Why A Wrinkle In Time And The Nutcracker Failed, According To One Disney Exec

Storm Reid as Meg in A Wrinkle in Time and Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Mackenzie Foy
(Image credit: (Walt Disney Pictures)

It's no surprise that 2018 has been a massive year for Disney, between releases such as the MCU's highest-grossing hits yet, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, the long-awaited sequel to Pixar's The Incredibles and Disney Animation's Ralph Breaks the Internet. The studio passed an impressive $7 billion at the box office, which the House of Mouse has only passed once before -- and the year's not over yet.

They can't all be bullseyes though, and the studio has had a couple of disappointments this year -- namely with the releases of A Wrinkle of Time and Nutcracker and the Four Realms. The two films shared a similar fate: so-so critical reception and commercial success. Disney's film production president, Sean Bailey has weighed in as to why this might have happened to The Hollywood Reporter. Here's what he said:

A Wrinkle in Time was an ambitious swing. I'm grateful for Ava [DuVernay] and the cast. Ultimately my assessment is that it's a really hard piece of source material to adapt. We didn't quite get there. Nutcracker is another hard one. Neither the book nor the ballet really has a strong narrative throughline, so we tried to bring together the most beautiful global artists and thought that would be a really wonderful thing for families to go experience. We tried really hard, and we were wrong.

It's true, Madeleine L'engle's classic book A Wrinkle in Time has long been thought of as unadaptable since the book is so dense and whimsical. Ava DuVernay's attempt was a history-making feat, since with its release she became the first black female director to helm a big-budget film. However, it sadly didn't quite hit the mark as its bold creativity couldn't outweigh its muddled story. The film cost over $100 million to make and only made $132 million worldwide, making for a big bomb for Disney.

Nutcracker and the Four Realms is another classic children's story that's been revisited in various forms in its long history. It is best known as a two-act Russian ballet, so it's less of story-driven tale and more-so a visual spectacle to enjoy over the holidays. Disney's adaptation was criticized by many for having poor over-the-top visuals and a weak story to tell, even with an impressive ensemble cast at its center. Nutcracker similarly had a $120 million production budget and made $161 million at the worldwide box office.

Walt Disney Pictures' other 2018 releases included Christopher Robin and Mary Poppins Returns, which told stories already well-established for the studio and seem to be more popular among audiences. While Disney has seen a couple disappointments this year, the success of its other properties will certainly more than help the studio make their money back.

While these films didn't do so well, hopefully Disney will still take swings with original adaptations despite the numbers in the future because the studio's 2019 line-up includes much more remakes and sequels over originals.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.