Disney has typically had a successful track record with releasing family-friendly films during the extended Thanksgiving holiday weekend, but Walt Disney Animation Studios' Strange World is shaping up to be one of the biggest bombs in the history of the studio's founding division.
The animated feature debuted with just $11.9 million across North American theaters over the weekend and just $18.6 million over the five-day holiday frame. This is an even lower opening than original projections which estimated earnings of $30 million to $40 million between Wednesday and Sunday.
Strange World also failed to capture international audiences as it earned just $9.2 million from 43 markets for a global start of $27.8 million. The film was not released in China or Russia due to geopolitical tensions.
Disney also opted not to submit Strange World to several smaller markets, including the entire Middle East, Malaysia, and Indonesia, because the movie features an openly gay character. Disney wasn't willing to cut out parts of the movie to comply with guidelines in these regions where films with LGBTQ references are typically targeted by censors. Pixar's Lightyear was also banned earlier this year because it featured a same-sex kiss.
With a $180 million production budget, Strange World is shaping up to be one of the biggest box bombs in Disney's history. Industry sources believe that with global marketing and distribution fees added in, Strange World would need to earn roughly $360 million to break even.
It's drawing comparisons to the 2002 flop Treasure Planet which earned just $16.6 million during its Thanksgiving opening and went on to make just $110 million worldwide against its $140 million budget. But whereas Treasure Planet earned an A- from audiences on CinemaScore, Strange World has earned a tepid B CinemaScore and generated minimal buzz.
Strange World is the latest in a string of troubling box office runs for Disney's animation studios. Encanto earned $96 million in North America and ended its theatrical run with $256 million worldwide before coming to Disney+ where it found massive appeal. Lightyear, also a box office flop, still generated $118 million at the U.S. box office and $226 million worldwide. Strange World is tracking far lower than both of these films.
Pre-pandemic, Thanksgiving weekend was almost always a sure-fire window for Disney. Previous releases like 2019's Frozen II ($123.7M opening), 2018's Ralph Breaks the Internet ($84.6M opening), and 2017's Coco ($71M opening) all thrived during the extended holiday weekend.
For whatever reason, Disney has failed to recapture that success in recent years. Part of the problem could be that the pandemic conditioned many to stay home and wait for the animated releases to come to Disney+. During the height of the pandemic, Disney has released Pixar movies like Soul and Luca directly to Disney+. While many agreed with the move at the time, some analysts believe it inadvertently conditioned families to watch these new movies on its streaming service.
Strange World currently sits at a solid 74% on Rotten Tomatoes with a 60% audience score. While many have praised the film's massive steps in representation, the story itself leaves much to be desired.