Disney doesn’t know what to do with Strange World

“I want to market this!”
Image: Disney

In any reasonable timeline, members of the mobile cinema audience should feel the need to keep track of the comings and goings of executives, but the age of conglomerates has made us all business journalists. Disney, in particular, has become so massive that it’s reshaping the entertainment landscape as it swings by, and its moves point to potential changes to broadcasting, to the theatrical fate of animated features, to whether certain franchises lean toward TV or film, and for larger interests. When the deeply unpopular CEO, Bob Chapek, was ousted in favor of his returning predecessor, Bob Iger, earlier this week, the right-wing media tried to frame the surprise as a victory or a rebuke for the company’s angst. Who knows where they would have taken things if they had known strange world, a new Disney animated movie has been announced, but it also seems to be thrown in softly, during the Tangled era. It’s a movie designed to make conservative commentators lose their minds.

strange world It was directed by Disney veteran Don Hall, of big hero 6written by Raya and the last dragonQui Nguyen, and is set in an isolated community called Avalonia surrounded by impassable mountains. Bafflingly, we are introduced to Avalonia and the horse and buggy, Land without breadStruggling —style across an old newsreel touting the lack of technology in the area, it makes you wonder how the newsletter even came to be. More than anything else, Ben Day’s shots (as well as the pixelated spreads that follow) evoke the pulp-adventure vibes the movie attempts to draw upon. Its main character, Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), is the son of Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid), a cocky adventurer whose sole purpose in life is to discover a way through the mountains to see what’s on the other side. The two part ways during an expedition when Searcher discovers a plant whose glowing fruits—essentially electric Brussels sprouts—are a potential source of energy that he plans to bring back, while Jaeger wants to keep going. No one has heard of Jaeger 25 years later, but Searcher has become a father to a teenage boy, Ethan (Jabuki Young-White), and is happy to grow the crop he calls “pando,” which has turned Avallonia into a city with hovercraft, mass transit, and household appliances.

that strange worldA secondary protagonist, Ethan, who is unmistakably black and queer (there are no “exclusively gay moments” here – he does some flirtatious flirtation with his crush in one of his earlier scenes) is noteworthy. But this development continues the film’s main story of how complete and immediate elimination of fossil fuels is the only way to sustain human life. Pando’s crop begins to fail due to a mysterious infection that started somewhere deep in the common roots, and Avalonian Chief Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu) recruits a reluctant researcher on an expedition to Earth to find the source of the problem. The search leader’s wife, Meridian (Gabriel Union), tracks down her ship shortly after it leaves, revealing that Ethan and the family dog, Legend, have stowed away. The group finds their way into a pink-tinted fantasy panorama of floating and lumbering monsters, encounters an adorable blob-like ally named Splat (“I want to sell this!” a crew member yells upon seeing him), and, of course, the finding of a Jaeger, still going strong after two and a half decades. Lost in the wilderness and still more focused on adventure than his son.

strange world It’s a threefold beautiful movie with a series of bizarre landscapes for its characters to navigate and a great twist that owes less to pulp magazines than to 1960s science fiction. Its three male characters feel as though they were written to embody baby boomers, Gen X, and Gen Z, who tire almost immediately and continue to bicker as they bicker through their journey. a lot of strange worldAudacity is top loaded in its concept, and little of it comes through in the execution. His themes linger in the mind longer than any emotional line or cadence in part because these elements seem perfunctory and secondary. Certainly, the film’s existence should be applauded, even or especially because it seems to have terrified the company’s tycoons into burying an entry from the animation line, which has traditionally been the backbone of the brand. But I also get tired of gauging the social progress of Disney films and praising the unbending giant as he slowly makes his way into the future. If the giant rat had any guts, I think it would really be the ubiquitous Splat marketing. But what kind of win would it be?

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