While Mr. Magoo's 7% on Rotten Tomatoes is truly appalling, it seems downright respectable compared to Meet The Deedles' 4%. This wacky tale of two fish-out-of-water surfers brought to save Yellowstone national park miraculously cost $24 million to make even though it sounds like it was dreamed up by two dudes in their backyard with a camcorder. It recouped a measly $4 million. In retrospect, the scene where they eat an earthworm end-to-end definitely didn't help.
Even classic animated movies sound stupid when you describe them in a sentence. A talking cowboy doll has a rivalry with a talking astronaut doll. A mermaid gives away her voice so she can go on land. Mops dance. But sometimes, they actually are stupid, like this film, in which musical cows try to save their ranch from closing. Despite costing $110 million to create, it didn't even make back half of that.
Speaking of stupid, how about an entire movie based on a theme park attraction? Yep, The Country Bears was based on the Disney attraction the Country Bear Jamboree, in which terrifying animatronic bears played instruments for a torturous 15 minutes. If the premise sounds flimsy, audiences agreed, with the film grossing a measly $17 million dollars even though it cost $35 million to make.
It cost a whopping $250 million to produce, even after the budget was reduced by switching shooting locations to places with better tax incentives, firing a bunch of the people working on the film and cutting out parts of the plot. One of the scenes removed included supernatural coyotes. Maybe it would have saved the film. We'll never know.
Sure, losing $190 million is terrible. But losing $200 million is worse, and that's exactly what John Carter did. Before the movie even opened, Wall Street estimated that Disney would lose between $100 and $165 million. Disney was hoping they were wrong and they were: the movie lost $35 million more than they predicted.
Unlike some of the other clunkers on this list, which have terrible Rotten Tomatoes scores (I'm looking at you, Meet The Deedles), Treasure Planet had some critical success (with a 69% rating, if you were wondering). Critical acclaim, however, couldn't make audiences care about this story about an intergalactic treasure hunt. The film only made $38 million dollars despite costing $140 million to make.
While some of the financial losses on this list are truly astounding (losing $200 million is nothing to sneeze at), none is as devastating as The Black Cauldron, which almost killed off Disney's animation division entirely. The movie came out just as Michael Eisner and Jeffrey Katzenberg were taking over the studio. They had discussed scrapping animation at Disney and the film's spectacular flop could have been the final nail in the coffin. On further reflection, however, Katzenberg decided that animation was key to Disney's success; it just had to be done faster and cheaper. The Eisner-Katzenberg approach gave us classics like Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid and Aladdin, but The Black Cauldron brought us perilously close to those films never being made.
While The Black Cauldron came close to shuttering a division, Mars Needs Moms actually made it happen. Shortly after a screening of this film, Rich Ross, the new Chairman of Disney, shut down ImageMovers, a company that specialized in motion capture that was used for the film. 450 people lost their jobs as a result. Audiences were as unimpressed as Ross and the film had one of the worst openings of all time.
Newsies is based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899. Though it was one of the cheaper films to make at only $15 million, it only grossed just under $3 million. Despite the dubious distinction of being one of the lowest-grossing films on this list, the story isn't all bad. Newsies resurfaced as a Broadway musical and, in 41 weeks, recouped its entire investment, which was the fastest a Disney production had ever made a profit.