Strange World Production Designer Explains How Movie Differed From Encanto

Strange World is coming to theatres soon and it will mark the final feature film from Walt Disney Animation Studios in 2022 before next year kicks off the 100th anniversary of The Walt Disney Company. recently had the chance to chat with many of the folks involved with creating Strange World who talked about the movie's deeply personal story and some of the other mediums that influenced its design. We spoke with the movie's Production Designer, Mehrdad Isvandi, who also served as the Art Director on Encanto. Of course, Encanto took home the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature earlier this year, and its soundtrack has become one of the most popular in Disney history. While chatting with Isvandi, he spoke about the differences between recreating Columbia in Encanto and a whole new location for Strange World

"It was a ton of meetings," Isvandi explained when asked about making Strange World vs. Encanto. "Sometimes I was keeping average of meetings per day. It's like 16 meetings per day in Encanto and this one vastly different. Encanto we had a reference of Colombia and we have a reference of the city, we have referenced the plant species on the top of the mountain, in the close beach or this room and this room. We had something to refer to, but this movie, we have something so new and different that we can't use any reference now. But if you don't use any reference, now everything is odd. And all the movie that you're watching you are like, 'Okay, what is that? But are there any rules?' So it was a challenge to shift from Columbia to nowhere."

We also spoke with Sean Jenkins, who served as Head of Environments on Strange World, and he detailed the challenges of creating a world from scratch. 

"It's totally its own world that you've never seen before," Jenkins explained. "But yeah, no, it's a real challenge. And ultimately you end up having to try to put some constraints and rules on it because when anything can be anything ... you don't have anything hard to kind of push against to try to figure out what it should be. So I think the early part of the movie was really trying to define the rules of the world. So that then we could then fill in all of the blanks for any of the visual development that's out there."

"What we had to do, but we have to be sneaky about it so nobody noticed," Isvandi added. "Actually, Sean taught me that early on, so the pieces are in places, but if you put a camera on top, every shot, you see all the plants have moved and all the characters move, and then there's lots of changing but within that. Yeah, it was interesting to see that ... also there is that plant that's very pink now. We have to move the character away from it or next to it or put it in shadow and have it, 'This is too red. Let's make it a little bit cooler.' So lots of changes that in a normal world, it's a fact, it's a jungle, you know that, you just make it. They just put the texture. So it's a tree, I don't know, Redwood, everybody knows Redwood, but this time we know it, but also we have to change it because of characters here or here."

Strange World's voice cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal as Searcher Clade, described as a family man who finds himself out of his element on an unpredictable mission; Dennis Quaid as Searcher's larger-than-life explorer father, Jaeger; Jaboukie Young-White as Searcher's 16-year-old son, Ethan, who longs for adventure; Gabrielle Union as Meridian Clade, an accomplished pilot and Searcher's partner in all things; and Lucy Liu as Callisto Mal, Avalonia's fearless leader who spearheads the exploration into the strange world. 

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