Strange World is the newest Walt Disney Animation Studios film, and it pays homage to the classic adventure stories of the past. Inspired by pulp magazines and movies, it takes viewers on a journey to the center of the Earth-esque escapade. During the global press conference, cast and filmmakers came together to discuss this epic film. They talk about the inspirations behind Strange World and what attracted them to want to be a part of it.
Jake Gyllenhaal (“Searcher Clade”)
Gabrielle Union (“Meridian Clade”)
Dennis Quaid (“Jaegar Clade”)
Jaboukie Young-White (“Ethan Clade”)
Don Hall (Director)
Qui Nguyen (Co-Director and Writer)
Roy Conli (Producer)
Strange World Inspirations
Strange World is a film like no other. It offers breathtaking visuals and a world that is a feast for the eyes. When asked about the inspiration behind the film, director Don Hall admits that the pulp fiction fantasy came later, and that at the start of the process Strange World was ultimately about family. “It started with this idea of thinking about my kids, and thinking about what kind of world they’re gonna inherit. That was top of mind many years ago when I started this. And wanting to tell a story that speaks to how do we become good ancestors?”
Hall continues that he wanted to tell that story through three generations with a core relationship that we can all relate to. “And then, to tell it through the lens of this fun, pulp, action-adventure story, that was a dream come true.”
Co-director and writer Qui Nguyen explains that the team at Disney is super diverse, and it was important to include their personal input into the film. “We really wanted a film that reflected the world that we actually lived in. Because there was always a version where you coulda just made them all blue or something, but instead, we wanted a world thatwhen you look out the window in L.A. or New York, it felt like the world you’re actually in.”
Strange World’s Incredible Cast
Producer Roy Conli raves about the Strange World voice cast, going so far as to say that he has “never had a cast so devoted to the story.” From day one Jake, Dennis, Gabrielle, and Jaboukie, brought their A-game. “That’s the wonderful thing about animation. It is an iterative art form, and everyone contributes. There’s 450 people who’ve touched this thing, and these four that are in front of me did such an amazing job in terms of bringing these characters to life.”
It is clear just how right Roy is by the way the cast speaks about the film in the interview. Jake Gyllenhaal (voice of Searcher Clade) says the first thing that attracts him to a role in a film is the story. “I could feel from Don and Qui and from Ron early on that it came from a true place.” He goes on to explain that it felt very personal for him and he loved that it came directly from Don’s personal experiences. “That drew me in.”
Jake was then able to bring his own family and experiences to the table and to the recording booth. “That’s what makes working with them so wonderful is they’re really open to you bringing yourself. And little do you know all the animators are starting to watch your face, watch your movement, watch your facial expressions. And the character slowly does become you as you become it in this odd, extraordinary transformation.”
Dennis Quaid (voice of Jaegar Clade) really enjoyed bringing himself into his role as well. He describes Jaegar as a fixated person. “He sees himself as the greatest explorer the world has ever known. He wants his son, in that traditional sense, to carry on the banner and the legacy of all that.” Dennis continues, “It felt like a real family with real issues that you would wind up fighting over the Thanksgiving dinner table. It was real to me.”
Jaboukie Young-White (voice of Ethan Clade) laughs as he talks about recording the weed-picking scene and how much fun that was for him in the booth. He talks about Ethan with a smile on his face as he says “what’s fun about Ethan is that he does play the peacemaker, but also, he’s like the last piece of the destiny being fulfilled. Searcher thought he was all clear. He was away from his father, and then he has Ethan. And he’s like, ‘This is round two. This is everything all over again.'”
Jaboukie recalls when Don would be in the studio with him to help him record, and talks about how hilarious he is. He vividly remembers Don playing Splat and making ridiculous noises. “This whole experience has been really emotional and fun and just all over the place.”
Gabrielle Union (the voice of Meridian Clade) explains that Strange World came to her around the same time as another film where she plays a mother, although a very different type of mother, called The Inspection. She thought to herself that she needed some levity and was happy that Meridian is a good mom in this movie. “I jumped at the chance because not only did I need some chuckles to offset the darkness, I just want to play in a different medium. I’d been in the minor leagues, and I’d done voice acting before in a smaller scale with Disney at Disney Junior. But to be able to provide a voice for the famed Disney Animation department, that’s like a dream come true.”
Gabrielle says that after she read the script, she was able to ad-lib and was pleasantly surprised by how much of her improv made the final cut. “It just made it fun and easy and super-efficient. And rarely in this town do people care about efficiency and your time. And you walk in, they’re all truly, legit wonderful people.” She loves the freedom that she was given in this project to truly be able to bring herself to Meridian.
Find out how it all comes together when Strange World hits theaters everywhere on November 23rd.
Tessa Smith AKA Mama's Geeky, is a journalist that covers geek and Disney culture on her own website, as well as freelances for other sites such as What's On Disney Plus and Screen Rant. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Marketing and loves all things geeky. She is a Disney Vacation Club member and a Founders Circle Member of Disney+. She is also an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes and a member of the Critics Choice Association. Tessa lives in Upstate New York with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs named Sansa and Khaleesi.