© The Walt Disney Company (Germany) GmbH

Strange World
U.S.A. 2022

Opening 24 Nov 2022

Directed by: Don Hall, Qui Nguyen
Writing credits: Qui Nguyen
Principal actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Jaboukie Young-White, Gabrielle Union, Lucy Liu

Jaeger Clade wants to walk “beyond the horizon” from his winterly mountainous home in Avalonia. He is accompanied by his teenaged son Searcher, who is not really an explorer type. On the way, Searcher discovers a miraculous plant, which inspires him to return home to become a farmer and cultivate it. He leaves his father to continue on his own. Twenty-five years later we see an adult Searcher, married to Meridian, a pilot. They have a son, Ethan. Their plant, called PANDO, provides electricity for everything including the batteries for their flying vehicles. Unluckily, the plant seems to be failing. Also, the president of Avalonia, and manager of expeditions, Callisto Mal, shows up to arrange for Searcher’s help in finding a mysterious creature. To solve both problems, he leaves, only to be surprised by Meridian and Ethan, as well as his dog, Legend, who have followed him. Naturally, in this new world, his father Jaeger pops up, looking much older. After finally recognizing each other, he and Searcher reunite. Now the whole family is together for better or for worse, all in a strange world inhabited by magical animals. Ethan makes friends with one of them: Splat, a transparent, blue creature with two arms, two legs, and two extras to be used as arms or legs. They go forward with “ingenuity and sheer tenacity” into unknown outer space.

The storyline follows father-son relationships over three generations. Ethan turns out to be similar to his grandfather Jaeger, both excited by explorer opportunities, much to the discomfort of Searcher who says his father was a “really bad dad.” There is excellent animation, especially the characters in the Clade family, who are very original, all supported by wonderful music composed by Henry Jackman. Strange World is obviously a film following today’s standards, i.e., Ethan is of mixed race, having a white father and a Black mother. Callisto is Indian and there are Asian co-workers. Both Callisto Mal and Meridian are powerful women. When asked about a “relationship,” Ethan says he wishes to impress a blond boy in his class; is this a touch of homosexuality? This is Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 61st film and much fun for the whole family. (Becky Tan)

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