Strange World Strange World

Disney’s Strange World was Hollywood’s biggest box office bomb of 2022, losing the studio nearly $200 million, according to a report by Deadline.

Here’s a look at its bleak performance and what it all means.

What did Strange World cost? According to the report, the Don Hall-directed film Strange World ran a massive budget of $180 million with a marketing budget of another $90 million. Total expenses on the film are estimated at around $317.4 million.

How much did the film make? In total, Strange World grossed just $73.6 million at the global box office and another $55 million from tv and streaming. After a bit of math, Strange World ended up losing Disney $197 million, which was worse than any other Hollywood film in 2022. Making matters even worse, Pixar’s Lightyear, also distributed by parent company Disney, also made Deadline’s list of flops, losing $106 million. For those keeping score, Disney’s last two animated feature releases lost the company a combined $303 million.

There were signs the film would underperform: Things looked bad for Strange World long before the film ever hit theaters. For starters, Disney’s track record with science fiction films leaves a lot to be desired; both Atlantis and Treasure Planet floundered at the box office. On top of that, the film generated almost no buzz going into its theatrical debut, which was marred by controversy as at least 15 countries refused to allow the film to screen due to the presence of a same-sex relationship.

Straight-to-streaming: Another likely contributing factor to the flops of both Strange World and Lightyear is that parents have been conditioned to wait for kid-oriented films to hit streaming platforms. Former CEO Bob Chapek and his team sent a string of Pixar features straight to Disney+ (Soul, Luca, Turning Red) while Disney’s own Encanto had a limited period of time when it was available exclusively in theaters. At the time of Strange World’s brutal run, an anonymous source from a rival studio told The Hollywood Reporter, “Families were trained to wait to watch Disney films at home.”

What does this loss mean for Disney? Financially, not much in the long term. Earlier this year we asked Colin Tedards of The Investor Channel to explain how to read quarterly financial reports for big Hollywood studios. In his video essay, he told us that while these big-budget titles often draw a lot of media coverage, they are often a non-factor in a company’s earnings reports. One big hit, like Avatar: The Way of Water, or one mega-flop like Strange World, ultimately makes little difference to Disney’s overall performance. Creatively, however, Walt Disney Animation Studios is the crown jewel of the company’s animation efforts, and the complete and total rejection of one of the studio’s films will no doubt cause consternation in the halls of Burbank.

What does the loss mean for the people who worked on the film? For the artists involved, a flop can mean something else entirely. In 2019, two-time Oscar nominee Kelly Asbury gave us an extremely candid look into the psyche of a director whose film bombs at the box office, explaining that perhaps obviously, “box office bombs hurt.” The entire piece, written by the late filmmaker himself, is well worth a read and provides a rare look at what happens after a big-budget studio film tanks at the box office.

Jamie Lang

Jamie Lang is the Editor-in-Chief of Cartoon Brew.