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Disney’s newest animated film, ‘Strange World,’ posts slow start

Nov. 24, 2022 Updated Thu., Nov. 24, 2022 at 6:24 p.m.

“Strange World” features the voice of Jake Gyllenhaal in an animated adventure.  (TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE)
“Strange World” features the voice of Jake Gyllenhaal in an animated adventure. (TRIBUNE NEWS SERVICE)
By Thomas Buckley Washington Post

“Strange World,” Walt Disney Co.’s latest animated film, took in a modest $4.2 million domestically in theaters in its opening night on Wednesday.

That fell below the $7.5 million first-day sales of “Encanto,” the Disney animated film released this week a year ago.

“Strange World” is expected to generate $21 million to $35 million in U.S. and Canadian ticket sales through Sunday, according to a forecast from researcher Boxoffice Pro. Disney is expecting $30 million.

The results put “Strange World” on an uphill climb to recoup its budget and marketing expenses. Disney animated films typically cost at least $150 million to produce. Marketing can add tens of millions of dollars more.

The film faces competition over the long Thanksgiving weekend from “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” another Disney movie, now in its third week of release, as well as from “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,” a Netflix Inc. picture appearing in theaters for just seven days.

Thanksgiving weekends have historically been significant for Disney. In previous years, the studio released its animated hits “Frozen” and “Frozen II,” which went on to gross more than $1 billion each.

Animated films have had a tough time at the box office during the pandemic, with parents reluctant to take little kids to theaters and movie options multiplying at home. Disney’s last big animated hit, “Encanto,” got off to a slow start in theaters before taking off online. The company sent “Turning Red” directly to its Disney+ streaming service in March. “Lightyear,” a Pixar film that got mixed reviews, generated $226 million worldwide after its release in June.

“Strange World” is the 61st film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. It tells the story of the Clades family of explorers who embark on a journey in the fictional land of Avalonia, where they encounter surreal lifeforms.

The picture’s “sci-fi lean, which typically favors the male demographic, and an underwhelming marketing campaign haven’t helped sell it to the broader family audience,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at Boxoffice.com, said in an email.

“Strange World” scored 75% critical approval on RottenTomatoes.com, on a par with Lightyear. Seattle Times critic Soren Andersen cited an “uneasy marriage of clunky psychodrama and overwrought special effects” that made it “a chore to sit through.” The New York Post’s Johnny Oleksinski called it “a sweet, science-fiction family film with a loud environmentalist message…that’s good fun.”

Disney is releasing the picture in more than 4,100 locations domestically. The film features a gay character who has a crush on a classmate. For that reason, the company chose not submit it to local censoring authorities in more than a dozen countries, including Pakistan, Malaysia and throughout the Middle East.

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