15 Biggest Disney Flops of All Time, Ranked
Disney is known for major classics like The Lion King, Hercules, Mulan, Moana, Coco, and so many other fantastic films that you can watch over and over. It stands as one of the biggest companies in the world, and by now, they have a formula for a good movie. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
Disney took a while to find its footing in some genres (like live-action). On top of that, they also do what everyone in the world does – take risks. Sometimes those risks pay off, and the studio comes out with a new franchise that will make them billions. On the other hand, they might come out with a movie that loses them millions. It’s a risky game, but they’re not afraid to play it.
Disney has had some massive flops in the history of cinema that have accounted for some of the worst movies ever. We’re going to cover some of those today. We’d hope to say Disney learned their lesson from some of these major failures, but the studio has money to throw around, so why not try it?
For the sake of this list, we won’t be including any Marvel or Lucasfilms. All box office and budget figures from Wikipedia.
Mr. Magoo (1997)
Who thought of this film? Honestly, Mr. Magoo isn’t just one of the worst Disney movies ever made – it’s one of the worst cartoon-to-live-action movie ever. The movie is all about how Mr. Magoo is visually impaired, but the joke isn’t even tasteful. The movie actually made blind and visually impaired people pretty pissed. Disney, in turn, threw in a disclaimer at the front of the movie.
It partially stated, “The preceding film is not intended as an accurate portrayal of blindness or poor eyesight. Blindness or poor eyesight does not imply an impairment of one’s ability to be employed in a wide range of jobs.” Even though the film cost $30 million to make, it didn’t even make it that far. It got to $28 million. The movie was then pulled from theaters after two weeks.
Home on the Range (2004)
Home on the Range was an odd choice for Disney. At the time, the company was struggling to get audiences to see their films using the traditional animation style. So, they came out with…Home on the Range? Yeah, we don’t get it either. This musical about talking cows cost a shocking $110 million.
It did return $145 million worldwide, but that wasn’t good enough for the company. In fact, they completely abandoned 2-D animation for five years until The Princess and the Frog came out (which killed at the box office, by the way). Guess they needed someone in the room to say, “this topic sucks.”
Onward was incredibly heart-touching. The film itself was pretty good, but the problem? It came out in 2020. Around this time, a lot of the theaters shut down and people just weren’t going anywhere. Many people had lost their jobs, too, so the last thing they were going to do was go see a Disney film at a theater where tickets were $15 a pop.
The movie lost quite a bit. It cost $200 million to make, and the box office returned $142 million. While that’s not the worst loss on the list, it was enough for Disney to rethink their strategy. The film had better success on streaming and DVD sales, but it was the last Pixar movie until Lightyear in 2022.
The Country Bears (2002)
Calling The Country Bears creepy doesn’t even begin to touch on how eerily unsettling the whole film is. The problem was that Disney couldn’t pin down the audience (or they just didn’t care). It freaked kids out, adults were annoyed by it, and, in general, it was too silly for anyone to really sit down through 88-minute run time.
The worst part about this is that the film had a massively low budget of $35 million, but it still couldn’t turn a profit. Just wow. It only made $18 million. Honestly, though, the bears look like they had a super low budget because they’re something you would probably see on Five Nights at Freddy’s.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
When news broke of a Prince of Persia game, everyone was excited. The game was a fan favorite, and we hadn’t been burned by games-to-movie releases just yet. The Sands of Time isn’t the worst movie in this genre, but it wasn’t that great. It had a $200 million budget but only made $90 million domestically.
One of the issues was that the film received major backlash for whitewashing the Persian main character to be played by Jake Gyllenhaal. In actuality, the real issue was that the film had very little substance other than action. It just didn’t grab audiences. Thankfully, overseas sales brought the box office to $336 million, but Disney abandoned the would-be franchise.
Treasure Planet (2002)
Poor Treasure Planet really could’ve been something. At the time, it was the most expensive animated movie ever made due to the technology used to create it. Disney didn’t like that, so it actively did whatever it could to make the movie fail. It scheduled it to come out against Harry Potter, featured trailers that were awful, and then had overall poor marketing.
The movie itself had a star-studded cast of Joseph Gordon-Levit, Bill Murray, Emma Thompson, and Martin Short, but it just couldn’t turn a profit. The movie ended up being a huge flop for the company, but it’s universally loved. It was even nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature. Disney didn’t know what it had. Overall, it cost $140 million to make and made $110 at the box office.
Disney almost scored something huge when they got Christian Bale before he made it big. This musical was about the real newsboys’ strike of 1899, but it wasn’t supposed to be. The original screenwriters didn’t plan on it being a musical until director Kenny Ortega entered the scene. Problem was that the main stars – Bale and Moscow – weren’t trained as singers or dancers.
