‘Strange World’ Creators on Modernizing Classic Pulp Action-Adventures

The legacy of Walt Disney Animation Studios has built its rich history of films on innovative animation technology and bold storytelling. And while we’ve seen hit animated musical features, Strange World leans heavily into the action-adventure genre while also telling timeless stories about family legacy. And as the 61st animated feature, Strange World takes much of its inspiration from the pages of pulp magazines that asked its readers to go on a journey beyond what’s possible.

Based on the pulp magazines of the 1920s and ’30s, Strange World follows Searcher Clade (Jake Gyllenhaal), a peaceful farmer who helped supply natural power to the land of Avolonia thanks to one of his adventures that he took with his steadfast father Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid). But when that energy starts to run out, it is up to Searcher and his family to rely on each other and put away their differences while in an uncharted and treacherous land to find a special creature that awaits.

LOST AND FOUND — Walt Disney Animation Studios’ original action-packed comedy adventure “Strange World” introduces the Clades, a family that comes together in an uncharted, treacherous land. Jake Gyllenhaal voices Searcher Clade, who unexpectedly finds himself on a mission to this strange world, where he happens upon his long-lost, larger-than-life father. Voiced by Dennis Quaid, Jaeger Clade always wanted to be the kind of explorer legends are made of—but, lost during an expedition, nobody had heard from him in decades. 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”), with Roy Conli (Oscar®-winning “Big Hero 6,” “Tangled”) producing, “Strange World” releases November 23, 2022. © 2022 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

The Nerds of Color had a chance to watch 20 minutes of footage from Strange World. In it, we got a sneak peek at the Clade family dynamics, Avoloina’s power infrastructure, and the titular setting. But more on that a little later. The early screening also granted us access to interviews with the behind-the-scenes crew that helped bring much of what we will see in Strange World to life.

As such, we got to talk to production designer Mehrdad Isvandi and head of environments Sean Jenkins about taking the pages of pulp magazines and adding depth and realism while retaining that Disney animation magic to Strange World. And in our interview with heads of animation Amy Smeed and Justin Sklar, we chatted about the preparation process for its human characters as well as the challenges of creating new creatures for the film.

And finally, in our interview with director Don Hall, co-director/writer Qui Nguyen, and producer Roy Conli, we got a chance to talk about bringing representation to Strange World, while also telling stories about fathers and sons and connecting audiences with the resonating themes of legacy.

Strange World opens in theaters on November 23, 2022.

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