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Strange Magic

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Strange Magic
Strange Magic Offical Poster.jpeg
Just when everyone thought Attack of the Clones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull were the worst George Lucas had to offer, we got this clunky flick that's neither strange nor magic.
Genre: Animation
Jukebox Musical
Directed By: Gary Rydstrom
Produced By: Mark S. Miller
Written By: George Lucas
David Berenbaum
Irene Mecchi
Gary Rydstrom
Starring: Alan Cumming
Evan Rachel Wood
Kristin Chenoweth
Maya Rudolph
Alfred Molina
Sam Palladio
Photography: Color
Distributed By: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Release Date: January 23, 2015
Runtime: 99 minutes
Country: United States
Budget: $70–100 million
Box Office: $13.6 million

Strange Magic is a 2015 American computer-animated musical fantasy film directed by Gary Rydstrom and produced by Lucasfilm, based on an idea by George Lucas inspired by William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The film was released on January 23, 2015, by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures under the Touchstone Pictures label as the first Lucasfilm production after the Disney purchase and the only non-Star Wars film by Lucasfilm Animation. It was his first writing credit since the 1994 film Radioland Murders that is not associated with the Star Wars, Red Tails, or Indiana Jones franchises.


Bog King (Alan Cumming), leader of the Dark Forest, hates the notion of love and has ordered the destruction of all primroses, which are an essential ingredient of love potions. However, when he meets Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood), a feisty fairy princess whose heart was broken by a philandering fiance, he begins to change his mind. Meanwhile, an elf named Sunny (Elijah Kelley) makes his way to the Dark Forest to collect enough primrose petals for a potion of his own.

