Interview with Don Hall and Qui Ngyuen: Strange World

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Strange World follow the legendary Clade family in an animated pulp-inspired adventure. When the Clades are given a new mission with stakes to save the world, they are drawn into the adventure of a lifetime. However, if they want to succeed, they will have to learn to work together and see past each other’s differences. Strange World it is co-directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen, who also wrote the screenplay.

Hall has been an important part of Walt Disney Animation Studios, rising through the ranks from storyboard artist tarzan to lead Great hero 6 i Strange World. This isn’t Nguyen and Hall’s first collaboration, with the pair working together Raya and the last dragonHall served as director while Nguyen wrote the screenplay. Strange World is produced by Disney veteran Roy Conli with a star-studded cast that includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Gabrielle Union, Jaboukie Young-White and Lucy Liu.


Related: 4 Big Disney Problems Revealed by CEO Bob Iger’s Return

Screen Rant spoke with Don Hall and Qui Nguyen about his new film, Strange World. Nguyen explains how the character Splat came to be and which Marvel team he would like to explore through animation. Hall shares some movies and novels that inspired him Strange World and the potential to explore this world beyond.

Don Hall and Qui Nguyen on Strange World


Screen Rant: I don’t think I’ve smiled more throughout a movie all year. This had the perfect balance of heart, adventure and comedy. Fantastic job guys. The first question I ask you, though. To me, this felt like a bit of a mix Indiana Jones they meet Journey to the center of the Earth they meet Doctor Who. What were some of the influential fantasy stories that inspired the film?

Don Hall: Well, you found a couple. I mean, Raiders, is my favorite movie of all time. So, Raiders of the Lost Arkobviously. Journey to the center of the Earth is another The lost world by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which is one of these early adventure novels. I did a lot of research on early adventure novels, which is light-hearted research as you can imagine, and then family comedies like National Lampoon’s Vacation i Little Miss Sunshine. We wanted them to be both. We wanted it to have the epic adventure and that pulp action feel, but also a complicated family dynamic. So it would be fun, but also scratchy at times.

Now Qui, I have a question for you. Therefore, Disney has been exploring stories without using traditional villains for the past couple of years. What inspired this kind of storytelling?

Qui Nguyen: Well, I mean, as a writer, the kind of traditional, two-dimensional villain, I mean, I love the old villains from Disney’s past, but it’s not that fun to write, to be honest. It’s like, “Oh, what’s your motivation?” “Only to take over the world or to be evil.” So to have antagonists that have a much more relatable background, origin, or motivation, I always find [that] much more interesting The fact that Namaari was very relatable, if you went through what she went through, you’ll understand why she doesn’t like Raya so much. For Jeager to go through what he’s been through, you understand why he and the seeker don’t quite get along. For an actor, it’s more fun to act. And for a writer, [it’s] much more complex and much more fun to put on the page.

Absolutely. Now, without going into spoilers here, this movie has one of the best plots I’ve seen in a long time. What inspired this?

Don Hall: Well, the movie was always going to be about discovery, and discovery in the sense of the big reveal we’re talking about, but also in terms of character discovery is knowing that the seeker would discover something about him himself and how he has related to his son. And finally, these two at the same time took some work, but I’m really proud of how it turned out.


Now, a lot of this story is about exploration. Can you tell me about our main characters, Ethan, Jaeger and Searcher? They all have a different relationship and definition of what the word “explorer” means. What does “explorer” mean to each of these characters?

Qui Nguyen: Well, I think for someone like Jaeger, it’s a literal exploration. It’s very much: “I go out into the world to discover things.” For Searcher, I think it’s much more metaphorical to figure out who they are in the context of their parents and who they want to be. The seeker wanted to be a farmer, he didn’t want to be the explorer, and he thought, “Hey, I’ll be a better father than Jaeger, so I’ll be really nice to my son.” Not realizing that he was also imposing a legacy on Ethan. Ethan had a world that he wanted to explore that was both literal, which is Strange World, but also the same world that Searcher went through, which is this kind of internal journey.

Let’s talk about the world building for a second, because the world building and the visuals are incredible in this movie, and I’m sure you did it from scratch. What were some of your inspirations for creating this world?

Don Hall: Man, a lot. Avalonia, we’ll call it the best in the world. We looked a lot at what people in the 1900s thought the future would be like. I love that kind of stuff, and that’s why we have a lot of flying vehicles and flying cars and these kind of big, wonderful buildings because, looking at these pulp magazines and stuff like that, I love their aspirational vision of the future with it. And we’re still waiting for the flying car thing, but it’s coming. But it was really just devoted to our source material, which were those pulp adventure novels. And then Strange World is like all bets are off. It’s the imagination of Disney’s amazing animators and it just goes.

