Gabrielle Union Is Especially Proud Of Her Disney Character’s ‘Reasonable Body Proportions’ In Strange World

Gabrielle Union's character, Meridian, in Strange World, flying a vehicle
(Image credit: Walt Disney Animation)

Gabrielle Union latest flick in the upcoming Disney movie Strange World marks another celebratory moment for inclusion from the studio. The Bring It On actress voices the role of Meridian, a loving wife, mother and skilled pilot that is key to Disney Animation’s original science fiction adventure. When CinemaBlend spoke to Union about her Disney character, she showed a lot of pride for Meridian’s place in the studio’s storied canon, including her more attainable body type. 

During our conversation, we talked about a Disney trope that just doesn’t happen in Strange World. While many heroes from the House of Mouse tragically lose their parents or are separated from them, Meridian, alongside Jake Gyllenhaal’s Searcher Clade are the present and supportive mom and dad to Jaboukie Young-White’s Ethan Clade. In Gabrielle Union’s words: 

Disney movies are notorious for killing the mom, and killing her quick, or some parent is missing in some capacity. So, I was just happy that I was alive. But, having these kinds of parents in a demonstratively loving [relationship], I'm trying to think of the last time we saw parents cooking together, dancing together, being affectionate? And then being of different races and having a mom that does that and has more reasonable body proportions. Like her boob-to-hip ratio is more reasonable, you know? And a Black woman with natural hair, like all of these things really resonated with me and I hope resonates with Disney aficionados, because it's important to really showcase all kinds of families. And, this is another perfectly imperfect classic Disney family. But, there's a lot more demonstrative love and affection.

Strange World introduces Searcher and Meridian Clade as happy and in love parents who harmoniously cook together and steal smooches much to Ethan’s chagrin. As Gabrielle Union reflected on her latest role, she realized how rare it is for a Disney animated film to showcase parents in this light. It’s one of many things the actress is proud of when it comes to her Strange World character, which she said was “completely” collaborative. 

Union was also happy to see her character has a body type that she calls more “reasonable” than past beloved animated women from the studio. We’ve come a long way since Sleeping Beauty and The Little Mermaid’s stick-thin princesses, even with Lilo & Stitch’s Nani being ahead of its time back in the early ‘00s. As Gabrielle Union pointed out, it’s so “important” for the studio to represent diverse looks across its characters, and the Strange World family can soon count itself as a new addition to its canon as the studio’s 61st feature film. 

Then there’s the aspect of Strange World showcasing a biracial family as well, with Gabrielle Union among few Black women in major feature films from Disney Animation after previously bringing diversity to a live-action Disney remake with Cheaper By The Dozen. Gabrielle Union is proud of Meridian’s natural hair and to be part of this representation. Her daughter was recently one of the many children who became empowered by the live-action The Little Mermaid trailer, and quickly channeled the princess

When speaking about her time working in the voice booth with the filmmakers, Gabrielle Union also shared that the “majority" of her ad libs made it in the film to her surprise, including phrases she uses in her everyday life as a mother herself. As she said: 

‘You tried it’. Like that is a very me thing that I say to my family when they're trying to get over a tired, weary mom. I'm like, ‘you tried it,’, but that being in there is wild and awesome. And, I'm glad we got it in there. It's like for the culture. Like, ‘boy, bye.’ Those kinds of things are, I don't know, they're kind of awesome, and I just very rarely have that kind of freedom in any medium in my career to put a real cultural stamp on my characters, a specificity that we just don't generally get to see.

Gabrielle Union made Meridian her own, and her authenticity is sure to connect with people. Check out the Strange World trailer here on CinemaBlend before you experience it in theaters on November 23.  

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

YA genre tribute. Horror May Queen. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.