After a string of hits, it is very strange that the Disney movie Strange World flopped at the box office and reports are it is because of the gay theme.
Projected to earn between $30m-$40m in its initial week, it only grossed $11.9 million from 4,174 North American theatres over the weekend and $18.6 million over the five-day holiday frame.
What is in the story that bombed the movie in theatres worldwide? Could it be Ethan Clade, Disney’s first openly gay character?
Disney’s Mission and Commitment
The mission of the Walt Disney Company is to entertain, inform and inspire people around the globe through the power of unparalleled storytelling, reflecting the iconic brands, creative minds, and innovative technologies that make it the world’s premier entertainment company.
It is committed to making a world of belonging where each person feels seen, heard, and understood. A world in balance where people and wildlife thrive. A world filled with hope and promise.
What made the film company go beyond the usual “feel-good” stories and explore an adult concept like homosexuality and “coming-out” themes within a movie geared towards children?
Is it for profit? Expansion? They suddenly find themselves lacking in themes on which to base their stories on? The Disney movie failed.
The Disney movie failed
Perhaps the answer lies in what the cinema is for.
According to the Disney movie outfit’s mission, they create films that would not just entertain, but also inform and inspire people globally through the power of incomparable storytelling. They are committed to helping make a world where each one is truly seen, heard, and understood.
The purpose of cinema is to show us exactly our world, and our lives, to get us to see them in a new light, to instruct us on something vital to our experiences, and probe into topics that impact people directly.
Thus, the shift in its theme.
The question is – do moviegoers, especially parents and adults, ready for such a shift?
According to a study by the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work published in the Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal, Disney films combine entertainment with life lessons. These could be about affection and alliances, good versus evil, death and loss, and the significance of family.
These are the concepts that moviegoers are so used to seeing in Disney films. Parents believe that these issues strengthen children’s cognitive and behavioral development. That these films can be used as materials that could trigger parent-child conversations thus nurturing children’s minds and expanding their horizons of life.
Lessons from Disney
In the Lion King (1994), children are encouraged not to worry and the “Hakuna-Matata” philosophy was born. It didn’t teach us not to care for things that matter such as school projects or examinations. Instead, it teaches that people shouldn’t worry about the inevitable and to live in the present and try to do one’s best.
To say that growing up is inevitable is what the movie Peter Pan (1953) instilled in young minds. When Peter Pan brought Wendy to the Never Land (where nobody ages), they had a lot of fun, danger, and excitement. But they knew they had to come back to face reality and grow up.
It is saying that in life, it is fine to unleash the child in us but we need to face the real world when the time comes.
Rapunzel in Tangled (2010), stepped outside her comfort zone, from the tower she lived in for 18 years. Her journey outside made her see very unfamiliar things and painful truths. The lesson to be learned is that for one to improve and grow as an individual, one needs to embrace the unknown and dare to try something new because one never knows what one’s true potential could be.
These lessons are what millions of moviegoers are used to seeing. Suddenly, the wholesome Disney is showing “gayness” in Strange World, a concept so strange to Disney consumers.
Strange “Strange World”
The people behind the movie say that the film is never about LGBTQ or simple “gayness” but more about exploration and acceptance.
Here are some truths that everyone has to understand — exploration and acceptance are two very good concepts. Walt Disney as a film outfit is evolving. The “Just Let Us Be” movement is very strong at present and the “rainbow” colors are very dominant everywhere.
Therefore, the shift in theme is just about right.
But is the audience ready?
The answer is reflected in the box-office receipts.
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