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Opens November 23 at Ark Lodge Cinema
Despite the captivating trailers for this movie, I worry Strange World may pass audiences by when it opens Thanksgiving week. It’s not that Disney needs to catch a break—They own Marvel Studios, Lucasfilm, Pixar, and even consumed 87-year-old studio 20th Century Fox in 2019 for $71.3 billion, and god forbid you get cornered by a “Disney Adult” at a party (me, I’m like 60% Disney Adult), so what’s an underperformer here and there?
That’s a shame, because Disney’s non-franchise animated movies are where the exciting work lives. At the very least, they stick around in my head. An outer space version of Treasure Island with David Hyde Pierce as a dog astronomer and Emma Thompson as a cat captain, plus songs by John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls? A police procedural about how we demonize the unknown for shady government reasons, all taking place in an anthropomorphized animal world with Shakira jokes? (I may just like anthropomorphization, come to think of it.)
Strange World, which reunites director Don Hall and Qui Nguyen after 2021’s vibrant Southeast Asian adventure film Raya and the Last Dragon, is about the Clades family of explorers as they discover, well, strange new worlds, seek out new life and new civilizations, and boldly go where no family has gone before. Vocal performances come from Jake Gyllenhaal, Gabrielle Union, Lucy Liu, and writer/comedian Jaboukie Young-White (Rap Sh!t).
A note about writer Qui Nguyen: The Vietnamese American is one of the most produced playwrights in the country, boasting such work as the emotionally charged, action-packed family saga Vietgone (Seattle Rep’s 2016-2017 season), the DnD-themed teen adventure She Kills Monsters (Theater Schmeater in 2018 and at high schools across the nation), and Revenge Song, a punk rock epic about the queer, swashbuckling 17th-century opera singer Julie d’Aubigny (this past summer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival). Nguyen is excellent at smuggling progressive themes into genre-hopping and audience-friendly content, and I’m glad he’s on Disney’s payroll.
📸: Disney Animation Studios