“Fantasia” is a masterpiece, but Walt Disney’s passion project didn’t turn a profit until a 1969 re-release (turns out hippies like trippy colors), 29 years after its 1940 release. While “Fantasia” tanked, Mickey’s magician outfit from the famous “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” segment was so iconic that Disney tried to turn it into a blockbuster franchise 70 years later. Or at least, we think that’s what they were trying to do? Since “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” isn’t technically a live-action remake of a Disney legacy movie (a la “Beauty and the Beast” or “The Lion King”), it makes our list, though its fate was similar to its 1940 “inspiration.”
In a stroke of genius, the film stars Nicolas Cage as the sorcerer. Cage had successfully gone into the Disney business with the “National Treasure” movies (or maybe Disney went into the Nicolas Cage business?), and “Sorcerer” seemed to bridge the gap between Disney magic and Nic Cage wackiness. Add in blockbuster producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and what could go wrong?
While “Sorcerer’s” international $154 million gross was so-so, the paltry $63 million domestic gross led to a lukewarm $217 million. Thanks to its way-too-high budget of $160 million, we estimate “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” lost about $103 million. What makes that even worse is Disney had debuted “Prince of Persia” to crickets just over a month before. Despite producing “Pirates” and “National Treasure,” Bruckheimer wasn’t the live-action hero Disney needed. Fortunately, Disney bought Marvel one year before “Prince” and “Sorcerer”, which was obviously a much wiser — and desperately needed — investment.