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‘Strange World,’ First Disney Film With Openly Gay Teen, Flops in the Box Office

strange world
Screenshot from YouTube / @Walt Disney Animation Studios

Disney’s new animated film, “Strange World,” which has a subplot featuring an LGBTQ character, is proving to be a box office disappointment. It has been a tumultuous year for Disney, which recently replaced CEO Bob Chapek with its former CEO Bob Iger. Some believe Iger has indicated he will pull the company back from the culture wars. 

‘Strange World’ Fails To Wow Audiences

Disney released “Strange World” on Nov. 23. The movie grossed only $11.9 million over its first three days and $18.6 million over the first five. Box office numbers over Thanksgiving were uncharacteristically low overall, according to Box Office Mojo, with one exception being the performance of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.”

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 “[‘Strange World’ had] the worst opening for the label since 2011’s Winnie the Pooh ($7.86 million), but that was a low budget outlier for the brand, costing just $30 million,” says Box Office Mojo’s Sam Mendelsohn

In contrast, “Strange World” cost anywhere from $120 to $180 million to make, and according to The Hollywood Reporter (THR), “Strange World” could lose at least $100 million. “In past years, Disney Animation’s Thanksgiving offerings have provided a hearty feast,” writes THR’s Pamela McClintock. “Even amid the ongoing pandemic, Encanto opened to $40.1 million over the five-day corridor in 2021. And in 2019, Frozen II earned a $125 million, a Thanksgiving record.”

Critics have different theories as to why “Strange World” has not been a success. While one believes it is a result of combining animation with science fiction, another speculates the box office disappointment is due to Disney going “woke.” 

“Strange World” is Disney’s first movie featuring an openly gay teenager. The company had another first earlier this year with the “Toy Story” prequel, “Lightyear,” released June 15, 2022.

“Lightyear” was Disney’s first feature animated film to portray a same sex kiss. The movie did not perform as well as hoped and lost money during its run in theaters. The scene with the same sex kiss was at one point cut from the movie, but was added back following controversy surrounding Florida’s Parental Rights in Education, or “Don’t Say Gay,” bill. 

HB 1557, which drew national attention and went into effect July 1, prohibits teachers from discussing sexual orientation or gender identity with students in kindergarten through third grade, as well as “in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

Disney initially remained silent about the bill and subsequently came under fire from LGBTQ advocates. Bob Chapek, Disney’s CEO at the time, later apologized, publicly opposed the bill, and stopped political donations to Florida. Chapek also met with Florida governor Ron DeSantis to express his concern about the bill and promised to donate $5 million to LGBTQ organizations. One result of the controversy was that Florida’s state legislature stripped Disney of its self-governing status.

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