Is the Future of Disney Animation Bleak?

The Walt Disney Company
Credit: Disney

For the first time in over a decade, no Walt Disney Animation Studios film will compete for the honor of Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards, which some are owing to the poor reception 2022’s Strange World received during its recent box office run.

Strange World was the only film released last year by Walt Disney Animation Studios, possibly because the Walt Disney Company was busy with its new streaming content, Marvel film releases, and planning for its 100th-anniversary celebration this year at Disney Parks worldwide. Despite the unique science fiction adventure story inspired by the work of Jules Verne being its only animated product, Disney neglected to advertise the film to consumers, leading to its extremely disappointing debut at the box office during the Thanksgiving holiday, especially compared to its 2021 release, Encanto, which is now critically-acclaimed.

Strange World

Credit: Disney

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In fact, unlike Encanto and the previous Raya and the Last Dragon, Strange World did not receive any nominations for Academy Awards, breaking an Oscars trend Disney has held for over a decade. Even though all three films found criticism and a cult following in equal measure, especially once they hit the Disney+ streaming platform, it seems Strange World did not make the cut for Best Animated Feature or any other awards.

Of course, fans cited numerous reasons why they liked or disliked the film, from its detailed animation and world-building to its storyline and even its extremely mild inclusion of LGBTQ+ themes via the background relationship between young Ethan Clade and his male classmate. Though its found success since coming home to Disney+, Strange World still has a Rotten Tomatoes score of just 72%, landing at one of the lowest audience scores in Disney history when it premiered.

Strange World

Credit: Disney

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In contrast, the Best Animated Feature nominees all had Rotten Tomatoes scores above 90%, according to Screen Rant, such as Dreamworks’ Puss in Boots: The Last Wish and Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (2022), both films praised for taking risks in animation style as well as pushing storyline limits. Could this indicate the next direction Disney must follow to measure up?

After Winnie the Pooh (2011) bombed at both the box office and the Oscars, Disney set out to improve the quality of its animated films within its own studio, a decision which some even credit as the moment Disney decided to leave behind 2D (or hand-drawn) animation. Indeed, since then, most Disney releases have been computer-rendered 3D animation similar to the styles of its competitor, Dreamworks, and its highly successful Pixar Animation division.

Pixar - Wikipedia

Credit: Wikipedia

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As it so happens, though Walt Disney Studios failed to secure a spot at the Oscars, Disney Pixar’s Turning Red (2022) did receive a Best Animated Feature nomination, which, based on the reception when it premiered, is incredibly deserved. So, it seems like Disney’s future prospects don’t seem bleak at all, despite the unfortunate fate of its most recent animated film.

Interestingly, Screen Rant notes that even when a Disney film, like 2019’s Frozen II, did not receive the Best Animated Feature nomination, it featured in another category, Best Original Song. Likewise, Turning Red, despite not being a “Disney musical,” did include original music from the fictional band 4*Town, which seems to have helped it become a hit with audiences.

Hopefully, we’ll get to see more show-stopping, award-winning content from Walt Disney Animation Studios in the future… even if they have to go back to the drawing board for new ways of creating films, so to speak.


About Spencer Johnette

Spencer is a lifelong lover of theme parks, princesses, and Disney history that recently relocated to Northern California. She completed her undergraduate studies at UCLA, where she was the founder and first president of the campus Disney Club. A former Cast Member still mourning the loss of the Disney Store, she now haunts the Walt Disney Family Museum halls and shares her opinions with anyone who will listen @gothelsflower.