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Disney’s Terrible, Awful, No Good, Very Bad 2023

Mouse House bids year goodbye, hopes sequels can right corporate ship in 2024

For once, a major movie studio wants no part of a sequel.

The last 12 months have been disastrous for Disney on almost every level. CEO Bob Iger slashed thousands of jobs earlier in the year to slow the flow of red ink.

The 7,000 layoffs — which represent 3.2% of Disney’s total headcount of about 220,000 worldwide as of Oct. 1, 2022 — are part of Disney’s efforts to achieve about $5.5 billion in cost savings. Of that, $2.5 billion represents “non-content costs” (including labor costs) and $1 billion of those targeted cost-reductions were already underway in February, Iger said. 

The company memory-holed several original Disney+ titles including “Willow,” the belated TV series sequel to the 1988 film, “Y: The Last Man” and “The Mysterious Benedict Society” in a cost-cutting dash.

The Mysterious Benedict Society | Official Trailer | Disney+

The company’s stock prices continue to suffer while executives cheered shedding just $387 million in Q4 (compared to losing more than $1 billion in 2022’s Q4).

Iger repeatedly promised to “quiet the noise” on the culture war fronts despite stoking losing conflicts with both Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and traditional Disney consumers. The powerful CEO simultaneously yanked its marketing money from Elon Musk’s X platform citing an alleged proliferation of anti-semitism.

You didn’t need a poly-sci degree to see the nakedly political move for what it was.

Still, Disney suffered the heaviest body blows at the cineplex.

The studio behind Pixar, the Indiana Jones franchise, Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), not to mention iconic characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, crushes the competition in any given year.

Not 2023.

Yes, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” performed closer to what movie insiders expected from a legacy sequel. “The Little Mermaid” had “fins” at the box office, legging its way to $300 million stateside while under-performing at international theaters.

“Elemental” opened with a terrible $29 million, letting Disney critics crow over the Mouse House’s latest flop. Except the Pixar original stuck around, eventually earning $154 million stateside. That’s still a disappointment given the film’s budget – $200 million – but the movie’s strong overseas results ($341 million) cushioned the fiscal blow.

Otherwise, the news proved grim and grimmer. Here’s a list of the studio’s biggest busts and why they imploded at the box office.

Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

The third film in the lo-fi MCU series earned a respectable $106 million in its debut weekend. The air quickly rushed out of the film’s theatrical balloon, ending up with a tepid $214 million domestic haul. That, combined with an underwhelming $261 million international tally meant the film’s introduction to the next MCU villain, Jonathan Majors’ Kang the Conqueror, got off to a tepid start.

It didn’t help that Majors got arrested on domestic abuse charges just weeks after the film opened.

MCU stalwarts blasted the film’s wobbly CGI and found the franchise’s expanded canvas a turn-off. The film’s disappointing results, in retrospect, look stellar compared to a later MCU release.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

The bad buzz for Indy’s final hurrah began with the film’s trailer debut. Audiences hissed at the limp CGI, while conservatives decried its clunky swipe at capitalism. Then again, does anyone want an economic lecture from one of the biggest corporations on the planet?

The next self-inflicted wound?

Disney debuted the film at the Cannes Film Festival before its global release date. Critics were less than kind with their reviews.

The sequel ultimately wheezed its way to $174 million in the U.S. against a massive budget made even larger by COVID-19 measures. 

It only got worse when the film finally reached theaters.

The greatest irony? A film Disney put on its shelf for five years before selling it to Angel Studios, “Sound of Freedom,” ended up earning more than one of cinema’s greatest heroes.

Haunted Mansion

Let’s release a horror comedy … in August? Maybe a Halloween debut wouldn’t have saved this Disney reboot. Either way, the PG:13 affair boasted a solid cast but too few laughs to make it pop in a crowded marketplace.

The film ended up earning less ($67 million) than its 2003 predecessor ($75 million) despite movie ticket prices nearly doubling over the past 20 years.

The Creator

This sci-fi adventure didn’t have that Disney imprimatur, but it still came from the Mouse House’s film factory. Director Gareth Edwards squeezed everything he could from the film’s modest $85 million budget, but that still didn’t boost its box office hopes.

“The Creator” earned a measly $40 million stateside and $63 million outside the U.S. 

The Marvels

The “Captain Marvel” sequel broke a record no one wanted.

“The Marvels” delivered the worst box office numbers of any MCU film – $83 million in the U.S. The total worldwide numbers were just as bad – $202 million. That couldn’t cover the film’s exorbitant price tag, rumored to be anywhere from $200-275 million.

