Walt Disney Animation Studios’, Strange World!
The breathtaking settings for Walt Disney Animation Studios’ films can be fantastical and awe-inspiring, inviting us to places only seen in our imaginations—from Zootopia to San Fransokyo, Arendelle to the 8-bit arcade, Kumandra to Corona. But no world has ever been so wonderfully strange as the studio’s latest adventure. Journey deep into “Strange World,” set in a vast, hidden, subterranean world where bizarre creatures, looming danger and points unknown await.
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ original action-packed adventure “Strange World” introduces a legendary family of explorers, the Clades, as they attempt to navigate an uncharted, treacherous land alongside a motley crew that includes a mischievous blob, a three-legged dog and a slew of ravenous creatures. This seriously strange world is actually an allegory for Planet Earth, says director Don Hall. “What started everything was just thinking about my sons and the world they’re going to inherit,” he says. “How is it different from what I inherited from my dad?”
Hall leaned into the idea of fathers and sons—how they don’t always see the world the same way. “My dad and I have a great relationship,” he says. “He is a farmer and I grew up helping out. But when I was 14 years old, it all changed. Suddenly, I was planting and doing more high-level stuff that I just didn’t want to do. It wasn’t me. It all turned out fine, but I always remembered that and thought it would be interesting to explore father/son relationships and the kind of expectations we put on our kids—intentionally or unintentionally.”
At its core, “Strange World” is a story about family, specifically three generations who each are seeking their place in the world. Searcher Clade is a brilliant family man—who, as a teenager, discovered a plant-based power source that changed the world. He built a successful enterprise growing, harvesting and distributing the crop alongside his wife and son. Searcher’s dad, Jaeger, set out at a young age to be the kind of explorer legends are made of. A statue in town confirms he achieved his goal, but lost during an expedition, nobody’s heard from him in decades. Searcher’s son, Ethan, is a happy 16-year-old with a great sense of humor and a decent work ethic (for a teenager). Ethan helps on the farm, but he's not sure he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. The three Clades have huge differences that prove divisive—and at the same time, they have more in common than any of them is willing to admit. Co-director and writer Qui Nguyen recalls early conversations with Hall about the story. “The thing that got me was when he said it’s about fathers and sons,” says Nguyen. “I am also a dad of two kids and I felt like that was exactly what I wanted to be doing. This is a story I needed and wanted to tell.
“We could relate to Jaeger and Searcher when it comes to our kids,” continued Nguyen. “There’s a push and pull between ambition and just being a dad. It’s something almost every artist here at Disney—anyone who’s chasing a big dream—would understand. A big reason why we do it is for them—and, man, we don’t want to lose focus of that. This is the story that I'm going through, the story that Don is going through and the story our characters are going through.”
Producer Roy Conli says the dynamic between the characters is the heart of the story. “Father-son relationships are so beautiful and so fraught simultaneously,” he says. “I came from the theater. My favorite play as a kid was ‘Death of a Salesman,’ which is a classic father-son tale. My father and I had an amazing relationship. I thought he was Superman until I was 15, when I realized he wasn't Superman. We had a good 10 years of battle that fortunately, we came through. He was an amazing guy, and that father-son relationship is really special: it's phenomenal and universal. I think fathers push their sons; sons reject their fathers, and then eventually they all come around.”
“Strange World” is an original action-packed comedy adventure in the spirit of pulp novels. “I always loved big adventure stories,” says Hall, “the specific kind of adventure story where explorers find a hidden world that was heretofore unknown to them or anybody else. And that goes back so far into late 1800s, early 1900s—Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. That was sort of the birth of the big adventure story in novel form. ‘King Kong’ is a good filmic reference that had a group of explorers find a new hidden world. I wanted to evoke that in this movie.”
The big adventure within the story of the Clades kicks off when the president of Avalonia, Callisto Mal, shows up at Searcher’s farm—much to his surprise and that of his wife, Meridian. The news isn’t good: pando—the revolutionary plant Searcher discovered years before—is in trouble, and they’re all in grave danger. They need to trek to the source, wherever that is, to figure out how to save it. Says Conli, “I often think of pando impacting Avalonia the same way the advent of electricity impacted our world. If you look at the 1880s and shoot forward into the 1930s, it was a completely different world because electricity was this phenomenal force. When they discover that it’s in peril, that drives the action of the film. Pando becomes the reason for the expedition that leads Searcher back to his father, Jaeger, who’s been missing for many years.”
Their journey takes them into a world nobody knew existed, where they’ll encounter a bevy of never-before-seen creatures—some weird, some wonderful and some downright dangerous. But the biggest discovery that awaits the Clades is the key to their relationship with each other and what the future holds for them if they find it.
“Strange World” features the voices of Jake Gyllenhaal as Searcher Clade, a family man who finds himself out of his element on an unpredictable mission; Dennis Quaid as Searcher’s larger-than-life explorer father, Jaeger; Jaboukie Young-White as Searcher’s 16-year-old son, Ethan, who longs for adventure; Gabrielle Union as Meridian Clade, an accomplished pilot and Searcher’s partner in all things; and Lucy Liu as Callisto Mal, Avalonia’s fearless leader who spearheads the exploration into the strange world. Helmed by director Don Hall (Oscar®-winning “Big Hero 6,” “Raya and the Last Dragon”) and co-director/writer Qui Nguyen (co-writer “Raya and the Last Dragon”), and produced by Roy Conli (Oscar®-winning “Big Hero 6,” “Tangled”), “Strange World” ventures to the big screen on Nov. 23, 2022.
Watch/download the new trailer here: