Disney Animation’s latest feature film, Strange World, might just be its most ambitious yet. The film takes place in a fictional world and features a family that goes on a dangerous journey into an unexplored and bizarre part of their world. The result is a film that feels like anything can happen at any time, or as Disney Head of Animation Justin Sklar called it, a story that’s both exciting and scary.
Recently, I had the opportunity to screen selected scenes from the upcoming film and speak with the filmmakers, animators and artists behind Strange World to learn more about this unique world that they created.
I first spoke with director Don Hall (Moana, Big Hero 6), co-director Qui Nguyen (Raya and the Last Dragon) and producer Roy Conli (Tangled, Penguins). Nguyen, who served as a writer on Raya and wrote the screenplay for Strange World in addition to co-directing, talked about how the father and son storyline within the film resonates with him personally. Hall likened the film to a huge family road trip and the fun and excitement of such an experience. Conli, who has a unique background of animation and wildlife documentaries, discussed the environmental themes within the story.
I then spoke with Heads of Animation Amy Smeed and Justin Sklar, who led the team in developing the look and feel for Strange World. It was clear that both were excited about the ambitiousness of the film and how the story allowed the creative team to really stretch their imagination. They talked about one of the most interesting creatures we see in the film, affectionately named Splat, and how it embodied the fun but unexpected tone of the story.
Finally, I spoke with Production Designer Mehrdad Isvandi and Head of Environments Sean Jenkins. Isvandi, who also worked on films like Moana, Encanto and Raya and the Last Dragon, admitted that the challenge of this project was that they really couldn’t take anything from previous films because they were creating a brand new world. Jenkins, whose credits include Wreck-It-Ralph and Frozen II, mentioned that the goal of the directors was that this world would be filled with life in all of the scenes.
It was clear from all of the creatives that Strange World is a uniquely creative project that allowed them to stretch their imaginations. From what we’ve seen thus far, the result is an fun and exciting film that should appeal to a broad range of audiences.
Strange World premieres in theaters November 23, 2022!
Jake Gyllenhaal (“The Guilty,” “Spider-Man: Far from Home”) lends his voice to Searcher Clade, the son of a steadfast explorer. The original action-adventure journeys deep into an uncharted and treacherous land where fantastical creatures await the legendary Clades, a family of explorers whose differences threaten to topple their latest—and by far— most crucial mission.
Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture. He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.