Why Strange World Was Dead On Arrival

Credit: Strange World

Disney hasn’t had the best of luck this year. Sure, the MCU has helped them gain a solid profit, but even the Marvel films have disappointed at the box office. Still, none of the Marvel films are considered flops, unlike Disney’s animation in 2022. The first was Lightyear, which actually wasn’t much of a surprise when you look back at the film in retrospect. The thing is, most audiences were confused about what the sci-fi/action film was; Is Lightyear an origin story of Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear? That seemed to be the case, but then Chris Evans oddly replacing Tim Allen as the voice of Buzz muddled that notion. Understandably, Chris Evans is more of a notable name in the world of films, but Tim Allen IS Buzz Lightyear to every fan of the Toy Story series. There are a whole bunch of reasons why Lightyear just didn’t work out, but surprisingly, that film isn’t the huge flop of the year for Disney.

Strange World is, and it’s actually not a big surprise, either. The animated feature was officially released on November 23, 2022, and came back with some dismal numbers for the four-day holiday weekend. Strange World only made $18.7 million over the Thanksgiving holiday, and this was a film that was projected to have a production budget of around $180 million. Strange World has made a little over $61 million worldwide but is ultimately tracking to lose the studio over $100 million. Now one of the most obvious that this film failed to turn a profit is Disney telling us that this wasn’t a film worth investing in. There was barely any buzz for Strange World. At least with Lightyear, Disney advertised the hell out of that, but marketing was oddly quiet for Strange World. Usually when studios have little faith in a film, then they just dump it out into theaters with little marketing behind it. Strange World holds a lackluster 73% on rotten tomatoes, so it isn’t bad, but it’s a film you’ve seen countless times before. Disney knew this. They didn’t believe in it, and in turn, told audiences that it wasn’t worth the investment by not giving it the attention it needed.

Credit: Strange Worlds

One does wonder why the studio didn’t just simply send it to Disney plus if they truly didn’t see much value in the film. Perhaps it was contractually obligated to be released in theaters or the studio simply wanted to get something back for spending so much money on it. However, that wasn’t ultimately the reason Strange World bombed at the box office. Let’s address the elephant in the room. It’s the political themes that the company is shoving down the throats of viewers. Yes, there’s a prominent gay character in the lead role, and there’s a clear focus on the story with him and this other boy. It’s nothing raunchy, but it’s the character itself that turned away some audiences.

Here’s the thing, unfortunately, homophobia exists, and there are people who simply stayed away from the film because of the gay lead. However, the issue with Strange World and most modern films that feature a gay character are that being gay is essentially their personality. There’s no other depth or dimension to them other than their sexuality. It feels as if these films are so focused on delivering their message that they forgot to treat these characters as regular human beings with incredible layers, who just happen to be gay.

Credit: Strange Worlds

Brokeback Mountain is an R-rated feature that made nearly $200 million worldwide. Deadpool/Wade Wilson is unapologetically bisexual (though he hasn’t done anything with a guy in the films yet), with a gay supporting character, and both films made over $700 million worldwide. Hell, Glass Onion’s Benoit Blanc is gay, yet audiences were excited to see the film, and it produced strong numbers despite its short time in theaters. The personalities of these gay characters aren’t simply, I’m gay, and it shows that when you’re not trying to shove a message down the audience’s throat that they could care less about a character’s sexuality. As previously mentioned, some will avoid the film simply because of that reason, but a good majority of the world simply doesn’t care. The theme of sexuality is a complicated beast, and there are parents who also don’t want to expose their children to such a topic at a young age. It also didn’t help that the exact themes of Strange World weren’t clear enough. And though the main character’s sexuality wasn’t, particularly a focal point in the featured trailers, it was well known that it would feature a gay lead. To be clear, I’m not stating that there’s anything wrong with being gay, but when you beat the message into audiences’ heads by choosing to focus on political correctness instead of focusing on telling a strong and compelling story, it can and will come back to haunt you.

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