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Disney fans react as Strange World flops at the box office

The $180 million-budgeted animated adventure only picked up $11.9 million over the weekend.

By Emily Maskell

Disney's Strange World
Disney's Strange World (Image: Disney)

Disney’s Strange World has had a disappointing box office opening despite encouraging reviews for the studio’s first film to feature gay teen romance. And fans have their own ideas as to why.

Strange World follows three generations of the adventurous Clade family as they embark on a journey to “uncharted and treacherous land where fantastical creatures await.” The animated fantasy was anticipated for its teen character Ethan Clade, a biracial, openly gay 16-year-old who gets tongue-tied when he’s near his crush, Diazo.

The $180 million-budgeted animated adventure had picked up only $4.2 million by Wednesday (23 November), which means a five-day total of just under $24 million, Variety reported. According to BoxOfficeMojo, Strange World garnered $11.9 million over the weekend (25-27 November) while Marvel Studios’ Black Panther: Wakanda Forever made $45.9 million in the same time frame.

The film also had a warm critic score of 75 percent on Rotten Tomatoes opposite a 61 percent audience score.

Ethan Clade in Disney's Strange World
Ethan Clade voiced by Jaboukie Young-White in Disney’s Strange World (Image: Disney)

Responding to the news that Strange World hadn’t been as successful as hoped for one person wondered whether the “weak marketing/merch” was due to the character of Ethan Clade. “My theory: the execs want this film to go under the radar,” they added.

A lack of promotion for the film was picked up by others too. One person added: “I’ve been to the movie theater over 100 times this year and I didn’t see a single trailer for Strange World. They do it on purpose. They intentionally bury it so they can say ‘See? Nobody wants to see movies like this.’ Maybe they would if the studio promoted it.”

Despite the less-than-pleasing box office results, fans have spoken lovingly of the film.

Someone, who agreed Disney had let te film flop said: “I LOVED THIS MOVIE. Ethan is such a good example of how I like to see Black & LGBTQ characters – LOVED. I NEVERR thought I’d see the day where I saw myself in a Disney character, representation is so so beautiful”.

Another person wrote they “f***ing loved,” Ethan and the way his character wad completely normalised in the film.

And someone else also celebrated Ethan and the representation the character provides: “Strange World gave us a queer male main character. FINALLY!” they wrote adding, “I’m really hoping LGBTQ+ representation in family-friendly Western Animation will give us more queer or gay male characters that are actually main characters.”

Director Don Hall shared that in creating Ethan his identity was “organic.

“His gayness is one part of him. He’s also bold and wildly empathetic, which is why he becomes sort of the conservationist in our film,” Hall added. “Also, he’s impulsive as teenagers kind of are. So to us, he was just a flesh-and-blood, well-rounded character, and I think we can’t wait for the world to embrace him like we did.”

Jaboukie Young-White, who plays Ethan, and identifies as gay shared he was particularly proud of how the film approached Ethan’s identity.

“It wasn’t explained or this or that, or have to go through the coming out thing — and that’s okay. I think we’re well past that as a culture,” the actor noted.

“I thought that it was pretty cool, just in the fact that Don and Qui, the creators, really have a commitment to just reflecting what our world looks like and what reality looks like, in a way that isn’t heavy-handed or forced,” he continued. “It’s kind of just the way it is.” 

Strange World is in UK cinemas now.