What even is Disney's Strange World, anyway?

Disney is responsible for the most loved animated films in history. That's usually reflected in the cold reality of its numbers at the box office, with hits like The Lion King remake and Frozen II grossing around $1.5billion. But its latest animated adventure suggests that it doesn't always have that magic touch.

Strange World brought in just $18.6 million in its opening weekend. Now, that might sound like a lot of beans, but bear in mind that the film cost Disney a reported US$180 million to make (if you're working on your own potential blockbuster, make sure you see our character design tips and Disney's 12 principles of animation)

Taking inspiration from pulp magazine stories of the past, Disney's Strange World stars The Clades, a legendary family of explorers whose differences threaten to wreck their most crucial mission to date. With voices including Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid and Gabrielle Union, reviews have been generally positive. The characters are strong and colourful, the animated world is stunning and meticulously rendered. 

But perhaps the story is just a little basic and tired. Or perhaps the timing wasn't ideal, with the film released on Thanksgiving weekend in the US alongside Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery and Devotion. Either way the film doesn't seem to have captured moviegoers' interest on the scale Disney is used to – and needs.

Variety (opens in new tab) thinks that once marketing costs are taken into account, Disney needs Strange World to bring in about $360 million just to break even. That makes it seem like Strange World might be Disney's biggest failure since 2002's Treasure Planet which reportedly lost the company US$74 million.

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There have been several suggestions as to what went wrong. Some people point to the weak story. Others say they're getting bored of Disney's current animation style (enough of those big round noses!). But most people are blaming the marketing. 

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Twitter is full of people tweeting that they didn't know the film had been released. A cinema worker claimed they had no standees or banners to promote the film, while someone else said (opens in new tab): "Lots of people have been finding out about the movie from finding out about it bombing at the box office." "First I've heard of this film," someone else wrote, confirming that theory.

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However, another cause of the weak performance may actually be Disney Plus, where the studio's latest live action – animated crossover Disenchanted is going down a storm with its non-stop Disney Easter eggs. With today's streaming services, people need a film to look particularly special to get them out to a cinema. "I think that everyone saw the trailer and unanimously thought 'I might see this when it’s on Disney Plus'," one person wrote on Twitter (opens in new tab).

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Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.