Strange World Creators Explain How Comics Influenced the Animated Film

Strange World is hitting theatres in November, and the animated Disney film follows a family as they embark on a journey through a mysterious land in the center of their world. The action/adventure/sci-fi film has a star-studded cast and marks the latest in a long line of projects from Disney Animation Studios. recently had the chance to chat with many people who worked hard to create Strange World, and it was revealed that pulp magazines and French comics provided some inspiration for the film. 

"I mean, interestingly enough, there's comic book inspirations," Strange World's Head of Environments, Sean Jenkins, revealed. "For me, it was really interesting to see that inspiration and how it translated to the animation style was very, very cool." He added, "And then for me, the kind of pulp action adventure, which was so much of the books that I read when I was a child, and it also being a kind of a father-son [story], being both a father and a son myself, it was like, everything was aligned that this was a movie I just didn't want to miss."  

"I think the character designs lived kind of in a couple of places," Strange World's Head of Animation, Justin Sklar, explained. "There's a little bit of Asterix and Obelix in there. There's a little bit of Didier Conrad stuff in there. There's a little bit of Miyazaki in there. There's a little bit of, I don't know, classic Disney in there as well, so I think a lot of that kind of motivated Jin's [Kum] design choices, the sort of oval eyes, this very French-Belgium comic-sy." 

Sklar continued. "There's also some other choices just in terms of how we're simplifying anatomy. There's a thing we did a lot on this movie where we're used to building very anatomical fingers, but especially in French comics, you get very kind of rounded forms and not a lot of like knuckle information. So there's a lot of that, that kind of was where we started from ...  And then we kind of mixed that with the sort of '40s, '50s Disney to find something that kind of lived in middle because, interestingly, I don't think the French comic thing was ever something that was like, I don't know, it wasn't built into the story necessarily ... I think Don [Hall] was trying to explore influences that weren't as self-referential. It felt different than what we'd done before, and I think that was his way of trying to shake us out of sort of what we normally do."

We also spoke to Hall, who is best known for directing Big Hero Six, about how comics have influenced his career. 

"Yeah, I mean comic books are always going to be an influence because that was as strong an influence as Disney was for me, early on," Hall explained. "I mean, comic books were equally, and because the common denominator was art, the common denominator was drawing and that's what I love to do, and love to do more than anything in the world. And so to me, they're just these two powerful influences that feed off of each other always, and even this movie, even though the pulp adventure novel is not a comic book, it is comic book-adjacent and that's what those pulp magazines evolved into. It was like that and comic strips, then evolved into comic books. It's all part of that same flow." 

Strange World opens in theaters on November 23rd. Stay tuned for more from our interviews with the creators behind Strange World