Strange World Reviews Are Here, See What Critics Are Saying About Disney’s New Animated Movie

Strange World.
(Image credit: Disney)

Thanksgiving week is a good week to go to the movies. The kids are off school, it’s generally cold outside, and with new titles hitting theaters on Wednesday, it’s a great excuse to sneak away for a couple of hours before any holiday festivities begin. Disney’s got a handful of upcoming animated movies in the works, and the next to hit the big screen will be Strange World, the story of the Clade family, a group of farmers who set off on a mission to save their world of Avalonia. The reviews are in to help us decide if we want to fit this sci-fi adventure into our holiday week schedules.

Strange World stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Jaboukie Young-White and Gabrielle Union as the Clades, and the trailer promises a trippy adventure, as well as a new Disney dog to love. It sounds like we’re off to a strong start, so let’s see if the critics agree, starting with CinemaBlend’s review of Strange World. Our own Sarah El-Mahmoud rates the movie 3.5 stars out of 5, saying there were a couple of missed opportunities with the script, but overall, the multigenerational storyline is affecting. She says: 

It can be cliché at times, and its inspiration from Journey to the Center of the Earth is unmistakable, but Disney once again knows how to put their own stamp on a treasured tale with oozes of charm.

Carlos Aguilar of The Wrap agrees with CinemaBlend’s critic that the movie is heavy-handed in its message about fathers and sons, and how a parent’s expectations can become an unfair burden on their children. In the critic’s words: 

Notable for its strikingly imaginative visuals, this new feature from director Don Hall and writer and co-director Qui Nguyen (who also wrote Raya and the Last Dragon) lacks restraint in how it communicates its themes, which are obvious from the opening sequence. Comparable Disney animated productions such as Atlantis and Treasure Planet didn’t rely so bluntly on dialogue to express their similar messaging, both about how to interact ethically with cultures or places foreign to us and the perils of father-son dynamics.

Petrana Radulovic of Polygon says the adventure story competes too much with the plot involving the family dynamics. While the family story might be good to explore in a different movie, it serves to weaken the more interesting story here, the critic argues: 

Strange World is Disney’s latest big gamble: a weird movie inspired by pulp magazines and retro science fiction. Directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen, who previously worked together on Raya and the Last Dragon, this new Disney movie is an absolutely gorgeous genre fest that gets bogged down by cliché family drama. There are two stories battling it out here: a phenomenally cool sci-fi epic, and a family story that mostly boils down to ‘this dream isn’t mine, Dad — it’s yours.’

Josh Spiegel of SlashFilm says Strange World lives up to its name in terms of its artistry, with buoyant pacing and trippy visuals but with a questionable marketing scheme. The critic says: 

Strange World is unquestionably not a standard-issue Disney film — there are no musical aspects, there's no princess or royalty involved, and its literary forebears are classic adventure yarns. Yet for all intents and purposes, it feels like Disney is tossing Strange World into theaters and not looking back. It's a shame, too: though Strange World has no meme-worthy songs like Encanto, its imagery is singular and unforgettable, and its adventurous spirit is genuine and thrilling. This is the kind of thing Disney should make more often.

Peter Debruge of Variety calls the movie creatively fresh and fails only in its unimaginative story. However, it sounds like this one is still worth the watch, according to this review: 

In Strange World, the world may be super-weird, but those who populate it are some of the most realistic and well rounded that Walt Disney Animation Studios has ever presented. Ergo, it’s the characters as much as the environment that make this vibrant, Journey to the Center of the Earth-style adventure movie colorful and diverse in all the best ways.

The critics all mention and seem to appreciate how the movie handles Disney animation’s first openly gay lead, Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White), in which there is no fanfare or coming-out moment, but rather, simply acceptance.

If you’d like to check out Strange World, you can do so in theaters beginning Wednesday, November 23. You can also check out what other Disney movies are coming up, as well as take a peek into the new year with our 2023 Movie Release Schedule

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Mom of two and hard-core '90s kid. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.