Walt Disney Animation Studios’ big release for 2022, the pink-hued computer-animated film Strange World, has flopped apocalyptically at the box office. Released over the extended Thanksgiving-weekend slot that has served the studio well in the past with films like Frozen and Moana, the sci-fi adventure movie grossed a paltry $11.9 million in wide release in North America, and only $18.6 million when you count the five-day holiday-weekend window. This on a movie with a $180 million budget. Sources tell Variety that the film would have to make $360 million to break even when considering the marketing budget, but we find it hard to believe the company spent that much on marketing when there was so little to show for it: no Happy Meal toys, no tie-in pop single from the soundtrack, no subway ads (that we’ve seen, anyway). Not a peep about Strange World was able to overshadow the corporate drama at Disney’s executive level over the past week. In fact, the only marketing we’ve seen has come from Jake Gyllenhaal bringing weird vibes to the press junket.
It’s problematic how little Disney appears to have stood behind the film, which has a queer lead character voiced by Jaboukie Young-White and has caused predictable, dull conservative Christian uproar. Disney also did not release the film in many international markets, including the Middle East and China, due to their censorship of LGBTQ+ content. It also doesn’t help that Disney didn’t hone any clear marketing messaging when the film itself seems sort of confusing, premise-wise: It’s not a princess musical, not a sequel, not an easy-to-grasp premise like “city full of cuddly animals” or “video-game characters come to life.” Even the name is vague: Strange World. For what it’s worth, the movie is a science-fiction pulp adventure in the vein of Edgar Rice Burroughs, which has drawn unfortunate comparisons to the studio’s 2002 box-office flop Treasure Planet, which earned $16.6 million on its own Thanksgiving release 20 years ago. This is how Chapek’s reign ends: not with a whimper, but with a flop.