Just like its iconic rides and restaurants and Mickey-shaped snacks, Disney is well known for its classic movies! But just like how every Disney snack isn’t exactly a hit, not every Disney movie is a box office smash!
While Disney certainly has had its fair share of cinematic mega hits, some movies straight up FLOPPED. But that doesn’t mean they don’t still have their fans!
However, some of Disney’s most beloved classics are actually underrated sleeper hits that developed fandom YEARS after their initial releases, like these 7 fan-favorite Disney movies!
Considering how the movie has become a Halloween season SENSATION nowadays, it might come as a shock to some that Hocus Pocus was actually kind of a box office bomb when it was first released in 1993. It came in fourth on its opening weekend, earning just $8 million against a budget of $28 million.
With stiff family film competition from the blockbuster Free Willy, Hocus Pocus quickly fell off the box office charts. It’s hard to compete with an orphan boy and his whale, even when you have Bette Midler! However, Hocus Pocus steadily earned a fan following over the years, becoming an annual Halloween tradition and even returning to theaters and climbing to the TOP of the box office in 2020!
Sure, Sorcerer Mickey is a bonafide sensation, but he (and the rest of the movie in which he starred) was not exactly a hit when he first debuted in 1940. Upon its initial release, Fantasia was considered a dud, earning VERY little compared to other Disney animated classics and falling well below expectations.
A lot of the “failure” was chalked up to the expensive “Fantasound” surround sound system Walt had designed for theaters, especially for Fantasia’s release, and World War II preventing Disney from releasing the movie in Europe. But the movie, which Walt predicted would be popular for decades, was also ahead of its time, according to the Smithsonian. In the psychedelic 1960s, it gained a cult following, and directors including Steven Spielberg and Wes Craven have praised it.
Re-releases of Fantasia in 1969 and 1990 proved profitable at the box office, and the movie has spawned merchandise, and even landed its own adored show at Disney’s Hollywood Studios! All it took was a cool 60+ years to develop an appreciation for it!
This one is a bit of a puzzle! While Disney’s recent spree of live-action remakes has been MOSTLY hugely successful, the Dumbo re-creation by Tim Burton in 2019 was…not so much.
Even though the movie was visually beautiful, star-studded, and JUST different enough from the original, it’s considered the least successful of the live-action remakes, opening to a modest $45 million. That might sound like a lot, but when you compare it to other live-action remakes like Beauty and the Beast (opening weekend of $174 million) and The Lion King (opening weekend of $185 million), it’s pretty small potatoes.
While it ultimately grossed more than $350 million worldwide, Disney sunk about $300 million into advertising for the film, and ultimately lost money, according to Deadline. Of course, even though to many it can’t hold a candle to the original, the Dumbo remake still has plenty of fans who appreciate its originality and the irresistible adorability of the lil elephant!
The Black Cauldron
Released in the mid ’80s after a 4-year stretch without a Disney animated film, The Black Cauldron is perhaps the biggest Disney box office #fail.
While Disney’s announced budget for the film was $25 million, according to D23, Black Cauldron Production Manager Don Hahn said in a documentary that the movie wound up costing $44 million. That would make it the MOST expensive animated film ever at the time, but it made just $21 million at the box office. Ouch.
Over the years, though it remains one of the lesser-known animated classics, The Black Cauldron earned acclaim and fanfare for plenty of firsts, like the fact that it was the first PG rating for Disney and the first to use CGI imagery, according to Slate.
Unfortunately, another animated movie made the same mistakes when Treasure Planet, again one of the most expensive animated films at the time, failed to succeed in the box office.
Released in 2002 on a WHOPPING budget of $140 million, the movie — essentially a sci-fi riff on Treasure Island — made just $110 at the worldwide box office, losing Disney a considerable sum of money, according to Box Office Mojo, IMDB’s Box Office information service. Critically, it faired much better, and the film has gone on to earn its own little cavalcade of super fans who love it for its original story and its A-list voice cast.
Atlantis: The Lost Empire
On paper, Atlantis: The Lost Empire sounds like it COULD have been a huge hit, and a game-changing movie for Disney, venturing in the CGI world of animated sci-fi with an original and adventurous tale of the lost city of Atlantis. In reality, though, things didn’t pan out.
The 2001 film made a box office total of $185, against a budget of up to $120 million, which is considered a bomb when you’re working with those numbers. The movie was released in competition with the first of the Shrek films, and well, it was crushed by that lovable green ogre. The Lost Empire also got lost to time, becoming largely forgotten by Disney fans over the years.
But there’s still a STRONG horde of diehard Atlantis stans who adore it for its striking visuals, amazing voice acting, and original plot line, making it 100% worth a revisit!
Here’s a DIFFERENT kind of a flop for Disney fans: while Robin Williams’ quirky Flubber actually made a decent chunk of money at the box office, earning $178 million in 1997, it was a HUGE fail among critics!
The whimsical story of “flying rubber” scored 24% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is QUITE rotten. Though it was pretty much ignored by movie critics, the movie has its fair share of Flubber fans (flans?), who love it for Robin Williams’ mad scientist performance and the weird cuteness of the green goo…?!
While MANY Disney movies have become MEGA hits at the box office, these are some examples that just didn’t succeed in different ways for different reasons. But despite their lackluster earnings, they still hold a special place in our hearts!
Which Disney movie do you think is the MOST underrated? Let us know in the comments!