Strange World


‘…an awesome way of getting kids to understand the important of respecting the world around them; it’s just a shame that not that many kids are likely to see it…’

I make no apology for pitching my tent and training my binoculars on Disney+ in recent weeks; sure, Disney is an important company when it comes to the cinematic box office, and the recent Bob swap, with Iger returning to replace Chapek, feels like it might be the significant sea-change of 2022. Why? Somewhat similarly to the change of heart at Warners/HBO, it looks like streaming just might no longer be the unique holy grail, the be-all-and-end-all of all current media. Cinema box-office was previously shared with distributors, cinema chain owners and so on, and required large advertising outlay, while streaming is pure income and provided a much required panacea to shore up books ravaged by Covid19. So while the huge flop of Strange World may not be a good thing, it’s an ill wind that blows no good at all…Disney needs to retain their touch for cinema, and a failure to launch might just put some iron in the blood…

So change is required for a company that released sure-fire hits straight to streaming (Pinocchio) while expensive, unknown IP like Strange World went straight to empty cinemas; Don Hall’s adventure story takes inspiration from Jules Verne and others, but it’s also a rather bland and featureless narrative that relies heavily on a twist about twenty minutes from the end. In the mysterious kingdom of Avalonia, a father explorer Searcher Clade (Dennis Quaid) deserts his son Jaeger Clade (Jake Gyllenhall) and vanishes for 25 years while exploring the edge of their kingdom. By the time father and son are re-united, Jaeger has a son of his own, a 16 year old who wants to be different from his father, and has a clear LGBT+ orientation….

As with Lightyear, the censorious right wing in America have been quick to criticise Disney for forcing unreconstructed wokeness on audiences, but while all relationships should be part of potential narratives, both Lightyear and Strange World wouldn’t be much better without the LGBT+, which feels shoehorned into a traditional narrative where sexual orientation is hardly an essential element. Spoiler alert; Strange World eventually justifies its title with a dramatic narrative twist in which Avalonia itself turns out to be inside the body of a giant turtle, making their actions as explorers subject to the living eco-system of an larger environment. It’s an awesome way of getting kids to understand the importance of respecting the world around them; it’s just a shame that not that many kids are likely to see it.

Strange World is a big, expensive, expansive animation, and some of the size and scale of the action is a delight to behold. But Disney should be able to create its own original IP, rather than constantly borrow or buy other people’s (Star Wars, Marvel), and it’s about time Disney prioritised back their crown as film-makers and dream-tellers and stopped sacrificing their brand to have a busy monetised platform. Cinema, not a streaming platforms, is where dreams are made, and Disney would be better to stop maximising their profits, cut the civics lectures and get back to their day job of thrilling kids of all ages.


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  1. I was surprised at the complete lack of ad support for this. I don’t know why, unless they felt it would underwhelm audiences and just wanted to hold down costs for the year-end profit/loss review. Amen to your last paragraph about Disney’s priorities.

    • The financial juggery pokers escapes me, but the support for this film was as minimal as you say. Creating streaming services that service cinema IP is big business, but if you abandon cinema in the process, you collapse the whole apple cart. Shame because the idea and the animation are good, but the marketing…

  2. MAybe it would have helped if they’d advertised it. There used to be big fanfares for Disney kids movies, especially at Christmas, you couldnt miss it, but I never even heard of this, and I don’t think my kiddy owning relatives have either.

    • It’s been very low key release, and that generic title doesn’t help. Disney seem to have put far more effort into streaming than cinema, and they are at risk of wasting their legacy. Change of management may reverse this trend…

    • I’ve not heard of it either. I like your optimism, but I fear Disney will take away the message that cinema is dead and to double down on streaming and serving us the same warmed over properties again and again….

      • It’s a tiered system and streaming has created new tiers. Disney shouldn’t be withholding cinema releases in favour of streaming if they want to remain a major cinema player. Without an IP, it’s hard to lure people out of their houses where they can watch IP already. Already paid for and provided by Disney. I’m hoping that they rethink their strategy.

  3. Well, it has a big dog, which is always a plus.

    Somehow the notion of a “clear LGBT+ orientation” seems a contradiction, at least to my eyes.

    the importance of respecting the world

    • Totally up for a big dog.

      Would Toy Story be better if we understood the sexual orientation of the characters? I guess it depends at what stage you think kids are ready for that kind of thing.

      Thanks for the typos!

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