The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is a fantasy film directed by Jon Turteltaub and released by Walt Disney Pictures in 2010. One of the film’s main protagonists is played by Nicolas Cage, who previously appeared in two National Treasure movies that are also released by Walt Disney Pictures and directed by Turteltaub. Disney hoped that the success of the National Treasure films would carry over The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by adding Cage to the cast, but they will soon found out that the 2010 movie would be regarded as one of their biggest Disney movie flops in the modern era. To know what went wrong to this fantasy film for it to be a box office failure, we must take a look at the production history and reception of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
The concept for the film is said to have come from Nicholas Cage, who wanted to play a wizard capable of casting powerful spells and live in a mystic world. The suggestion was raised by Cage in order to differentiate the new film’s character with the National Treasure protagonist Benjamin Franklin Gates, who is a historian and treasure collector that has similar traits and goals to Indiana Jones. Cage first brought the idea to his friend and film producer Todd Garner, and after pitching the movie’s concept to Walt Disney Pictures, both groups agreed that the film should be based on an animated segment called “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” that was part of the 1940 Disney film Fantasia.
Fantasia is the third animated feature film produced by Disney, and it is comprised of eight segments that follow a magical theme and are set to iconic pieces of classical music that were conducted by Leopold Stokowski and mostly played by the Philadelphia Orchestra. In “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” Disney’s most popular character, Mickey Mouse, serves as the titular character that is trying to learn how to become a powerful wizard under the tutelage of Yen Sid (“Disney” written backward). The same premise is also found in the 2010 film starring Nicholas Cage, but instead of Yen Sid and Mickey Mouse, it is Cage’s character Balthazar Blake who is trying to teach his reluctant apprentice Dave Stutler (played by Jay Baruchel) how to become a proper sorcerer.
Despite having a fantasy theme, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice takes place in modern-day New York. As such, the filming for most of the scenes in the movie was conducted around New York City, particularly in landmarks such as Washington Square Park, Times Square, and the New York City Hall. The production team opted to use as little CGI effects as possible, as they wanted to make the magic in the film more believable by incorporating practical effects like fireworks, flash powders, and colored flammable liquids.
During one particular shooting day in 2009, the stunt driver for the Ferrari F430 used in chase scenes lost control of the vehicle and rammed the window of a Sbarro restaurant located in Times Square. It was reported that two pedestrians were hurt during the accident, which is mostly blamed on the roads of Time Square that were slick during rainy days.
On opening day (July 14, 2010), the Sorcerer’s Apprentice was able to gross $3,873,997, and during its first weekend in US and Canadian theaters, it collected $17,619,622 while finishing 3rd in box office sales behind Inception and Despicable Me. Overall, it grossed $215,283,603 worldwide by the end of 2010. Because it has a budget of $150 million, minus the budget allocated to marketing, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is considered one of the biggest flops in the movie industry in 2010.
Its failure in the box office is mainly attributed to the fact that it was released on the same week as Despicable Me, a 3D computer-animated film that is now considered a modern classic for Universal Pictures. Furthermore, critics were also not particularly fond of the film’s story, an aspect of the movie that is regarded to be its weakest link. On Rotten Tomatoes, the movie has an approval rating of 40% that is determined through 171 reviews by film critics. In those reviews, the critics praised the magnificent use of practical and CGI effects, as well as the cast members that played their roles well, but the story was not enough to become memorable. Roger Ebert, a renowned movie critic, gave The Sorcerer’s Apprentice two and a half stars out of four and stated that the movie is much better than The Last Airbender, another movie flop that was released in 2010 and was a live-action remake of the popular Nickelodeon animated series called Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Three years after the release of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Jon Turteltaub directed Last Vegas, which starred Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro, and Morgan Freeman, although this film was also received poorly by critics. Nicholas Cage starred in another movie flop in 2011 titled Drive Angry alongside Amber Heard and William Fichtner. From then on, Cage would appear in countless films, with some of those movies being flops as well.