The Odd Case of Disney’s Strange World.

Do you know that there was a theatrical Walt Disney Animation Studios production pushed out into the world on November 22nd 2022? Better question. Did the mouse house want the general public to know that this release even existed? That is the question currently surrounding the discourse one of the most memorably notable flops this author can remember in his time as a film watcher. $72 million worldwide on a budget reported to be anywhere from $135 to 180 million dollars isn’t just any old flop. It’s a crater that immediately levels a hole in the atmosphere and digs a big enough hole for itself that it could result in a systemic change within Disney’s theatrical animation.
There’s the immediate most obvious reason for the film’s astronomical underperformance. As a viewer and fan who goes and sees films theatrically every week when there are major releases around there was not one trailer to any genre or family adjacent films in the lead-up to Strange Worlds’ arrival. It’s hard to appropriately articulate how against the norm this is for a company as monolithic as Disney. The new Walt Disney Animation Studios project ( especially in an era after the second CG Disney renaissance restored faith in this arm of the company. The arrival of a big new release in the pre-Christmas schedule is normally a huge event in family movie circles. That only ever appeared to be one trailer released online ( which this author didn’t watch) Going in to see opening weekend Was a weird experience. As that weirdo who openly chooses to see 3D prints when available, this was only the second time that a Disney 3D master was only available in what US moviegoers would refer to as Premium Large Format locations. Hence the 3D-only version is available only for two screenings a day on the opening Saturday and Sunday. The popular narrative is the 3D dead outside James Cameron ( who arguably has just resurrected it in the mainstream. Regular 3D releases theatrically from Disney have chugged along as a niche for years without the majority of the mainstream noticing The rest of the screen was given over during weekdays to the third week of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
It’s hard to remember such a blatant lack of faith product from a major studio with the release of this size and budget Where our corporate overlords hiding a potential major embarrassment here. Or a weird strange normally destined for some variety of cult fandom.

Honestly Strange World is the most frustrating kind of mediocre. The sort of thing where the discourse around its colossal underperformance is legitimately more interesting than the content of the film itself. This is the exact sort of multigenerational family adventure one will have seen in this stripe of animation done before and better several times over. ( Some of the better offerings by Disney themselves. The animation and select visual design here may be pretty but top-tier Disney and Pixar productions have the raw talent and resources in their technical teams to craft animation that’s effectively photoreal at this point. That’s without using it as a marketing tactic like they did with Jon Favreau’s photoreal Lion King. One might think “so what?” Disney’s very open strategy with certain sections of its creative output is the ability to resell bland products That pander to some level of familiar nostalgia. Strange World might technically be an original property but its reverence for this brand of old-fashioned and tired-feeling adventure movie could very much fit that description.

However and much more pointedly two immediate Disney live-action flop comparisons jumped to this watcher’s mind whilst watching. These were 2012s John Carter and 2013s The Lone Ranger. Two gargantuan and infamous Disney flops from the post-Jerry Bruckheimer/ Pirates of the Caribbean’s peak period. Disney was trying to rebrand a section of their releases to have a vestige of male appeal. This was before they realized that the corporation had enough traction as a monolithic entity to just buy male-appealing properties outright with the purchase of Marvel and LucasFilm. The rest as they say is history. If Disney accountants likely looked at the final product as a piece that has a reverence and nostalgia Kind of 50 sci-fi difficult to market to today’s children. It’s simultaneously an original property without any truly distinctive character or major merchandising opportunities in and of itself it’s not difficult to see why they perhaps did not invest a great deal In pushing the film out to a wider audience. There is of course a much more cynical and obvious creative reason for the film’s lack of major presents
The film features Disney’s first openly LGBT Hero within the central family dynamic. From a creative perspective, it’s nice to see that Disney has graduated from simple nods that can be cut out in territories where blatant homophobia means any LGBT content gets permanently blacklisted. Simeltaineasly the hero’s brief allusions to his sexuality in discussions with his father about his boyfriend aren’t substantial enough to be a major lynchpin and emotional core of the narrative. . It’s a step in the right direction It’s not a major enough element to make any substantial impact on the film’s quality unless one grades films on how representative they are. Or to those who live their lives vicariously in the hyper-liberal echo chambers within certain sections of social media. Critically modern Disney wants everything produced at the level of Strange World to be some level of cultural event. The film’s LGBTQ content may not be as much as will be reported by some but is more than enough that it can’t be cut around in the territories that will respond negatively to accepting this on screen. Morally wrong on every conceivable level. Absolutely. Unfortunately short of some level of violent revolution attitudes within homophobic nations aren’t going to change in any conceivable way for this foreseeable future. Disney may see these markets as ultimately just as important as those with a more liberal mindset. Ultimately regardless of individual nation stance on a range of LGBT issues Modern Disney, it’s still going to act like some variety of all-encouraging ruler to that audience regardless of cultural factors. When presented with something like Strange World where marketing may be unsalable or result in backlash throughout certain markets why invest the money and Resources in attempting to make it a world-conquering juggernaut ( the only business the company seems interested in at this level) It fundamentally can’t be due to a creative decision that while correct hampers the film with some level of marketing albatross it will never be able to overcome
There’s much more to be written about the majorly embarrassing belly flop of Disney Strange World both in a contemporary context and down the road, once we know how its financial cratering impacts Walt Disney Animation Studios going forward. It certainly has the potential to result in major creative restructuring. Whether or not Jennifer Lee and company will survive putting out a product that coasts so definitively on its laurels remains to be seen. What the author wanted to get across with this piece was how much the content of the film itself feels like a deserved footnote in the context of the ongoing media narrative/ potential creative fallout. As a viewer who has watched and loved huge chunks of the second renaissance Disney’s theatrical animation cannon, it’s their worst offering in 15 years. The kind of thing that makes one believe that a level of fundamental change is needed before another of the company’s major content pipelines becomes fundamentally infested with An infection of blandness As is the case with anything Anything from the mouse house that is this much of an objective to failure there will surely be defenders and insisters that Strange World will have a cult following in years to come. This viewer would counter the fact that the film is so lacking in creative risk that it would be unlikely to appeal to anyone looking for any variety of bizarre choices or big creative swing within their Disney content. Not everything needs to fit this category but there’s no excuse for something this bland. Regardless of the lack of marketing or debates around how much the LGBT angle heart the film’s marketability globally Strange World itself from a content perspective is best exemplified by a bland shrug. It has gotten the deserved rejection from mainstream audiences.

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