Plus, “Captain Marvel” hauled in more than $1 billion just four years ago.

“The Marvels” bombed so badly Iger threw director Nia DaCosta under the bus.

Wish” 

Disney celebrated its 100-year anniversary with a film teeming with company Easter eggs. Fine. Except critics found “Wish” to be a far cry from classic Disney fare. Audiences were more kind, but that’s only those who showed up to see the film in theaters.

“Wish” barely broke the $100 million mark via U.S. and international theaters in recent days, a horrible haul for a film expected to end 2023 on a positive note.

What’s next for Disney?

Iger vows to license more company titles to pad its coffers. The 2024 presidential campaign will test Iger’s apolitical vow.

On the movie front, the new year promises sequels, reboots and prequels. Oh, my.

Disney’s “Deadpool 3” looks like a slam-dunk, and it’s the only MCU-style movie on the studio’s slate. We’ll also get “Inside Out 2,” “The First Omen,” “Mufasa: The Lion King,” “Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes” and “Alien: Romulus.”

17 Comments

  1. What’s the end game for these DEI fanatics? They don’t seem to care about money anymore and they sold out their customers long ago. Are all these companies just going to go bankrupt? Not going to have much of a voice anymore if you no longer exist as a company. Is there something we are not seeing with all these business going woke and willing to sacrifice it all for their DEI god?

    1. That’s what I always wondered. What’s the end game for companies going all-in on woke? No one likes it and a dead end financially. You can’t make money off of Twitter/X likes.

      Maybe Blackrock and Vanguard are just keeping these companies afloat to support their DEI religion. Since they appear to have unlimited money, they can afford to keep losing companies in business. At least until they wear us all down and destroy the past, so their globalist overseers basically win the planet. Seems like a lot of work and wasted money, but these guys consider it a holy crusade I guess.

    2. It is more than a DEI god.
      It is a cult.
      Cults have no rationality. Their entire reason for existence is whatever they decide it is.
      When disney finally declares Chapter 11, Iger and Co. will of course blame it on The MAGA and they will go through a healing process and “inner growth” and double down and continue the wokeness.
      Harder and more of it.
      This is what cults do.

      1. Disney will never file for Chapter 11 they still make billions no matter what even if some of the movies didn’t do good at the box office in 2023. Ant-Man was pretty good I watched that and saw Indy Jones which was also pretty good.

  2. The next foot to drop is Disney’s theme parks, which not only lose a pipeline to new attractions from box office blockbusters that customers used to flock to the parks for, they will lose popular attractions that get revised to fit DEI and Woke. Customers will revolt from the awful transformation of Splash Mountain to The Princess and The Frog. They’e even getting a boss girl version of Tiana. The theme parks already got yet another transformation of Pirates and a new version of Jungle Cruise: More Bland Than Usual.

    Universal will continue its run up to the King of Theme Parks using $9 Billion from sale of Hulu to Disney. Disney will be unable to compete having wasted $2 Billion at Epcot’s new renovation that didn’t add any new attractions in the new Discovery zones. You get expensive park benches and broken lights. Blue skies are free. Disney has an abundance of blue skies and clouds on the Horizon.

  3. Sadly, the Mysterious Benedict Society was, IMO, quite good. It also lacked the “beat-you-over-the-head-with-THE-MESSAGE” quality that infects the vast majority of recent Disney productions. Indeed, the treatment of the concept of family, generally, and cynicism towards “easy answers” in the show were almost subversive vis-a-vis Disney’s woke religion.

    Which is likely why it got the ax.

  4. ““The Marvels” delivered the worst box office numbers of any MCU film – $83 million in the U.S. The total worldwide numbers were just as bad – $202 million. That couldn’t cover the film’s exorbitant price tag, rumored to be anywhere from $200-275 million.”

    Perhaps the author does not realize that $83 million plus $202 million is $283 million, which is more than $275 million.

    1. The worldwide total includes the US figures — roughly 83 million US and 200 ish million worldwide combined. The numbers have bumped on both fronts a bit since the article was first published. My text should have made this more clear. Plus, theaters take roughly half of the ticket sales, so a studio has to make much more than the budget numbers to come out even. That said, I’m generally bad at math! My wife is the mathlete in the family!

    1. Yup, Disney still made billions even with some of the movies not doing good in 2023 at the box office. Disney will always make billions even if they lose some money on movies & TV shows. Disney will be fine and be around another 100 years.

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