By: Amanda Guarragi
Walt Disney Animation has been developing unique stories for family-friendly years. Whether it’s about romance, adventure, or family, there have always been stories many can connect with. There are many Walt Disney Animation Studio releases, and Strange World is unique because it has one of the best family dynamics in the library. Writer Qui Nguyen wanted to explore the relationship between a father and son with Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) and Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal). Jaeger is a famous explorer who wants to teach his son to be just like him. But one day, when they go exploring, Searcher becomes more invested in the ecosystem surrounding their city. He finds this glowing plant with energy flowing through it. He thinks about the long-term effects of farming it. Instead, his father pushes ahead to see what is on the other side of the mountains they’d spent years trying to cross. At that moment, Jaeger felt like he had lost his son because he didn’t want to move forward with him and his interests. This had a long-lasting effect on Searcher because he felt like he was never good enough.
The film highlights the generational trauma that can be passed down from parent to child in an almost vicious cycle. Sometimes parents can take insecurities and project them onto their children. Other times parents can be exactly like their parents after trying incredibly hard not to turn out like them. Children battle with their parents at a young age over wanting to be an individual and not an extension of their parents. That is when the perception of a parent of their child begins to change. A child isn’t brought into this world for parents to fix the issues they couldn’t heal from in their childhood. This runs throughout the film with Searcher and his son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White). Once Searcher finds some pests in his crops, he ventures to the outskirts of Avalonia to get to the root of the problem. During this adventure, Searcher wants Ethan to learn the farming ways with him. As Ethan explores with his father, he understands that he has a different perspective on living organisms than his father. Ethan has discussions with his father about whom he wants to be and what he wants to do. And Searcher has flashbacks to his life with his father that begin to haunt him.
There is a focus on generational trauma and how it can affect children, but director Don Hall also crafts a delightful adventure. Walt Disney Animation Studios has made its 3D technology so life-like that it felt like an old-time adventure. Jaeger Clade was presented as a legend and comic book hero for Avalonia for discoveries, while Searcher was treated as a resourceful hero for his farming. This original action adventure is fast-paced and fun to watch because of the lengths the Clades go to for their fulfilment. There is never a dull moment, and that is because the characters of Searcher, Ethan, and his mom Meridian (Gabrielle Union), are a fun-loving, cohesive family unit that brings the laughs. Ethan is also one of the first openly queer Disney characters. And for once, the story doesn’t surround the fact that he is. It’s natural for him to have a crush on a boy and openly discuss it with his family. The importance of acceptance within this family unit is what the world needs right now. They also shift focus on the individuality of Ethan’s career and his path in life, which is a far more interesting thread to pull on when speaking on lineage.
Strange World is an ode to adventure films that have been dearly missed over the years. The presence of Jaeger Clade will make audiences feel nostalgic because of his passion for exploring. It was impressive the way Nguyen layered the construction of Avalonia. He revealed the twist at the opportune moment. The world-building in this film is wonderful to explore with the characters. And the adorable creatures all fit into a larger perception of the world they live in. It is action-packed, the pacing is strong, and the score by Henry Jackman pulls you into the adventure with the characters. The beauty of exploration is shown in this film, and the audience gets to learn with the characters. This is a film the whole family can enjoy, and the Clades will most likely become one of the most loved families in the Disney library. They are so different from each other, yet they blend into the most endearing family unit. The film will be released on Wednesday, November 23rd, in theatres.