media.
Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.