Watching the trailer for “Strange World,” the latest film from Disney animation, it’s easy to get a Jules Verne vibe. And according to director Don Hall, that’s entirely on purpose.
Hall said recently that when he was first imagining the look of the new sci-fi fantasy film, he looked immediately to the quintessential turn-of-the-century adventure story for inspiration.
“’Mysterious Island’ and ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’ and some of these just very early adventure stories, [I] kind of Immersed myself in them,” he said of his research for the film. However, he didn’t stop there, drawing more modern inspiration for the film as well, adding he wanted to see how adventure stories grew and changed through the 20th century, “all the way through ‘King Kong,’ ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ [and] ‘Star Wars’ essentially, the movies that I grew up with in the 70s and 80s that made me want to make movies.
“I love adventure stories, specifically the stories of exploring [and] finding a hidden world. It just felt like it was ripe for animation to take that world and do something that you’ve never seen before,” Hall said.
The film follows the Clades, a multigenerational family headed by Jaeger, a world-famous explorer who has been missing for many years, Searcher, his son, who has largely rejected exploring in favor of farming, and Ethan, Searcher’s teen son, who has expressed interest in exploring the world outside his father’s farm. When disaster strikes their community, the Clade family must embark on a perilous journey together to save the world, and resolve their family issues along the way.
Writer Qui Nguyen said he loved the idea of crafting a story that revolves around a family trapped in a different world together and having to figure out a way to get along to save the world. He also said he really wanted to examine how parents and grandparents relate to younger generations.
“Lessons from our parents sometimes both give us trauma and also give us strength,” he said, adding the movie deeply explores the idea of legacy. “How do we give the best things to our children and pass them on?”
“Strange World” also has a large environmental message as well.
“These Disney movies, we have a big voice. And I do think it’s our responsibility to use that voice in a conscientious way,” director Hall said, adding that when he started work on the movie in 2018, he was thinking a lot about the world he was leaving behind for his own children.
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“We’re really seeing the effects of climate change, it’s not this fantasy anymore,” he recalled thinking. “My kids were at a certain age, where I’m thinking about the world that they’re going to be living in. And it’s very multi the world that I grew up in.”
Hall teamed up again with “Big Hero 6” collaborator Roy Conli, who said he wants audiences to come away reflecting on their own families.
“I think that legacy is such an important thing. What are we going to leave our children?” Conli said. “I’m a firm believer that you enter the head through the heart. And what [Hall and the filmmakers] have done with this film is give us a lot of things to think about.”
Conli, who has produced eight other Disney projects including “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Treasure Planet” and “Tangled,” says “Strange World” exemplifies the boundless potential of Disney movies.
“I think that a Disney movie can pretty much be anything as long as you have that spirit of childhood,” he said. “But there’s also a spirit of wonder, and I think that that’s what this movie really embraces. You build the world. You build characters that you fall in love with, and then you tell a story. And if somehow you’re touching hearts, you’ve entered the Disney realm.”
“Strange World” will release this fall on Nov. 23, just in time for Thanksgiving. More information is available at movies.disney.com/strange-world.
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