Why It Doesn't Deserve To Be Loved

  1. The story, courtesy of George Lucas, uses every love cliché you can find in the book:
    • The "no one loves me because I'm hideous" cliché.
    • The forced love cliché combined with the love potion cliché, and the predictable "power of true love" trope.
    • The romantic chemistry built up via song cliché.
    • The misunderstanding before the climax cliché.
    • The "I want more in life" cliché.
    • The "Disney death" cliché at the near end of the movie.
  2. To make the clichés even worse, there is no originality whatsoever:
    • Bog King is either the Beast from Beauty and the Beast or Shrek. The misunderstanding cliché said above can be even compared to Shrek.
    • Roland is a bland version of Gaston from Beauty and the Beast and a worse version of Hans from Frozen.
    • As AniMat pointed out in his review, the setting and environment, such as the woodland creatures being the steed of the ferries, are way too similar to Epic.
  3. The characters are extremely unlikeable and clichéd:
    • Marianne is just Kayley from Quest for Camelot (who in return is a rip-off of Belle from Beauty and the Beast) as a fairy; she's a young girl who desires to be a fighter and gain more out of life. Never heard that one before! And even besides that, she's little more than a very unlikable, generic, whiny, and one-dimensional main character, and she doesn't do anything new or interesting with the "princess who wants more out of life" character archetype (but then again, that trope has been done so many times in movies that it's pretty hard to do something new with it, though it still doesn't save Marianne from feeling incredibly generic).
    • Dawn is very annoying, stupid, and boy-crazy. The film itself seems to be aware of this while she's affected by the love potion, with Marianna even outright telling the Bog King that she's " a girl who falls in love with every guy she sees" at one point. She also ends up with Sunny in the end after being freed from the effects of the love potion even though she hasn't shown any romantic interest in him before and just saw him as a friend.
    • Bog King's minions are unfunny comic reliefs with stupid running gags.
    • The Sugarplum Fairy is ridiculous and unbearable, doing almost nothing other than making stupid jokes. Her obnoxious voice (Kristin Chenoweth deserves better) doesn't help.
    • Sunny is stupid, seeing that he promised to take care of the love potion yet screwed everything up at the ball. He also comes across as kind of a jerk; he feels so entitled to Dawn that he's willing to use the love potion on her because he's afraid she won't return his feelings, even though he's never actually asked her how she feels about him. And he never gets any repercussions for his actions and just gets the girl in the end.
    • Roland, similar to Hans from Frozen, is an incredibly predictable and moronic villain. You can actually see his turn to being the antagonist within the first act.
    • The Fairy King, being the typical overprotective father and king, forbade Marianne from searching for Dawn and his reason is never explained nor justified. And even after Roland cheated on his daughter on her wedding day, and he found out, he's still willing to have him marry his daughter? Come on!
    • Griselda is even worse as an annoying parent character.
  4. The musical numbers are just horrible takes on popular songs. While previous films like Moulin Rouge and Happy Feet prove that jukebox-musicals can work in a movie, this one does not hit those notes:
    • The opening number, taking "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis Presley, comes legitimately out of nowhere and doesn't flow properly.
    • Not one minute later, the use "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" from Promises, Promises, and it just doesn't work well with Marianne turning herself into a warrior princess.
    • "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley and the Wailers follows within the next scene (what is the standard gap between musical numbers again?) and it doesn't do anything other than waste time.
    • After Roland makes a weak attempt at a river dance joke, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" by Kelly Clarkson and it just says everything already said in the "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" scene.
    • "Trouble", another Elvis Presley song, is just turned into a generic rock number introducing the villain.
    • There is no purpose for "Mistreated" by Deep Purple other than to say "rock song equals villain".
    • "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" by Four Tops is just used to show how annoying Dawn is. This would be funny if it didn't get so repetitive.
    • The only good musical number is "Strange Magic" by Electric Light Orchestra, but even there it fails because of the clunky romantic chemistry built up.
    • There is even one bizarre moment where Roland's army is marching into the Dark Forest to a chant version of "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga. That wasn't even included in the soundtrack album, but why was it in the movie to begin with?
  5. Average yet irritating voice acting, especially from characters like Sunny (Elijah Kelley), Sugar Plum Fairy (Kristin Chenoweth), and Griselda (Maya Rudolph). There are some good voice talents for characters like Bog King (Alan Cumming) and Marianne (Evan Rachel Wood), but there's too much of the rest.
  6. The film takes already existing quantity-over-quality problems in The Magic Voyage, Felix the Cat: The Movie, and Walking with Dinosaurs and makes them even worse. Not only do the characters never shut up, but they also never stop singing! Given how there's a total of 13 musical numbers in the entirety of the film (and just for comparison's sake, the average Disney musical has 6), they come up so frequently that it never gives the audience a moment to breathe; it can even make them appreciate the songs even less, on top of the songs already being pop-rock versions of hand-picked popular songs.
  7. While animation itself is lovely to look at, the character designs of the fairies and elves can fall into the uncanny valley due to the facial designs and head shapes coming across as awkward.
    • Ironically, Bog King looks the least creepy out of all the character designs.
    • Roland's lips look weird.
    • On a side note, the Fairy King looks uncannily similar to George Lucas himself. Was that intentional?
    • While a lot of the visuals are admittedly creative, the ending shot is just random, psychedelic, and nauseating.
  8. When the film attempts comedy, more often than not, it falls flat either coming off as cringeworthy or just plain unfunny:
    • As mentioned above, Dawn singing "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" would be funny if the gag wasn't so repetitive.
    • The post-credits scene where Roland kissing a fly when he's affected by the love potion is very tasteless, disgusting, creepy, and unfunny. Adding salt to the wound is why was this even in the trailer?
  9. Bog King and Marianne's romantic chemistry is not developed properly as they only begin to fall in love near the end, with only 20 minutes left in the running time. Yes, they were shown to be perfect for each other as they both shared a distaste for sugary, romantic displays and later started to bond over their respective heartbreaks, but the fact that they end up together in only a couple of hours is still just shows how rushed the story was. This is even worse than when George Lucas handled romantic chemistry in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. Even Pixar did romantic chemistry better when it came to EVE and WALL-E's relationship in WALL-E (which is far superior, and came out 7 years before this film), which managed to develop their chemistry with slick precision since it used the running time with true effort and didn't rush the pacing of the movie, thus showing a huge disparge between the 2 films.
  10. False advertising: The poster is incredibly misleading as it includes none of the fairies, elves or even Bog King, just the Bog' King's minions and other background creatures, giving the false impression that they are the main characters of the film when they actually aren't. The only characters that contribute anything to the plot on the poster are Griselda and the Imp.
  11. Plot Hole: It is never explained how the love potion failed to work on Marianne, or even how it works at all. Apparently, it didn't work in Bog King's backstory because his love interest was in love with someone else, but the movie never explores that deep enough other than "the only thing more powerful than the love potion is real love" trope.
  12. The directing of Gary Rydstrom is terrible. Considering he directed the Pixar short film Lifted, this is a huge problem with the movie.
  13. Misleading title: Despite the title Strange Magic, there isn't anything strange about the magic in the movie. As love potions, the primary form of magic in the film has already been done before many many times. There is nothing strange or unique about the magic in the movie whatsoever!

