Strange World is already heading to Disney Plus – so what went wrong?

The Clade family stand close together as they fly their airplane through Avalonia's awe-inspiring subterranean world
Disney's Strange World bombed at the global box office. (Image credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)

Strange World's Disney Plus release date has been announced – less than one month after it was released in theaters.

After bombing at the global box office, Disney's latest animated flick will land on Disney Plus in time for Christmas (or the holiday season, if you don't celebrate this festive event). In a press release, Disney revealed that Strange World will arrive on its streaming platform on Friday, December 23 – exactly one month after it launched in cinemas worldwide.

For a film that was supposed to usher in Disney's centenary celebrations – the legendary studio turns 100 in 2023 – Strange World's earlier-than-expected Disney Plus release will come as a major blow to the entertainment corporation. After all, it launched on Thanksgiving weekend, which is traditionally one of the busiest theatrical periods of the year in the US. Equally, its all-star cast, which includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, and Lucy Liu, should've enticed people to watch Strange World on the big screen.

And yet, on a production budget of somewhere between $135 million and $180 million, Strange World has made just $53.5 million back from its theatrical run. So, what went wrong?

Jaeger, Searcher, and Ethan stand back to back as enemies close in on them in Strange World

Why didn't Strange World succeed at the box office? (Image credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)

For one, Strange World wasn't marketed anywhere near well enough to lure theatre goers to, well, go and see it.

Take me, for example. As someone who extensively covers the entertainment industry, I knew Strange World was being released on November 23. I was also invited to a Strange World preview event by Disney, where I (and other attendees) were shown some fun, colorful, and action-packed clips from the animated movie. Later that day, I interviewed Roy Conli, one of Strange World's producers and someone who's worked at Walt Disney Animation Studios for almost 30 years, to find out how the daring Strange World aptly honors Disney's 100-year legacy as a world-leading studio.

So far, so good, right? Not exactly. That preview event took place in September, two months before Strange World's arrival. In the eight weeks between me attending that press gathering and the movie's launch, I saw little to no promotional material for Strange World. Anywhere.

In the UK (where I live), I saw one Strange World advert out in the wild – and that was on the side of a double-decker bus. Online, things didn't fare much better. In the month leading up to release, I saw four promotional videos on the Walt Disney Animation Studios YouTube channel, plus four or five tweets from the Disney Animation Twitter account. For one of the few non-Marvel movies released by Disney in 2022, that's a paltry amount of promotional material.

Okay, that was my personal experience – maybe others noticed a bigger marketing campaign than I did. Other possible viewers might have seen even less than me, though, so how can Disney expect more casual theater goers to watch it if they aren't even aware of its existence? Additionally, without a large enough audience going to see and enjoying it, Strange World couldn't receive a timely boost from word of mouth recommendations, which invariably hit its box office earnings.

Ethan looks out onto the titular Strange World in the 2022 Disney film of the same name

Strange World looks beautiful – but it didn't attract enough people. (Image credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)

Then there's the competition that Strange World was up against.

Unfortunately for Disney's newest animated feature film, its release came less than two weeks after Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. The latest superhero movie entry in Marvel's cinematic juggernaut has dominated the box office for five straight weeks (at the time of writing, anyway). Films released alongside or after Wakanda Forever, then, didn't really stand a chance at succeeding – including Strange World. 

Some, such as the Jonathan Majors-starring Devotion, The Fabelmans – a semi-biographical film about Steven Spielberg – and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, which received a limited theatrical release over Thanksgiving weekend, fared okay. However, their takings paled in comparison to the Marvel Phase 4 movie. If they struggled to compete, what hope did Strange World realistically have?

With the likes of Avatar: The Way of Water – another of our highly anticipated new movies for 2022 – almost certain to command the global box office once it's released on December 16, Disney has made the right decision in cutting its theatrical losses over Strange World.

So, what are the chances of Strange World faring better on Disney's streamer and becoming one of the best Disney Plus movies? They're not high, but it should give one of the world's best streaming services a timely boost around the holidays.

Strange World won't pull in viewers like 2021's Encanto did. For one, Encanto's surprising Disney Plus success was down to viral song We Don't Talk About Bruno, which stormed the music charts and helped Encanto bag multiple gongs on the 2022 awards circuit. Strange World isn't a music-led animated flick, so it won't enjoy the same unparalleled success.

The Madrigal family assemble at the front of their house in Encanto

Encanto was a big Disney Plus success story following its average theatrical release. (Image credit: Disney/Pixar)

However, its December 23 Disney Plus launch should entice families and wider animation fans to check it out. Yes, there's plenty of streaming content to catch up on over the Christmas period. And, in movies like Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio, Strange World has competition for audiences' attention over the holiday season.

As an easy, family-friendly watch that's packed with heart, humor, and genuine LGBTQ+ representation, though, Strange World could end up being more successful on Disney Plus than in theaters. If it is, it might make up for its disappointing box office takings.

Equally, however, that could convince Disney that its animated movies fare better on its streaming service. With other Disney-owned animated films, such as Pixar's Turning Red, already having received straight-to-Disney Plus releases in the past 12 months, Strange World's box office failure might signal another nail in the coffin for Disney animated features being released in theaters.

And, frankly, that would be a huge shame. Animated movies are just as deserving of being seen on the biggest screen possible as their blockbuster counterparts. Strange World didn't succeed for multiple reasons, but its failure shouldn't be to the detriment of others. Things went wrong for Strange World – but it's not too late for Disney to make things right with its future animated offerings.

For more Disney Plus-based content, read our guide on the best Disney Plus shows. Alternatively, find out whether the service is worth subscribing to with our Disney Plus review.

Senior Entertainment Reporter

As TechRadar's senior entertainment reporter, Tom covers all of the latest movies, TV shows, and streaming service news that you need to know about. You'll regularly find him writing about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Star Wars, Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, and many other topics of interest.

An NCTJ-accredited journalist, Tom also writes reviews, analytical articles, opinion pieces, and interview-led features on the biggest franchises, actors, directors and other industry leaders. You may see his quotes pop up in the odd official Marvel Studios video, too, such as this Moon Knight TV spot.

Away from work, Tom can be found checking out the latest video games, immersing himself in his favorite sporting pastime of football, reading the many unread books on his shelf, staying fit at the gym, and petting every dog he comes across.

Got a scoop, interesting story, or an intriguing angle on the latest news in entertainment? Feel free to drop him a line.