Splat is one of the most awesome characters I’ve seen in a long time. Can you talk to me, tell me about the evolution of this character from the beginning to the screen?

Qui Nguyen: Well, Don hates faces, and he immediately said, “I want a creature with zero faces.” But I mean, partly as a joke, but also true, some of our most memorable characters like the carpet of Aladdin he has no face So you can let animators really lean into the magic of animation to tell emotions, humor, connection and relationships. And that was kind of a big motivation. And of course, without spoiling anything, what Splat is to this world gave it [them their] design

Creature in a strange world

Now, your actors are extraordinary in this film and really brought these characters to life. Can you talk about the cast of them and what they brought to these unique roles with their unique voices?

Don Hall: Well, I mean, we have an amazing casting director, Jamie Roberts, who was amazing in picking this amazing group of actors. And we’re very fortunate to work with such good collaborators, and our job was really to try to keep it open and keep it free for them to improvise as much as possible and really inhabit these characters because the characters don’t come to life until the actors they really get involved. And our sessions were so much fun to be able to let everyone go and see how their minds work when they were playing these characters. And they all improve such wonderful things. We could use maybe a quarter of it.

Qui Nguyen: I think if you’re doing your job as a director. Start by telling them what the character is, just so they can figure it out. But at the end of the process, they should be saying what the character is. And that’s exactly what they were doing throughout this whole process.

This is amazing. Now, I loved every character in this movie, and there are some really unique characters here, like Callisto and Meridian. Are there other characters you wanted to explore more in the film, but maybe couldn’t?

Qui Nguyen: Duffle, the pilot, but then Don decided to kill him right away.

Don Hall: He will be missed.

wait wait Let’s talk about that for a second. Because, look, I’m a big fan of it Firefly, and I’m a huge fan of Alan Tudyk. And look, did this have a plan here?

Don Hall: In his first disappearance? No. I mean, not necessarily, but always, I love Alan. I have worked with him in all the films, as you know. He’s our lucky charm, so it was just a matter of making sure we found the right part for him. It was so much fun. And to give it that kind of thing, we wanted it to not be bad, but you didn’t want to cry too much. That’s why we had the scene, and we wrote this really funny scene where he makes fun of Searcher a little bit.

Qui Nguyen: But you don’t see him dead. So we don’t really know what happened to him.

strange world disney movie

Well, I mean, you know what? Disney Plus is a thing, and I’d love to see these characters explored more. Is there any chance that you already have the wheels turning on what we might see in the future with some of these characters and this world? There is so much more to explore.

Don Hall: Yeah, there’s a lot more to explore, and I think our story artists have thrown around some ideas about Duffle not dying in Strange World. But as far as plans go, we just finished that. So the paint is pretty wet on this film. And so, I think, before we get into more adventures and stuff, we just need some time to relax a little bit. But I think the world is big enough to support more stories.

Now, what do the three generations of Clades learn from each other in this movie?

Qui Nguyen: Well, I think acceptance. Just learning what it means to build a real legacy. It’s not just about you [imposing] what you want the world to be, but actually building a better world for the next generation, for tomorrow. Whether it’s literally taking care of the world or just taking care of them and allowing them to be the best version of themselves that they want for themselves.

Yeah look, I’m a big fan of all your works. I love Great hero 6 a lot. Are there other Marvel properties you’d like to tackle in animation?

Don Hall: Oh, that’s a good question. I’m blank now. I hadn’t thought about it in a while. how about you

Qui Nguyen: I was waiting for you.

Don Hall: Because we’re both Marvel fans.

Agents of the Atlas?

Qui Nguyen: Oh yeah, and it depends on which version, right? There’s the old version where it’s the old superheroes, and then there’s this newer version that I really connect to, which is with Shang-Chi and Jimmy Woo and Silk and all these characters. That would be super great. But I think those guys over there have their Marvel Studios. I think they have a good understanding of their characters.

About Strange World

Disney's Strange World Finder

The Clades, a legendary family of explorers, are forced into a new mission that is crucial to the survival of their home. As they explore uncharted territory, the Clades must work together to overcome their differences and complete the adventure of a lifetime.

Check out our other Strange World interviews:

Next: Strange World Can Redeem 2 of Disney’s Biggest Disappointments

Strange World hits theaters November 23.

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