'Strange World': How an environmental allegory fuels Disney's latest animated adventure

‘Strange World’: How an environmental allegory fuels Disney’s latest animated adventure

Disney's latest animated adventure, Strange World, has strong environmental themes.  (Photo: ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Disney’s latest animated adventure, strange world, has strong environmental themes. (Photo: ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Stop us if this sounds familiar: Facing an unprecedented energy crisis, the citizens of a busy and busy planet must abandon their dependence on a popular energy source in favor of alternative energies that are less taxing on their planet. It’s a story you’ll see in daily headlines, as well as on the big screen in Walt Disney Studios’ all-new animated feature, strange world, Walt Disney Studios. Co-directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen, the Jules Verne-inspired adventure has already made headlines for featuring Mouse House’s first gay teenage character. But the film’s environmental message is just as dear to the directors.

“The environment is something we think about every day,” Nguyen told Yahoo Entertainment. “As parents, we want our children to have a future – it’s as simple as that. So we need to realize that the choices we make today will affect that future. As people who care about our children , it’s a conversation worth having every family.”

In the world of strange world – a land called Avalonia – the population’s energy crisis was initially solved by teenage explorer Searcher Clade (voiced by Jake Gyllenhaal), who discovered a battery-shaped plant while on an expedition with his famous father, Jaeger (Dennis Quaid). Rather than following his father deeper into the unknown, Searcher transitioned from adventurer to farmer, cultivating his unique find, which he named “Pando”, into a sustainable crop. Flash-forward about 20 years, and Pando now powers all of Avalonia’s devices, from airships to phones.

But all good things have a price. A new virus sweeps across the fields that grow Searcher’s prize-winning crop, threatening to halt the march of technology. So the Clade clan – comprising Searcher’s wife, Meridian (Gabrielle Union) and son, Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) – reluctantly launches a new expedition that takes them on a journey to the center of their land, and reveals to how much energy the source they have come to depend on is costing the planet they inhabit.

Replace “Pando” with “fossil fuels” and you can see the correlation between our world and strange world. And Hall says he and Nguyen wanted the symbolism to be clear for audiences of all ages. “It was always the idea that the film be allegorical. I thought that was the best way to tell an environmental story,” says the director, who also incorporated environmental themes into his animated blockbuster. 2016, Moana. “This idea of ​​a plant that on the surface looks benign and has made the world prosperous, but has some pretty damaging side effects, has always been at the heart of the story.”

“We’ve always talked about our characters in terms of the environmental story of the film,” Hall continues. “Jaeger is the character who wants to conquer nature – his manhood is based on what he can conquer. Whereas Searcher is the controller, because that’s what farmers are. That’s how they interact with nature. As for Ethan, he’s the environmentalist. He’s the one that drives this part of the story.”

The cast of Strange World explores a wild new landscape in Disney's animated adventure.  (Photo: ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

The cast of strange world explore a wild new landscape in Disney’s animated adventure. (Photo: ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

It’s no secret that Quaid and Gyllenhaal previously played father and son in Roland Emmerich’s 2004 disaster film, Two days later, which featured some not-so-subtle accents on climate change. Since then, Gyllenhaal has advocated for environmental causes such as plant-based diets and lashed out at politicians — including former President Donald Trump — who didn’t seem to share the same approach to reducing addiction to certain foods. energies or reduce pollution affecting the climate.

“It starts with families first,” the actor says of how he hopes strange world could inspire moviegoers to take their own action to combat energy dependence and climate change. “A lot of the changes that are sort of macro in our world start at the micro. If we take one small step with one person, we can change so much. If people take away from the movie, ‘Hey, maybe we should treat the Earth in a different way: I’ll start recycling if it’s available where I live,” that would be wonderful. But I also really hope that people will be touched by the story. We’re storytellers and for me it’s about getting people to see the world in a different way.”

While some climate change skeptics are certain to blame strange world of being overly open in its environmental message, Union prides itself on being part of what it jokingly calls “infotainment.”

Researcher Clade (Jake Gyllenhaal) learns the value of energy independence in Strange World.  (Photo: ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

Researcher Clade (Jake Gyllenhaal) learns the value of energy independence by strange world. (Photo: ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection)

“Sometimes you have to create this for some really urgent information that we all need to immediately incorporate into our lives to ensure our collective survival,” says the actress, who is currently highly regarded for her performance in the new drama, inspection. “How you function within your own family and how you treat each other is also how you treat the Earth and your community – it all goes together.”

Union saw this unfold within her own household, raising her two daughters, Kaavia and Zaya, with her husband, Dwayne Wade. “Kaavia just turned 4 and will give us speeches about why we need to protect bees,” she laughs. “And Zaya and his classmates are constantly finding ways to try to bring environmental solutions to the masses. This is where we are: our children are literally trying to save us and they are very serious about it. And we back that up, ’cause I try not to roast in these streets! If there’s a way to roll back the heat index, let’s find out. Our very survival is at stake.”

strange world premieres November 23 in theaters

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