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Disney’s Strange World Director Shares The Rules For Creating A New Environment And Creatures For This Film

Searcher Clade in Strange World
(Image credit: Disney)

Walt Disney Animations Studios is no stranger to creating new worlds for viewers to explore, but the newest animated feature from Disney coming out later this year is all about new worlds. Strange World takes its inspiration from the pulp adventure stories from the early 20th century and imagines an entirely new land full of strange and unusual creatures beneath the surface of the earth. As one can imagine, creating entirely new environments can be something of a challenge. 

CinemaBlend recently had the chance to sit down with Strange World director Don Hall and we asked him about how he and the Disney animators went about creating the world and the creatures that lived inside it for the upcoming Disney movie. Hall says he did have some standing rules in place regarding what creatures would be acceptable within this world. The first rule was that nothing could have a face. Hall explains…

I think the first (rule) would be just no faces. We didn't want eyeballs or anything for mouths. (laugh) I guess the killer Ts have them. The pterodactyls. But that was generally the case. We didn't want… and maybe this became, ‘I just wanted to challenge animators, and just be ornery.’ Just to not have features so that we didn't immediately anthropomorphize them. And then also, because the animators, then it challenged them to find ways that they move that got across their individual personalities, and stuff like that.

Certainly, if you’re trying to make a world that feels alien, you create creatures that are as far from what we would know as possible. We have seen in the Strange World trailer that at least some of the creatures are intelligent, and we would generally attribute intelligence, even at an animal level, to creatures with faces. 

But making creatures without discernible faces wasn’t the only rule animators had to follow when coming up with entirely new life forms. Hall also wanted the creatures to not have a lot of edges to them. Instead, we get stuff that is rounded and full of curves. On the one hand, these creatures do still look unusual, but they’re also more welcoming, allowing viewers to potentially become attached to them. Hall continued…

And also everything, just making sure that we don't, again, this is more of a design conceit, but just not a lot of ‘straights.’ It's a lot of curves, and a lot of round. Again, wanting to not have a lot of rigidity in the world, and letting it be kind of this – even though it's weird and strange and terrifying at times, but it's also kind of welcoming in a certain way.

Strange World certainly looks like what the title indicates. Don Hall previously co-directed Big Hero 6 and Raya and the Last Dragon, which gives us a hint we might be in for a very action heavy adventure from Disney. The movie arrives this Thanksgiving.  

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.