Despite the hours of practice, the film suffered from this choice. Disney knew it was a loss, with Disney exec Jeffrey Katzenberg saying putting $10 million in the film would be as good as him throwing it up in the air. He stated, “It would do just as much good. It’s DOA.” It cost $15 million to make and only made $2.8 billion. However, it did get a strong fanbase and turned into a successful musical on Broadway.
The Lone Ranger (2013)
The Lone Ranger started off on awful footing. It was supposed to bring back Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp to make another massive hit like The Pirates of the Caribbean. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. First of all, they cast Johnny Depp as a Native American. Depp said he wanted to “right the wrongs of the past,” but all he did was use stereotypes to…questionably entertain audiences.
Another issue was that the script was awful. One critic said the film had a “bland script, bloated length, and blaring action overkill.” The movie barely skated by with a profit thanks to overseas sales. It cost $250 million to make and made $260 million. The franchise was quickly abandoned.
Tomorrowland seemed like a massive hit for Disney. It had huge actors like George Clooney and a tried-and-true director, but the film didn’t perform. Visually, the movie was absolutely beautiful, and you can see where the $190 million budget went. It’s a shame they didn’t put that money toward developing a story.
After all was said and done, the film skated by with a box office of $209 million – far below Disney’s estimates. The critics tore the story apart, which hurt the movie pretty bad. Sales were made up a little when it went to DVD and Blu-Ray, but by then, the execs had decided to completely abandon the project.
Today, we know Fantasia to be an amazing movie, and it has a huge cult following. Unfortunately, that wasn’t always the case. When the movie was released in 1940, it was the most expensive film Disney had ever made. It cost over $2 million to make, which was a massive amount of money just before WWII started.
WWII played a huge role because people just weren’t going to the theaters. It didn’t matter that it wasn’t critically acclaimed or hailed as a “masterpiece.” People were either overseas fighting or working to support the troops. Today, it’s considered a success, but when was it released? One of the biggest flops Disney ever had.
Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)
It really seemed like the Alice in Wonderland series could have been something, but then Disney got lazy. They just banked on the fact Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, and Tim Burton would bring in money and didn’t try as hard on the story. It was even nominated for Razzie awards!
The film wasn’t cheap, either. The production budget was $170 million. Sadly, Disney won’t learn from this cash grab. They earned nearly $300 million from it, although they knew the Alice in Wonderland franchise was dead in the dirt. It’s a trick you can only pull on audiences once…at least per franchise.
John Carter (2012)
John Carter was a massive risk, and it wasn’t one that paid off. Critics panned it for not being original and the characters being dull. The film didn’t even catch audiences when the trailer was released. That’s when Disney knew something was up. They started a huge marketing campaign, but John Carter was a flop.
It cost a shocking $306 million to make but only brought in $284 million. While not many movies on this list cost people their jobs, this is one did. Rich Ross was the one that approved the film for production, and after its massive failure, he was forced to resign from his role as head of Walt Disney Studios.
The Black Cauldron (1985)
This film has a huge cult following today but in ’85? It was a flop. The Black Cauldron was the new film to take the title of “most expensive to make” thanks to a price tag of $44 million! Disney had high hopes until the box office numbers started rolling in. It made $21 million…worldwide. Definitely not a win.
The film came out the same year as The Care Bears Movie, which actually outperformed this (now) Disney classic. It was so bad, that it’s said The Black Cauldron almost killed Disney. That’s a pretty infamous reputation. It took over five years to produce, but it was all worth it in the end because we love it today.
The Alamo (2004)
Remember the Alamo…but not the movie. The movie was utterly terrible. We’re not going to touch on its historical accuracy of it. Today, it sits at a 29% Rotten Tomatoes score, which is pretty low for a Disney movie. Critics and audiences panned it for being “too conventional and un-involving to be memorable.”
After the opening weekend, it was a massive flop and was overshadowed by The Passion of the Christ. The film had a budget of $107 million, but the box office barely reached a quarter of that. It earned $25.8 million, making it one of Disney’s biggest flops in cinema history. Hopefully, they learned from this one.
Mars Needs Moms (2011)
Did you forget about this one? Disney probably hasn’t. They probably have it on their walls as what not to do. As soon as audiences got images of this movie, they knew that something was off. The animation style brought that Uncanny Valley feeling that runs a shiver down your spine.
Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad if they used the classic style, but here we are. The film cost a massive $150 million budget and it returned $39 million. It was so awful that it caused Disney to ultimately shut down one of the production companies that helped make it, ImageMovers Digital.