‘Strange World’ is mystifying

Latest Disney film explores family dynamics once again


Erin Kim

Splat, the blue blob from Avalonia who becomes Ethan’s sidekick, loves “Strange World.”

“Strange World” is the latest feature film from Disney Animation Studios, and it’s a thrilling ride from start to finish.
It follows father-and-son duo Searcher Clade (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White) on their journey to save their home of Avalonia.
Searcher is the son of legendary adventurer Jaegar Clade (Dennis Quaid), who disappeared on an expedition 25 years before the film’s events. Searcher lives as a humble farmer of the plant “Pando”, which is the main power source for Avalonia.
But trouble arises when Pando seems to be dying, putting all of Avalonia at risk. Mayor Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu) calls upon Searcher to journey to the plant’s core and save it.
Searcher reluctantly agrees and Ethan, having inherited his grandfather’s wanderlust, tags along with him. What the group discovers, however, is a unique and strange world sitting right under their feet.
What follows is an adventure through a fantastical world so captivating and enthralling it makes the film’s two-hour runtime fly by.
As expected with Disney movies, the visuals are stunning. The bright and vibrant subterranean world feels truly alive and immersive. Certain moments of the film feel like they were pulled right out of a comic book, and the exaggerated animation style makes the characters feel lively and energetic.
The dynamics between the characters, most notably Searcher, Jaeger, and Ethan, is the emotional core of the movie. Searcher and Jaegar have a very strained relationship, with the former rejecting the legacy of the latter and opting to build his own path.
Similarly, Ethan wants nothing more than to break away from his father’s legacy of being a farmer. His dream of seeing the world and exploring like his grandfather agitates Searcher, who can’t understand why Ethan wants to be like Jaegar.
While Disney and Pixar are no strangers to tackling themes surrounding love and family, “Strange World” follows the trend set by two recent releases, “Encanto” and “Turning Red”, exploring generational trauma and struggles.
In “Encanto”, it was Mirabel struggling with her family’s magical legacy. In “Turning Red”, it was Mei Lee struggling with the pressure of being the perfect child of the family. Now in “Strange World”, it’s fathers pushing their children down a path they don’t wish to follow.
But “Strange World” isn’t just about familial relationships. Very early on in the movie, Ethan is revealed to be Disney’s first gay main character and awkwardly flirts with his love interest, Diazo (Jonathan Melo).
Unlike previous gay relationships and characters in Disney films, such as “Onward” and “Lightyear”, Ethan’s crush isn’t a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment. It’s referenced many times by both Ethan and other characters, showing that Disney is improving at including meaningful LGBTQ+ representation in feature films.
Despite compelling themes and rich characters, the film was a box office failure, raking in only $11.9 million on opening weekend. Compared with other Disney films such as “Frozen” and “Moana” that were released on Thanksgiving weekends, “Strange World” lagged behind.
Though a box office failure, “Strange World” is an endearing, beautiful film with stunning visuals, rich characters, and a heartfelt message.