Disney has taken us to many wonderful and also very “strange” worlds in its nearly 100-year history. In 2022, the company’s animation department is taking that specific mantra to heart with a new theatrically released movie called Strange World, in which a farmer is reunited with his long-lost father — a legendary explorer — after he and his family become embroiled in a dangerous mission through bizarre and unexplored terrain.
Disney has employed a star-studded ensemble of talented actors to breathe life into the lovable characters from this character-driven sci-fi/fantasy adventure that has come to theaters just in time for the Thanksgiving weekend. Let’s go over who plays who in the Strange World cast.
Jake Gyllenhaal (Searcher Clade)
Leading the Strange World voice cast as Searcher Clade, a simple man whose extraordinary family history catches up with him, is Jake Gyllenhaal. The Academy Award nominee is known for westerns like Brokeback Mountain and The Sisters Brothers, horror movies like 2001’s Donnie Darko and Velvet Buzzsaw, gritty crime thrillers like Zodiac and Nightcrawler, and action-packed popcorn flicks like Michael Bay’s Ambulance, most recently.
In fact, one of the actor’s last collaborations with Disney (which his role as Mysterio in the MCU’s Spider-Man: Far From Home would, technically, not count as) was an action-packed popcorn flick called Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time from 2010. Gyllenhaal — who made his acting debut at 11 in 1991’s City Slickers — last leant his voice to an animated movie when he joined Netflix’s Spirit Untamed cast in 2021.
Dennis Quaid (Jaeger Clade)
As Searcher’s famous adventurer father, Jaeger, we have Dennis Quaid, who last played Jake Gyllenhaal’s onscreen dad in Roland Emmerich’s 2004 disaster movie, The Day After Tomorrow. He has also previously gone on bizarre adventures in classic ‘80s movies like Jaws 3-D, Dreamscape, Enemy Mine, and Innerspace and also in more recent years with horror flicks like Pandorum and another animated sci-fi film from 2007, Battle for Terra.
Quaid, who earned an Emmy nomination for playing Bill Clinton in 2010’s The Special Relationship, has played a few other historical figures — astronaut Gordon Cooper in The Right Stuff, Jerry Lee Lewis in Great Balls of Fire!, and Doc Holliday in Wyatt Earp, to name just a few — and has given acclaimed performances in grounded dramas like Traffic, Frequency, and Far From Heaven. We have barely scratched the surface of all this living legend is known for, but one other sci-fi father/son story we feel especially compelled to mention here is the 1999 time-travel drama, Frequency.
Jaboukie Young-White (Ethan Clade)
Playing Searcher’s 16-year-old, adventure-craving son, Ethan, is Jaboukie Young-White, whose first voice acting role was from a Disney movie: McNeely in 2018’s Ralph Breaks the Internet. He followed with spots on animated series for Netflix (namely Big Mouth, Bojack Horseman, and Battle Kitty), various characters on Amazon Prime’s Fairfax, his first reunion with Disney for two episodes of Baymax! as Mbita, and an episode of Fox’s The Great North, most recently.
The stand-up comedian, who made his feature film debut in 2017’s Rough Night, is also known for a few live-action Netflix exclusives, including Set It Up, Someone Great, and American Vandal (the latter of which he wrote for) and some Comedy Central originals — namely his tenure as a The Daily Show correspondent and three episodes of Awkwafina is Nora from Queens. He also played himself on Showtime’s Crashing, appeared alongside Joaquin Phoenix in A24’s C’mon C’mon, and landed recurring roles alongside Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building cast and on HBO Max’s Rap Sh!t.
Gabrielle Union (Meridian Clade)
As Meridian — Searcher’s wife and Ethan’s mother who is also a talented pilot — we have Gabrielle Union, who has previously starred in Disney projects both live-action (H-E Double Hockey Sticks in 1999 and 2022’s Cheaper by the Dozen) and animated (Jungle Cubs from the mid-1990s, an episode of The Proud Family, and Disney Channel’s The Lion King series spin-off, The Lion Guard, as Nala). She also leant her voice to an episode of Family Guy in 2005 and an animated Netflix movie from 2019 called Fearless.
The actor’s more iconic roles include Chastity Church from the 10 Things I Hate About You cast, Isis from the quintessential cheerleading movie, Bring It On, and the title character of the hit TV series Being Mary Jane, to name a few. Like her onscreen husband in Strange World, Union has also worked with Michael Bay in the second of the Bad Boys movies as Sydney Burnett, whom she would reprise on the series L.A.’s Finest and, also in 2022, starred in A24’s LGBTQ+ drama, The Inspection.
Lucy Liu (Callisto Mal)
The Clades are roped into the adventure at the center of Strange World by Callisto Mal — a former member of Jaeger’s team and now president of the nation of Avalonia — who is voiced by Jaboukie Young-White’s Set It Up co-star, Lucy Liu, whose voice acting career dates back to the mid-1990s. Her most notable animated credits, however, include the straight-to-video Mulan sequel from 2004 as Mei, the Kung Fu Panda franchise (including the upcoming fourth installment) as Viper, an episode of Star Wars: Visions called “The Duel,” and a guest appearance on Scooby-Doo and Guess Who? as herself.
Her most famous live-action roles span both the big and small screen — such as her Emmy-nominated performance as Ling Woo on Ally McBeal (which is also, reportedly, getting a sequel), Kitty Baxter in the 2003 Best Picture Oscar winner, Chicago, Alex Munday in the early 2000s Charlie Angels movies, O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill, and Joan Watson on CBS’s modern-day Sherlock Holmes reboot, Elementary. Liu, who also recently played herself on the 11th season of Curb Your Enthusiasm, is about to join the DC movies universe a Kalypso in one of the most anticipated upcoming 2023 movies, Shazam! Fury of the Gods.
I am always game for a movie that takes its characters and its audience on a wondrous journey into a new and highly imaginative place, while also tugging at your heart strings a bit along the way. In fact, I think that Disney has quite a knack for doing just that with some of its most memorable features, and it looks like Strange World and its A-list cast is about to earn a spot alongside that collection.
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