The Clade Family in Disney's Strange World

Why Did Disney’s ‘Strange World’ Bomb at the Box Office?

While largely positive reviews flowed in for Strange World, the box office numbers following its November 23 debut are looking pretty rough. Five days after Disney released its latest animated film, it had generated $18.6 million at the box office against a hefty $180 million budget. Its earnings are even lower than Pixar’s Lightyear, which also struggled at the box office earlier this year. Strange World isn’t expected to recover much at the box office; projections estimate that it will lose Disney $147 million, making it one of the biggest box office flops in the company’s history.

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These numbers might be surprising to many viewers as, on the surface, nothing seems askance with Strange World. Disney’s latest features an enticing voice cast that includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Jack Quaid, Gabrielle Union, Lucy Liu, Jaboukie Young-White, and Alan Tudyk. Meanwhile, the film offers a unique sci-fi/adventure premise as it follows the Clades, a family of adventurers who traverse numerous planets. Strange World isn’t too different from what Disney usually produces, but it is a fun, animated flick with a heartwarming message about family at its center.

Strange World is also a step forward in representation for Disney. The animated film features an openly gay teenager, an interracial couple, and a disabled pup with only three legs. Of course, given these inclusions, it won’t take long for the “anti-woke” crowd to start jeering that the box office bomb is Disney’s punishment for making their films more diverse. When looking at the facts, though, Strange World‘s box office failure isn’t too surprising.

Disney dropped the ball on Strange World advertising

Jake Gyllenhaal as Searcher Clade in Strange World
(Disney)

One of the major reasons why Strange World flopped is because Disney put very little advertising behind the film. It isn’t clear why this is, but it could be that Strange World got lost amid Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and the upcoming Avatar sequel. Disney has been actively promoting these two major releases with teasers and trailers, yet very little mention was made of Strange World.

Many Twitter users discussed how they didn’t even know Strange World was a thing until reports of its box office failure started circulating. Others repeatedly questioned if they had just missed the marketing for Strange World, or if there really wasn’t any marketing for the film at all. With it being one of the studio’s highly expensive computer-animated films and releasing over the ripe Thanksgiving holiday (and featuring the voice of Jake Gyllenhaal), it is very strange that Disney wasn’t doing everything it could to attract audiences to the film.

Other factors that played into Strange World‘s box office bomb

In addition to the poor marketing, Strange World‘s box office flop could be the result of two other factors: the state of the economy and changes in movie-viewing habits. First of all, inflation has been on the rise in the U.S. and many predict that the nation is headed toward a recession. As a result, it isn’t surprising that some U.S. consumers are already starting to cut back on spending. Meanwhile, Strange World is the type of film likely to attract families to the theater. With the holidays coming up and the economy being uncertain, it could just be that many families decided against the expense of a night out at the movies, as tickets and concessions are not cheap.

Meanwhile, the movie theater industry as a whole has been changing rapidly amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the rise in streaming. It isn’t uncommon for some viewers to opt to wait for films to hit streaming platforms instead of heading to the theater. This could be especially true for an animated Disney film as the studio has given several of its animated titles exclusive streaming releases. Even if an animated Disney film does go to theaters, it is practically guaranteed to hit Disney+ within months. Streaming is an entity that isn’t going away and for many viewers it’s a significant factor in deciding which films to see in a theater. While huge, action-packed spectacles like Black Panther: Wakanda Forever and Avatar: The Way of Water seem destined for the big screen, others, like an animated family-friendly flick, might not warrant that sense of necessity to see it in theaters—especially when streaming it is much cheaper.

(featured image: Disney)


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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.