Redeeming Qualities

  1. Despite the uncanny designs, the animation is splendid to look at, with all the detailed textures and special effects, all done by Lucasfilm's visual effects studio Industrial Light and Magic, which preciously did the animation of Rango.
    • There's also plenty of creative editing choices in the musical numbers. So there's that.
  2. The Imp is at least a cute and somewhat enjoyable character.
  3. Some musical numbers like "Straight On" by Heart can be enjoyable, despite being very obnoxious.
  4. Some funny moments, such as Dawn singing "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)" and annoying Bog King and his minions before it got repetitive.
  5. It was a sweet idea for George Lucas to make a film for his daughters, despite the idea being poorly executed.
    • On that topic, George Lucas described the concept as "Star Wars for girls", which does hinder the idea a little bit, despite sounding a bit sexist.


Strange Magic received negative reviews from critics and audiences who criticized its script, humor, and songs but praised its animation. The film currently holds an 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 62 reviews, with the consensus reading "Like most modern animated movies, Strange Magic is lovely to look at; unfortunately, there isn't much going on beneath the surface.". On Metacritic, the film has a score of 25 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews". According to CinemaScore, audiences gave the film a grade of "B−" on an A+ to F scale.

The film was also a box-office bomb, losing around $40–50 million and grossing only $13.6 million against a $70–100 million budget.



  • George Lucas described the film as Star Wars for a female audience stating "Star Wars was for 12-year-old boys; I figured I'd make one for 12-year-old girls." According to Rydstrom, Lucas "really wanted to make a beautiful fairy tale with goblins and elves, and do it in a way that only this company can do. He had been working on it for a long time." Rydstrom mentioned that Lucas emphasized that the story should be about "finding beauty in strange places".
  • On the film's plot, director Gary Rydstrom stated, "We pitched it as a Beauty and the Beast story where the Beast doesn't change."
  • Before The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm in late 2012, production on Strange Magic was already well underway. Rydstrom and his crew screened the film for Disney executives. Rydstrom stated, "We're not Pixar or Disney Animation, so in some ways George was our John [Lasseter] on this one ... I like the fact—not that I don't like advice from all over—but this is our own thing, this is a Lucasfilm project ... I remember when Labyrinth came out and how exciting that was. There was a magic to that, this has the same vibe to me."
  • This was the final animated film to be released by Touchstone Pictures before Disney quietly retired the label in 2018, as well as the final Touchstone Pictures release not involving DreamWorks Pictures or Amblin. The final theatrical film to use the Touchstone banner was The Light Between Oceans, which was released in 2016. Universal Pictures replaced Disney as DreamWorks Pictures' distributor, through Disney retained the film rights to those DreamWorks films in perpetuity as compensation for the studio's outstanding loan, with several subsequent series and films based on previous Touchstone-branded properties being released under the Disney name since Disney, has used the 20th Century Studios (formerly 20th Century Fox) and Searchlight Pictures (formerly Fox Searchlight Pictures) labels for mature content, following the acquisition of the bulk of 21st Century Fox in 2019.
  • This was the last blockbuster budgeted film by George Lucas following his semi-retirement in 2012.
    • However, George Lucas is returning as executive producer of a fifth Indiana Jones film, with then-director Steven Spielberg stating "I would never make an Indiana Jones film without George Lucas. That'd be insane.".

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