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Everything you need to know about Disney’s newest animated movie ‘Strange World,’ starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Gabrielle Union


  • Disney’s next feature animated film, “Strange World,” hits theaters on November 23. 
  • The film is an adventure story starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gabrielle Union, and Lucy Liu. 
  • Director Don Hall and co-director and writer Qui Nguyen worked together on “Raya and the Last Dragon.”

Disney’s newest animated feature film “Strange World” is an adventure story with a family focus. Directed by Don Hall, and written and co-directed by Qui Nguyen, the film is a Jules Verne-esque journey to — you guessed it — a strange, novel world, colored in hues of pink and populated with bizarre, otherworldly creatures. 

It’s also, as Hall and Nguyen said during a press day presentation attended by Insider, a film about fathers and sons. “Strange World” focuses on three generations of the Clade family, from the larger-than-life explorer Jaeger Clade, to his son Searcher, a farmer, to teenager Ethan.

On Wednesday, Disney released the first trailer for “Strange World.” Check it out below.

Here’s everything Insider learned about the strange world of “Strange World” during the film’s recent press day.

‘Strange World’ is both an adventure and a family story

concept art of a vast, lush landscape — a city surrounded first by a series of hexagonal fields, verdant and green, and then by a ring of icy 9mountains

Visual development art of Avalonia in “Strange World” by Larry Wu.

Walt Disney Animation Studios


“Strange World” takes place in a land known as Avalonia, a city revolutionized by the discovery of a spectacular, technology-enhancing plant called Pando. However, when something starts to go wrong with the plant, farmer Searcher Clade (Jake Gyllenhaal), the man who discovered the plant, has to go on a quest in order to restore its power.  

Searcher’s family, including his wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union) and their son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White), ends up getting wrapped up in his foray into the titular Strange World. 

Hall and Nguyen said they drew inspiration from their own experiences as fathers, as well as other influences, while working on the film

concept art of three characters in strange world. on the left is Jaeger Clade, a large man with an exaggerated mustache, raising one eyebrow skeptically. in the middle is searcher, a middle aged man with fluffy hair and a beard and goatee, smiling sheepishly. on the right is ethan, a biracial Black teen with curly dark hair coming out of a beanie. he's slightly smiling, earnestly

Visual development art of Jaeger, Searcher, and Ethan Clade in “Strange World” by Jin Kim.

Walt Disney Animation Studios


Hall and Nguyen are no strangers to Disney animation: Hall directed “Big Hero 6” and “Raya and the Last Dragon,” and Nguyen co-wrote the screenplay for “Raya and the Last Dragon.” 

“Don and I are both dads and sons and so, you know, it’s a great father-son story ultimately,” Nguyen said during the press day. “It’s a great adventure but it’s ultimately a love letter to our dads, to our kids.”

According to Hall, the film’s influences range from Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth” to the Indiana Jones film “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”

‘Strange World’ features a vibrant and unique new world

a lush landscape in strange world, with magenta foiliage instead of green grass. tree like structures rise from the ground, almost like fungi or coral, sprouting into different tree-like, shapes. in the foreground, a man lies in the magenta grass, his arms spread wide while a dog stands close to his body. in the corner, there's visible plane wreckage

Concept art of Searcher in the Strange World in “Strange World” by Mehrdad Isvandi.

Walt Disney Animation Studios


Trailers for the film show this new world, which is colored predominantly in a lush magenta color palette and filled with bizarre creatures. Those critters range from aggressive tentacled predators to flowing streams of blobby, manta-ray like animals flying through the air. 

Production designer Mehrdad Isvandi told members of the press that the film’s crew wanted to distinguish the film’s Strange World as much from real life as possible, drawing inspiration from everything from coral reefs to sausages. 

The star-studded voice cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Gabrielle Union, and Lucy Liu

a young, biracial Black teenager in the animated film "Strange World." he has hair coming out from underneath a beanie, and wears small, golden hoop earrings. there's an earnest, eager expression on his face

Jaboukie Young-White plays Ethan Clade in “Strange World.”

Walt Disney Animation Studios


“Strange World” stars Gyllenhaal in his first-ever Disney animated film role as Searcher Clade. Gabrielle Union and Jaboukie Young-White round out the other members of Searcher’s immediate family, while Dennis Quaid plays his father. Lucy Liu also stars as Avalonia’s leader, Callisto Mal. 

Hall and Nguyen said that the cast’s skillful improvisation made it difficult to select which takes to use. 

“When they improv — especially with Jaboukie and Gabrielle, who come from a comedic background — it’s just gold, but it also makes our job very difficult,” Nguyen said. “‘Cause you wanna put every joke, but you can’t put every joke.”

The film also features a character from the Strange World called Splat, who’s probably going to be a fan favorite

assorted sketches of splat, a blob-like blue creature with several "limbs," standing up, rolling around, scuttling across the ground, and generally moving in different, weird ways

Splat visual development art by character designer Jin Kim.

Walt Disney Animation Studios


Splat is a blob-like creature that the group encounters once they travel to the Strange World.

Amorphous and blue, Splat has multiple limbs that allow it to travel in various ways, from spinning around in a cartwheel-like motion, to skittering around on all of its limbs, to walking upright in a humanoid fashion. 

Henry Jackman composed the film’s score

five people in the animated film "strange world," standing at the helm of the ship while a woman pilots it at the wheel

The Clade family in the trailer for “Strange World.”


Walt Disney Animation Studios/YouTube



This is the third collaboration between Jackman and Hall, having worked together previously on “Winnie the Pooh” and “Big Hero 6.” Hall said that Jackman’s “Strange World” score “evokes everything that you want with an action-adventure film.”

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