The new Disney film Strange Magic, said George Lucas, was “designed for 12-year-old girls,” but audiences of all ages avoided it like a plague this weekend. The film, based on a story by Lucas and directed by seven-time Oscar-winning sound designer Gary Rydstrom, had one of the worst wide-debuts in Hollywood history.

Strange Magic opened in seventh place with an estimated $5.5 million, which makes it the all-time worst-opening ever for an animated film in 3000+ theaters, as well as the 7th-worst opening for any film playing in 3000+ theaters. The previous record holders for the weakest animated film launches in 3000+ theaters were The Wild Thornberries (2002) with $6.01 million and Quest for Camelot (1998) with $6.04 million. Adjusting for inflation, however, both of those films had significantly larger audiences than the meager crowds who turned out for Strange Magic.

Disney treated the film as if it knew it would bomb, and didn’t publicly announce the existence of the film until last November, just two months before the film’s release. All signs point to its release being a contractual obligation of their Lucasfilm purchase; in other words, the price they had to pay to get Star Wars. (It was produced at Disney’s Lucasfilm Animation Singapore with the assistance of Industrial Light & Magic.) Disney used its Touchstone label to distribute Strange Magic, a brand that they rarely use for animation, except for when they have no other options. The only other recent animation releases on the Touchstone label have been The Wind Rises and Gnomeo and Juliet.

The other animation-related film in the top ten, Paddington, took third place in its 2nd weekend with an estimated $12.4 million. The Weinstein/Dimension release with the titular animated star has grossed $40.1 million to date in the U.S., in addition to $143 million internationally.

The Paul King-directed Paddington represents a risky $55 million attempt by Europe’s Studiocanal to launch a global film franchise outside of the traditional U.S. studio system, and by all accounts, the film has been a major success for the company. Studiocanal’s next major animation release will be Aardman’s Shaun the Sheep Movie which launches in the U.K. on February 6, with an American release to follow at a later date.

Final numbers and international figures to come on Monday…

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