Six of Disney's biggest box office flops, from Turning Red to John Carter

Disney's latest animation film Strange World is predicted to lose $100 million in its theatrical run

The poor box office earnings from Turning Red are, in large part, due to Disney's decision to forgo a theatrical run in favour of a Disney+ release. Photo: Disney+ via AP
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Disney has been torn between two extremes at the box office this past week.

On one hand, its freshest Marvel offering, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever seems to be effortlessly dominating international box offices, skating past the $675 million mark at the weekend. On the other, its latest animation release, Strange World, which was released in the US during the Thanksgiving holiday, has been disastrously underperforming.

The film, which tells the story of a family of explorers and stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Lucy Liu, has raked in about $18.5 million in the five days since its release. Several publications, including Variety, are predicting it is going to lose about $100 million in its theatrical run.

As far as ticket sales are concerned, Strange World has now had one of Disney’s worst opening weekends. There have been, however, even worse performers.

We take a look at six other Disney bombs, some of which can’t escape our memories quickly enough and others that have since gone on to become cult classics.

Turning Red (2022)

It’s difficult to imagine a Pixar film not only bombing at the box office but becoming the Tsar Bomba of Hollywood history. It’s a shame because Turning Red was actually a pretty good film.

A charming story about a teenage girl, 13, who transforms into a giant red panda whenever she gets overly excited, Turning Red lost about $168 million, raking in only $20 million at the global box office. This was, in large part, due to Disney’s decision to forgo a theatrical run in favour of releasing the film on its streaming platform Disney+.

Still, the film proved to be a critical success. It has a 95 per cent certified fresh rating on the review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes, with the critics' consensus reading: “Heartwarming, humorous, beautifully animated and culturally expansive, Turning Red extends Pixar's long list of family-friendly triumphs.”

Mulan (2020)

The live-action remake of the beloved 1998 film did not fare as well as the original, which made $300 million at the box office. The 2020 film, though visually spectacular, lacked the heart and soul that made the animated Mulan a cult classic. The film was also released in the thick of the pandemic, which hampered its box office earnings. After several delays, Disney opted to release it on its streaming service, though many countries outside the US did enjoy a theatrical run.

In the end, Mulan brought in $70 million, half of which came from China alone. It had an estimated loss of more than $180 million.

The Lone Ranger (2013)

This Johnny Depp-starring Western needed about $650 million worldwide just to break even. This was supposed to be Disney’s box office comeback in 2013, a year after the enormous flop that was John Carter. However, if anything, the film seemed to sustain its performance anxiety. The Lone Ranger came out in the US during the same time as Despicable Me 2, and though it cost three times more to make, earned only a third of what the animated comedy raked in.

In the end, The Lone Ranger lost an estimated $104 million.

John Carter (2012)

The star-studded John Carter, which featured Willem Dafoe, Bryan Cranston, Dominic West and Taylor Kitsch in the title role, grossed almost $300 million internationally. Despite this, the film was considered a flop due to its immense production and marketing costs, with experts estimating that it needed $600 million in ticket sales to break-even.

Mars Needs Moms (2011)

Up until the pandemic, Mars Needs Moms was Disney’s worst-performing film, and it didn’t have Turning Red’s saving grace of being critically well-received.

The film tells the story of a boy, 9, who sets out to rescue his mother from Martians. It cost $150 million to make and grossed less than $40 million worldwide.

Treasure Planet (2002)

This science-fiction rendition of the classic 1882 novel Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson has become a bit of a cult classic, despite its lukewarm performance at the box office. The film tells the story of a rebellious teen who is given a map by a dying pirate to a mysterious Treasure Planet, nudging him into an interstellar odyssey.

Treasure Planet had a budget of $140 million, making it one of the most expensive traditionally animated films ever made. It fused together CGI with hand-drawn animations, making it a visual spectacle that was leaps and bounds ahead of anything else at its time. Sadly, its release date, which coincided with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, hampered its box office performance, resulting in a $74 million loss for Disney.

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Updated: November 30, 2022, 4:31 AM