New Disney Movie from Iowa Director Could Lose Over $100 Million
Despite a handful of new releases in theaters this weekend, none outside of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (in its third week of release) managed to move the needle. This was the worst Thanksgiving box office in recorded history, according to Indiewire.
Two newcomers in the form of a new Disney animated movie and a Korean War drama were practically dead on arrival. The only thing sadder is that the former is a product of an Iowa native and graduate.
Disney's Strange World was directed by Iowa-native Don Hall. Hall has been a notable name in animation for years, having co-directed several hits for Disney, including: Big Hero 6, Moana, and Raya and the Last Dragon. Big Hero 6 also won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature back in 2014.
Hall's Strange World might have to wait for its release on Disney+ before it gets in front of the family audience it was hoping to corral over the long weekend. The film grossed $18.6 million over the five-day weekend. That's a dismal return for a film whose budget has been reported to be anywhere from $135 to $180 million.
NOTE: when studios release the budgets for their films, the figure does not factor in marketing costs. That means print, radio, TV, and physical (posters, bus signs, etc) advertising dollars are not included in the final figure. Considering Disney likely spent tens of millions of dollars marketing Strange World, Variety reports that the film needs to gross roughly $360 million to "break even," before netting any kind of profit. Spoiler alert: it's not going to come anywhere near that.
As a fan of Don Hall and his films over the years, this is disheartening to say the least. Hall was born and raised in the town of Glenwood, IA. He attended college in Iowa City, at none other than the University of Iowa, where he earned a degree in drawing and painting. He then took his talents to Hollywood, and eventually wound up working in Disney's coveted animation division.
Among Hall's first film credits were Mulan and Tarzan (1999), the latter on which he worked as a story artist. His first directorial credit was Winnie the Pooh in 2011, at the time Disney's first hand-drawn animated film in years.
Strange World was always going to be an uphill battle to market. New characters and worlds always are, especially in an age where people want pre-existing properties and stories with which they are familiar. Strange World had more in common with Treasure Planet visually and narratively than, say, Minions, or another recognizable franchise. It's also a little mystifying why Disney potentially left hundreds of millions on the table releasing Hocus Pocus 2 on Disney+ and instead gambled with Strange World going gangbusters over Thanksgiving weekend.
As disheartening as it is, I don't see Don Hall going anywhere. He's far too established in the world of animation to let this set him back in a meaningful way. The Iowa native will surely helm another Disney project in the very near future. And after all, Strange World still has a Disney+ release (likely in the next month or two) to look forward to.
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