Have you seen Disney’s newest animated feature, Wish, yet?
If you haven’t, chances are you’ve heard critics rip Disney’s newest magical venture a new one. However, despite what you’ve read, there’s more to the story regarding Disney’s latest apparent flop.
Wish, featuring a mixture of 3D and 2D animation, was created as an homage to Disney Animation. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of Walt Disney Pictures and Animation, Wish serves as a reference to the past, present, and future of The Walt Disney Company.
Marketing Was Not the Problem
Although Disney spared no expense when promoting Wish, the film was still rated as the worst Disney film in two decades by critics.
Combined with other promotions celebrating Disney’s 100th animation anniversary, the event’s culmination was capped off by the introduction of Wish, which Disney wisely promoted thoroughly and soundly.
Commercials, partnerships, merchandise, and every form of advertisement known to man were utilized to get Disney fans excited about the next chapter in The Walt Disney Company’s storied book of film and production.
However, the generated excitement for Disney’s new original content seemed to wane as box offices struggled to fill seats on one of the most essential film-watching periods of the year, Thanksgiving weekend.
‘Wish’ Is A Flop at the Box Office
Despite heavy marketing, Wish, which features the popular name Chris Pine, fell short of expectations over Thanksgiving weekend, earning approximately $20 million over three days.
Although competition at the box office was stiff, including the Rachel Zegler film Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes and Ridley Scott’s epic Napoleon, Wish and its familiar story of magical wish-granting stars, certainly underperformed.
Following the trend of Haunted Mansion (2023) and The Little Mermaid (2023), the magical, musical comedy struggled to gain any traction, landing another formidable blow to the House of Mouse.
According to Paul Dergarabedian, Comscore’s senior media analyst, Disney’s holiday showing was “disappointing,” as historically, the company’s animated films released over the holidays are dominant at the box office.
Hollywood and Disney Are Recovering
Although some claim that the poor performance of Wish, as compared to expectations, over the holiday weekend is due to audience fatigue with original content from the once-power house Walt Disney Animation Studios, others have suggested that Disney, like the rest of Hollywood is the victim of a post-COVID lull in sales, combined with inflation that has priced many out of their local theaters.
The musical fantasy, directed by Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn, finished third over the weekend. Still, the bigger picture suggests that Hollywood may be recovering from the expansion damage done to box office numbers overall, especially following recent SAG-AFTRA strikes.
Despite the potential silver lining, some still feel like Disney failed miserably in their attempts to bring an animated cinematic universe to the big screen.
The Story is There, So What Happened
Although not chock-full of the star power we’ve come to expect from Disney, Wish holds its own in terms of casting. Featuring Chris Pine (King Magnifico), Ariana DeBose (Asha), Alan Tudyk (Valentino), and Evan Peters (Simon), the film hosts a virtual smorgasbord of popular names, as well as easter eggs included by writer and producer Jennifer Lee.
The story itself is an interesting one, despite what you’ve heard from uppity critics. During the D23 Expo in 2022, director Chris Buck shed light on the animated feature, “The film follows 17-year-old Asha, voiced by West Side Story Oscar winner Ariana DeBose, and centers on the legend of the wishing star. In the story, Asha makes an impassioned plea to the sky, which is answered by a ball of boundless energy called Star. Together, Asha and Star work to save her community.”
As expected with any Disney film, the new movie also features an array of songs, including titles such as “Knowing What I Know,” “At All Costs,” and “Welcome to Rosas.” Although, in my opinion, the soundtrack for Wish doesn’t rival that of more recent features like Encanto (2021), it is a solid addition to Disney’s musical library.
Being called a “forgettable celebration of the Disney 100th anniversary” feels harsh for this film, but many critics have roasted Disney’s apparent “marketing exercise.”
As the film currently bleeds at the box office, it may be easy to write it off quickly and await its arrival on Disney+, especially considering the cost of going to the movies nowadays.
However, as the film fell short of its 50 million dollars, five-day projections, it’s already being written off as a failure, despite what we’ve seen with other Disney films surging late into their box office debuts.
Are Critics Being Unfair to ‘Wish?’
We knew it would be a stretch for Wish to exceed or maybe even reach expectations once Chris Pine came under scrutiny after the release of the soundtrack for the film.
Still, compared to other recent failures like Strange World (2022), Disney and critics remained positive regarding the overall performance of Wish, until it hit box offices.
So, what happened? Ultimately, for me, it feels like critics were ready to rip the film apart prior to its debut, as they seem to have been ready to do with many recent releases.
Disney, which has been familiar with bad press regarding their line of live-action remakes and failed animated content of late, has been the target of many who feel as if they have nothing left to offer regarding storytelling.
According to Direct, “The Ariana DeBose-led celebration of 100 years of Disney is currently sitting at 49% critic approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes after 103 verified reviews, making it the first ‘rotten’ animated Disney movie since 2005’s Chicken Little.” leading to their first “rotten” film in 18 years.
However, and this is a big HOWEVER, the audience score comes in early at a whopping 81%. It looks like the Disney-faithful, who have no problem condemning a project when it’s bad, even if it carries the Disney moniker, is behind the film; they simply aren’t going to see it.
So, Why Are There Poor Box Office Numbers?
The short answer is economics. As grocery lists get more expensive and holiday shopping is just around the corner, no one can afford to go to the movies.
On average, a family of four is looking at around $120 to go see a movie. That may not seem like a lot for some of us, but when Christmas dinner prices have inflated by as much as 3.3 percent since 2022, the impact is being felt around the globe, keeping domestic earnings down.
In addition, Disney fans now have the convenience of holding out for Disney+ without relying on VHS or DVDs for their at-home viewing of Wish. It’s an easy choice for struggling families during the holiday season. Although there are wishes to see it in theaters, for many it isn’t realisitc as they make the hard financial choices needed to survive an ever-financially unsustainable world.
Still, fans must consider that the film finished third at the box office during its opening performance. It’s probably understandable that a franchise like The Hunger Games, which carries a devoted following awaiting a new onscreen story since 2015, would outwork original content by Disney over the holiday. But Napoleon, which features Joaquin Pheonix, is a bit of a head-scratcher.
Ultimately, we’ll wait and see how Wish performs over the next few weeks, but as long as the fan score remains high for the film, it’s still encouraging that it could soar, and I’m sure Disney wishes it would, and quickly.