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Disney's Strange World - What We Know So Far

Not only is Walt Disney Pictures about to turn 100, but its historical crown jewel, Walt Disney Animation Studios, recently hit the mark of 60 films released, courtesy of Jared Bush and Byron Howard's "Encanto." And, between that film's runaway success and massive cultural impact, the recent push for storytelling diversity it represented alongside "Raya and the Last Dragon" and "Moana," and the Best Animated Feature Oscar wins racked up by "Frozen," "Big Hero 6," "Zootopia," and now the Madrigals, it's fair to say that Disney Animation is on a roll. That's not too shabby for a studio that came upon the real risk of getting shut down by the Disney corporate mothership at multiple points in its storied history, including as recently as the mid-2000s, for reasons ranging from financial woes to critical decadence to shareholders with a proclivity for bold swings. That kind of turbulence is in the rearview mirror now; at least for the time being, it looks like Disney Animation has got its groove back.

Disney is now aiming to continue its successful streak with a brand new family adventure, titled "Strange World." Announced just under a year ago, the newest CGI-animated production from the House of Mouse is finally making its way to theaters this fall. Based on what we know about it so far, there is plenty of reason to be excited, from a rock-solid premise to a cast list stacked with exciting talent. Here's what we know so far about "Strange World."

What is the plot of Strange World?

A significant number of Disney films concern themselves with exploration and the process of venturing into the unknown. Be it Alice finding her way through Wonderland, Bernard and Miss Bianca traveling to rescue children around the world, the Darling kids following Peter Pan to Neverland, or Belle setting out in pursuit of her "adventure in the great wide somewhere," that theme has long been a staple of the studio's most classic films. And it has become especially prevalent in the 21st century, as films like "Atlantis: The Lost Empire," "Treasure Planet," "Moana," and "Frozen II" — which, incidentally, even features a song named "Into the Unknown" as its centerpiece — have established adventure-film structuring as one of the go-to ways to make a movie with the classic Disney spirit that speaks to contemporary blockbuster sensibilities.

"Strange World" will be fitting into that tradition and taking it further than ever before. The film, written by "Raya and the Last Dragon" co-scribe Qui Nguyen, will follow a legendary family of adventurers, the Clades, as they journey to an alien planet that holds more surprises and perils than even they thought possible. Our entry point into the family will be Searcher Clade, who has never shared his family's passion for high-risk enterprises and opted to live his life more peacefully, as a farmer. Now, as the Clades' newest mission threatens to be torn apart by this and other familial differences, working together becomes a matter of survival.

Who is starring in Strange World?

One of the biggest reasons to look forward to "Strange World" is the absolutely star-studded ensemble cast that has been tasked with bringing the Clade clan and their associates to life. Leading the pack will be Academy Award-nominated leading man Jake Gyllenhaal, who is voicing Searcher Clade. A hardworking family man and valuable community member, Searcher will be pushed outside of his comfort zone and forced to grapple with his father's ambiguous legacy by the film's events (via What's On Disney Plus); it will be Gyllenhaal's second time as a member of an animated film ensemble, following 2021's "Spirit Untamed." Searcher's boisterous, single-minded, emotionally neglectful father Jaeger, meanwhile, will be voiced by another leading man from a different generation: Dennis Quaid. This will mark his first feature film voice role since 2007's "Battle for Terra."

Searcher's strong-willed wife Meridian, whose expertise as a crop duster pilot proves handy when she accidentally finds herself aboard the mission along with her husband, will be voiced by beloved veteran actress Gabrielle Union, who has previous Disney voice acting experience under her belt as Nala on "The Lion Guard." The voice of Searcher and Meridian's 16-year-old son Ethan, whose hunger for adventure beyond the farm drives much of the film's conflict, will be provided by up-and-coming American comedian Jaboukie Young-White, who previously voiced McNeely in "Ralph Breaks the Internet." Rounding out the main cast is the great Lucy Liu, who will be voicing Callisto Mal, the selfless leader of the Clades' hometown of Avalonia.

