Disney Animation’s Strange World — for which a new trailer dropped Wednesday — was created to capture the adventure of pulp novels, with inspiration from stories such as Jules Verne’s Journey to the Center of the Earth as well as King Kong.
But it’s ultimately a story about family, director Don Hall (an Oscar winner for Big Hero 6) explained during a press event. Co-directed and written by Qui Nguyen, Strange World follows a family of explorers who find themselves in an uncharted land. Searcher Clade, voiced by Jake Gyllenhaal, is described as a brilliant family man — who, as a teenager, discovered a plant-based power source that changed the world. Searcher’s dad, Jaeger, voiced by Dennis Quaid, disappeared decades ago during an expedition; and Searcher’s son Ethan, played by Jaboukie Young-White, is a happy 16-year-old who helps on the family’s farm.
They reside in the fictional Avalonia, which features a palette including white and orange. “We wanted to create a kind of utopia — a warm, nostalgic feeling to emphasize that this is a wonderful culture that everybody enjoys,” said production designer Justin Cram in a statement.
In contrast, when the explorers venture into the strange new world that feels alive, Hall said from the event that the filmmakers avoided earth tones and leaned into reds and magentas — and populated the world with curious plant life.
The expedition begins at the request of Callisto Mal, president of Avalonia, voiced by Lucy Liu, who is also on the adventure. So too is Legend, a three-legged family dog; and Splat, a blue, tentacle-covered creature without a face. He doesn’t talk, and so the animators needed to create a way for Splat to communicate via pantomime (concept art below). Hall likened this approach to the creation of the sentient carpet in Aladdin.
Strange World opens Nov. 23. The trailer is below.