Disney’s retro-future animated film Strange World combines a pulpy, old-school science-fiction action aesthetic with a plotline that revolves around reconnecting with family and protecting the environment. As the directors Don Hall and Qui Nguyen developed this world they knew just how to make the lead character—teenager Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White)—relatable.
Ethan is obsessed with the collectible card game Primal Outpost. He and his friends get incredibly hyped for the game, and over the course of the film, Ethan eagerly teaches his grandfather, father, and even his friendly alien companion how to play. While the audience doesn’t see the ins and outs of the game, Nguyen said, “It’s playable. It was obviously based a bit on Catan and Magic: The Gathering, like those elements came hand in hand.” Hall added, “There are actual rules. And there are more cards than what we show.”
According to Nguyen, “The rules of the game [were] actually secretly the theme of the whole film.” As Ethan tries to explain that players in Primal Outpost need to carefully examine and search through clues locked in the game to develop a strategy, both his grandfather and father are eager to attack creatures and defend outposts, resulting in a game that doesn’t quite match up to the rules.
“It was a nice trick to have Ethan be able to say, ‘Hey, this is what this whole thing is about, living harmoniously with the environment around you’,” explained Nguyen.
Strange World is now streaming on Disney+.
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