Two characters looking at the large pink landscape in Strange World. Image: Disney.

Everything We Know About Disney’s ‘Strange World’

Disney released news reel-esque footage of its next science fiction flick about a group of people traveling on an unknown and fantastical planet in the teaser for Strange World. Here’s the official plot synopsis for the adventure film:

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Searcher Clade, the son of a steadfast explorer. The original action-adventure journeys deep into an uncharted and treacherous land where fantastical creatures await the legendary Clades, a family of explorers whose differences threaten to topple their latest—and by far— most crucial mission.

Strange World was directed by Don Hall (Big Hero 6) and Qui Ngyuen, who’ve both worked together on Raya and the Last Dragon. This fact is already proving very polarizing online but considering this doesn’t look like a story with the cultural elements added in as a second thought, I’m not counting it out. This will be Ngyuen’s second major writing credit (after Raya) and I’m looking forward to this project just like I was with Raya.

Who’s in it?

Strange World vintage looking poster unfolded. Image: Disney.

So far, the cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal playing Searcher Clade and an unknown Alan Tudyk role. Tudyk could play the blue blob or the rustling trees and kill it. It’s unclear who the other cast members are. Considering how diverse the casting looks, I’m hoping that the voice talent will reflect this, too. Trademarks miners last year found the name Captain Calypso Kahn, Meridan Clade, Searcher Clade, and Ethan Clade. If Searcher is Gyllenhaal, it looks like Meridan is his wife and Ethan is his son. Captain Calypso and the unknown grey-haired man look like they’re not related, but just eagerly along for the adventure. In fact, the teaser shows everyone excited except Searcher himself.

In August 2021, Nigerian YouTuber Samuel Oklo discussed what details could be gathered from a Disney Insider preview plus leaked info from casting back when it was believed at the time to be called Searcher Clade. He expressed joy in seeing a young boy star in this film and said the description of who they were looking for to voice one of the main characters reminded him of himself.

It now looks like Ethan (Search’s son) won’t be the main character, but nonetheless important if this explorer spirit was supposed to be something inherited by Searcher from his father. Strange World will be the first non-Pixar film from Disney to feature a prominent animated, young boy lead since the early 2010s with Big Hero Six. This also reminded me how much Pixar has carried the animation prestige with stories featuring young leads like Coco, Luca, and Turning Red over the last few years.

When does Strange World release?

Strange Worlds promises to be the big holiday event for Disney animation. Between this and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Disney science fiction is having a moment in late Fall 2022. Strange World comes out on November 23, 2022 a.k.a. the day before Thanksgiving.

I’m really excited to see an explorer film that takes aesthetics from early pulp sci-fi but also doesn’t rely on visuals from the turn of the 20th-century colonial aesthetics. We don’t know what they are looking for and why, so these themes could be there to be challenged. However, this teaser still seems to be moving away from the cringy and problematic elements from previous Disney (favorite) films from my childhood, namely Tarzan and Atlantis.

(image: Disney)

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Alyssa Shotwell
(she/her) Award-winning artist and writer with professional experience and education in graphic design, art history, and museum studies. She began her career in journalism in October 2017 when she joined her student newspaper as the Online Editor. This resident of the yeeHaw land spends most of her time drawing, reading and playing the same handful of video games—even as the playtime on Steam reaches the quadruple digits. Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 & Oxygen Not Included.