Walt Disney has produced more than 50 animated features since its first inception. While budget and box office numbers are limited for most of their films, their placement on the list is a manifestation of losses and profits as listed in Disney’s annual report of the year when the film was released.
5. Pinocchio (1940)
Walt Disney produced Pinocchio following the immensely successful Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. This artistically ambitious story of a wooden boy has a budget that almost doubled Snow White’s but sadly, it didn’t possess the charm of the Princess movie. Also, the ‘wish upon a star’ premise was not able to mend the European markets being cut off by the Third Reich. Although it regained its cost by a million, Disney Studio was still having difficulties staying ahead of its increasing debt.
4. Peter Pan (1953)
Peter Pan was based on J. M. Barrie’s story of a boy who would not grow up. Though it was an adaptation of a well-loved and famous source material and was a shoe-in with viewers, it just didn’t make it. According to critics, Peter Pan broke certain traditions. For one thing, Tinkerbell was portrayed as sexy while she had always been played in the stage versions as a faceless spotlight. Also, Peter Pan was always played by a girl in the past so no wonder that it just barely regained its $4 million budget.
3. Alice in Wonderland (1951)
The film came out after the vastly popular Cinderella in 1950 – the movie which saved Disney from bankruptcy after its post-war decline. Maybe one of the reasons why Alice didn’t hit was that the dreamlike imagery was quite too much for the pre-‘60s America. Also, the audience might have gotten confused because a British version was also released that same year. Walt Disney even commented himself that probably, Alice lacked heart.
2. Sleeping Beauty (1959)
The production of Sleeping Beauty was everything lavish since Walt Disney settled on making the film in CinemaScope. Painter Eyind Earle created a graphic style which was insanely meticulous and clear-cut. Sleeping Beauty was produced for four years with a budget of more than $6 million but at the same time, Walt Disney was too busy with the development of his them park, therefore leaving the films without his supervision. Sadly, Princess Aurora didn’t charm the audience with her beauty and on its first release, Briar Rose managed to earn $5.3 million.
1. Fantasia (1940)
Though Fantasia is now considered as one of the masterpieces of Walt Disney, its abstract imagery almost broke the studio. It began as a short entitled The Sorcerer’s Apprentice but the music used (Leopold Stokowski) cost 3 times the budget of the typical Mickey Mouse cartoon. Instead of cutting his losses, Walt Disney increased the budget to $2.3 million and continued his impressive experiment, which turned it into a feature length movie, which ran for more than two hours. Aside from having a massive scale visual effects, the technicians also invented a multitrack stereo surround system 30 years even before THX was conceptualized. However that time (1940), most theaters didn’t want to invest on a costly speaker upgrade since the country was still recuperating from the Great Depression, and a World War that was looming in Europe. After numerous re-releases, Fantasia finally earned back most of its cost by the end of the decade.