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The Surprising Inspiration Behind Disney's Strange World

Disney's newest animated feature, "Strange World," is set to provide some of the most unique visuals and storytelling ever brought to life by the Mickey Mouse company — with it already setting a Disney record for having the largest fantasy world ever crafted. And in order to conjure up such an incredible and diverse environment, the movie's creators apparently had to dig down deep into some pretty surprising Hollywood realms for inspiration. 

Starring a laundry list of Hollywood stars — including Jake Gyllenhaal, Gabrielle Union, Dennis Quaid, and Lucy Liu — "Strange World" is currently set for a November 23 release. The film follows the adventures of Gyllenhaal's character, Searcher Clade, and his wife Meridian (Union) as they venture to a strange land with their son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White). Once there, Clade reunites with his long-lost father Jaeger (Quaid) and embarks on an even greater adventure. 

According to the animators, much of what we'll see in the land of Avalonia is influenced by the story and ultimately used to propel it. "All of our environments start out driven by the story," head of environments Sean Jenkins explained on the Beyond the Mouse podcast (via The Front Row Network). However, when it comes to what inspires the story, many viewers might be surprised. 

Strange World is pulp adventure meets National Lampoon's Vacation

If you were to ask "Strange World" director Don Hall what the biggest influences were on the film, he'd tell you two things — Jules Verne books and "National Lampoon's Vacation." Or at least, that's what he told TheWrap during a visit to the studio. 

"That's what made it so super exciting was the fact that he had a take to this thing that made it unique," writer and co-director Qui Nguyen told TheWrap. "It's an adventure film, but he had an angle on here that allowed for not just great adventure, but great humor and emotion. There's moments in this film that are completely moving because of that aspect and things are completely goofy and funny because of that aspect." According to TheWrap, other inspirations included "Star Wars," "Indiana Jones," and "King Kong." 

According to Nguyen and Hall, the "National Lampoon" franchise had a huge impact on the family connection and generational storytelling of "Strange World," while the sci-fi elements came more from the Jules Verne side of things. "I loved reading the old issues of pulps growing up," Hall said in an interview with Variety, referring to the classic "pulp" sci-fi stories of the early 20th century inspired by authors like Verne. "They were big adventures in which a group of explorers might discover a hidden world or ancient creatures. They've been a huge inspiration for 'Strange World.'"