2022’s Strange World had the ignominious fate of officially ending Disney Animation’s CinemaScore ratings streak by scoring lower than any film in 31 years. Directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen and written by Nguyen, Strange World was the third major animated feature to be released by Disney in 2022 after Pixar’s Turning Red and Lightyear. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jaboukie Young-White, Gabrielle Union, Dennis Quaid, and Lucy Liu, and Jonathan Melo, Strange World brings viewers into the fold of a new adventure and story centered on a family of explorers.
Strange World reviews from critics presented mixed opinions about the pulp adventure flick, which led to a Disney tradition being broken. The market research firm CinemaScore, which polls theater audiences after seeing the movie, has revealed that Strange World received a B, making it the first ever Walt Disney Animation Studios film to score below an A- according to CinemaScore’s metrics. CinemaScore began polling viewers of Disney Animation films in 1991, starting with Beauty and the Beast, which scored an A.
Strange World Wasn’t An Encanto-Like Hit For Disney
The six-question CinemaScore poll inquires about grade scale as well as the surveyed person’s interest in purchasing or renting the film in question, and focuses primarily on predicting box office success and wide-scale viewer appeal. While CinemaScore’s ratings are not always a direct indicator of film quality, Strange World‘s grade ended Disney’s rating streak and showed that audiences were split on their enjoyment of the film. The review site Rotten Tomatoes reinforced this point, with Strange World‘s audience score landing at 66% and critic score at 72%. Critics’ indifference to the film was also seen when Strange World missed out on even a nomination for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.
Of 2022’s releases, Turning Red was released on Disney+ and thus did not receive a theatrical roll-out or CinemaScore. Lightyear earned an A- grade, 74% critics score on Rotten Tomatoes, and 84% audience score, showing that viewers enjoyed the Toy Story-adjacent film more than they did Strange World. The studio’s two theatrical releases in 2021, Raya and the Last Dragon and Encanto, both received A ratings and impressive scores over 90% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics and audiences alike, with Encanto being Disney’s biggest animated success post-pandemic. Released in late November 2021, Encanto enjoyed enviable staying power due to the catchy soundtrack and fascinating family dynamics it portrays.
Despite Strange World releasing on the same weekend that Encanto did the year prior and featuring an original story that introduces audiences to a new and magical world with a heartwarming generational family story at its center similar to Encanto, it was unable to replicate its predecessor’s long-term success. Previously, even the Disney Animation films that have earned some criticism from viewers, such as Chicken Little, Cars 2, and Home on the Range, never dipped below an A-, but Strange World lacked the studio’s ability to connect with an audience even when not at its best.
Strange World Also Struggled Commercially
Strange World was also Disney’s biggest animated box office disappointment since the studio’s struggles in the mid-2000s. The film grossed $73.6 million with a $135-180 million budget, resulting in a substantial loss. Lukewarm reviews and audience feedback likely contributed to this failure, although a lackluster advertising campaign and a crowded November release window probably didn’t help either.
However, like past Disney animated features, Strange World had success on streaming. It began streaming on Disney+ on December 23, just one month after its theatrical premiere, and was one of the top 10 streamed films on the service over the following three weeks (via FlixPatrol). Strange World was also praised for its diverse cast, featuring the first openly LGBTQ character in a Walt Disney Pictures Animation film. So, while Strange World may have made some unwanted history for Disney with its CinemaScore ranking, it could still end up with a reputation as a cult favorite.