What is the release date for Strange World?

The wait for Disney projects, especially animated ones, tends to be long. But in the case of "Strange World," Disney mercifully waited until the film's actual release was relatively close before unveiling its existence to the public. "Strange World" was originally announced in December 2021 (via D23), and it came with a release date already slapped on it: November 23, 2022. That slated release schedule has not changed since then. In other words, expect to be able to see the newest Disney animated film in the final weeks of November — more specifically, on the always family-film-friendly Thanksgiving weekend.

The release of "Strange World" on Thanksgiving 2022 makes a lot of sense from a business standpoint; in addition to reaching families across the United States just as they're more likely to be huddled up together, that release date also gives the film a solid window to drum up hype and word-of-mouth chatter leading into the December holiday season. In fact, "Strange World" looks to be further confirming the late fall-early winter slot as Disney Animation's turf when it comes to family-oriented entertainment. Out of all 13 Disney Animation films to be released in the studio's post-2008 revamp era, a total of nine were November releases in the U.S., with most of those being Thanksgiving releases on top of that. The only exceptions have been "The Princess and the Frog'"s December slot, the summer bow of "Winnie the Pooh," and the early-March releases of "Zootopia" and "Raya."

Who is directing Strange World?

"Strange World" is directed by Don Hall, a Disney Animation veteran who was already a story artist with the studio as early as 1999's "Tarzan." After working as a screenwriter in "Meet the Robinsons" and as a story supervisor in "The Princess and the Frog" (via IMDb), Hall moved into directing with 2011's "Winnie the Pooh," which he helmed alongside Stephen J. Anderson. The film's success as a loving throwback to the classic Winnie the Pooh shorts and films solidified Hall as a key member of Disney's rotating roster of feature directors. His next film was an even greater success: He directed "Big Hero 6" with Chris Williams, and the film netted both men an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature alongside producer Roy Conli (via IMDb). In the years after that, Hall also worked as a co-director on "Moana," and shared directorial duties once again, this time with Carlos López Estrada, in "Raya and the Last Dragon."

"Strange World" will be Don Hall's first solo outing as a director, with writer Qui Nguyen fulfilling the role of co-director. Per Murphy's Multiverse, Hall was particularly drawn to the project's adventure aspects. "I always loved big adventure stories. the specific kind of adventure story where explorers find a hidden world that was heretofore unknown to them or anybody else. And that goes back so far into late 1800s, early 1900s—Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle," the director said. "I wanted to evoke that in this movie."

Is there a trailer for Strange World?

Disney has already released both a teaser and a trailer for "Strange World."

The teaser, released on June 6, 2022, emulated trailers for old-time adventure films, complete with eager narration and bold-face title cards promising "A new motion picture event" and "a journey beyond what is possible." Over choice shots of the film's sprawling, mind-boggling alien planet setting, the narrator invited viewers to "Travel past space and time to a place of infinite mystery unlike anything you've ever seen." Save for some small hints, the teaser was primarily focused on offering a taste of the film's visual splendor.

The newly-released full trailer, meanwhile, tells us a lot more about what kind of story "Strange World" will tell. Opening on solemn music and title cards asking "Have you ever wondered what adventures await beyond our world?," the trailer delineates a more-or-less clear dramatic setup. President Callisto Mal lands an aircraft on the Clades' farm, and recruits him for an expedition, warning that "Our entire world is in grave danger." Searcher reluctantly accepts, despite his distaste for adventure. A team travels to the titular strange new planet, and, once there, Searcher is surprised to find his father Jaeger, who had been missing since Searcher's youth. As the expedition rages on, Ethan appears to become amazed at his grandfather's adventurous spirit, bringing Searcher's deep-seated resentment back to the fore.

Will the Clades be able to patch things up and save the world? Watch "Strange World" this Thanksgiving to find out.