Decoding Disney’s Wish: $31.7M Box Office Flop

Walt Disney Pictures’ highly anticipated release, “Wish,” found itself facing a disappointing outcome during its opening weekend at the box office over the Thanksgiving holiday. Despite being backed by the creative minds behind the immensely successful “Frozen” franchise, with co-directors Chris Buck and Fawn Veerasunthorn, and a screenplay co-written by Jennifer Lee and Allison Moore, the animated musical fantasy fell short of expectations, signaling potential challenges for Disney’s animated film strategy.

“Wish,” released on November 22, aimed to capture the magic of wishes and dreams in celebration of Disney’s 100th anniversary. The film centers around the journey of a 17-year-old girl named Asha, voiced by Ariana DeBose, as she endeavors to save the Kingdom of Rosas by making a wish on a star. Despite its original concept in a landscape dominated by sequels, “Wish” struggled to resonate with audiences.

Box office figures reflected the disappointment, with “Wish” managing to earn only $31.7 million in its opening week, falling short of early projections that anticipated a more robust performance. The movie’s traditional weekend earnings, starting from November 24, were even more discouraging at $19.5 million. This placed “Wish” in third position at the box office, trailing behind “The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes” and “Napoleon.”

Projections for “Wish” had initially set a bar of at least $35 million over the weekend and between $45 million and $50 million for its first five days in theaters. Unfortunately, the film failed to meet these expectations, raising concerns about its long-term box office prospects. This disappointment followed a similar pattern seen earlier in the year with the Pixar animated film “Elemental,” which also underperformed, bringing in $29.6 million during its three-day weekend against projections of $35 million to $40 million.

Critical reviews further compounded the challenges for “Wish.” The film’s Rotten Tomatoes score stood at 50% from 154 reviews, with critics expressing dissatisfaction with the perceived repetition of Disney’s classic storytelling formula. Some felt that the movie leaned too heavily on celebrating Disney’s past rather than delivering a fresh and unique narrative, potentially deterring prospective viewers from heading to theaters.

Disney’s overall struggles at the box office post-COVID-19 came into focus as a contributing factor. The pandemic had forced the entertainment industry, including Disney, to reevaluate its release strategies, resulting in challenges for the studio to replicate pre-pandemic box office successes. While theaters reopened, Disney found itself unable to match previous attendance figures, leading to a series of box office disappointments, of which “Wish” is the latest example.

Complicating matters for Disney is its streaming strategy, which played a pivotal role during the pandemic. The decision to release films on Disney+ provided an alternative for audiences unable to attend theaters. However, this strategy appears to have backfired post-reopening, with audiences now opting to wait for animated features to hit the streaming platform instead of investing in theatrical releases.

Looking ahead, the underperformance of “Wish” may influence Disney’s approach to animated movies. The studio could shift its focus toward established franchises and sequels, evident in the greenlighting of projects like “Frozen 4,” “Inside Out 2,” “Toy Story 5,” and “Zootopia 2.” This strategic shift raises questions about the future of original concepts in Disney’s animated lineup.

While “Wish” still has time to stage a box office comeback, with a budget ranging between $175 million and $200 million, its path to financial success remains challenging. International performance, which has not been favorable thus far, adds an extra layer of uncertainty to the film’s fate. As “Wish” continues its theatrical run, its performance will likely be closely monitored within the industry as it could influence Disney’s animated film strategy going forward.

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