Strange World

“This place is alive. It’s a living thing! We didn’t find the heart of Pando. We found an actual heart.”

In the fictional land of Avalonia, adventurer Jaeger Clade and his son Searcher stumble upon a glowing green plant pulsing with energy. Searcher and the rest of the explorers decide to bring the plant home, but Jaeger continues exploring alone. The film cuts 25 years later and the plant, named Pando, now powers all of Avalonia and Searcher lives a happy life as a Pando farmer. When he learns that Pando is dying, Searcher embarks on a mission along with his family and former explorer crew to find the cause of the issue. After descending into a sinkhole, the crew discovers a strange land with mysterious creatures. They also find Jaeger, who had been stranded there the whole time. Tensions rise between Jaegar, Searcher, and Searcher’s son Ethan as they argue over Ethan’s desire to be an adventurer (rather than a farmer) and their conflicting generational views of planetary care. In the end, the team discovers that Avalonia is built on the back of a giant turtle, and Pando has been hurting it. The group ultimately resolves to destroy Pando, sacrificing their power source for the greater good.

A clear allegory for climate change and the fossil fuel industry, Strange World promotes a strong environmentalist message, urging people to take care of the Earth rather than exploit it. By depicting a 25-year time jump, the film touches on the slow violence that is being done as we continue to over-consume our planet’s natural resources. The film’s familial conflict showcases some differing perspectives about environmental issues. Jaeger has no interest in Earth care, viewing nature as something to be conquered, whereas Searcher has a more appreciative approach, recognizing value in Pando’s provisions. However, despite his good intentions, Searcher’s way of thinking eventually became overly exploitative. Ethan, meanwhile, embraces a very ecocentric mindset, making him a compelling model for youth climate activism. His advocacy for Earth stewardship is inspired by his favorite game ‘Primal Outpost,’ whose objective is to “live harmoniously with your environment.” He makes the case that humans should work with nature instead of trying to control it (see permaculture).

By the end, the family makes amends and works together to save the turtle in a show of intergenerational collective action. The film’s epilogue shows that Avalonia successfully transitions to sustainable living, shifting to a polyculture farming system and taking part in an energy transition to wind power. The film’s final shot, which zooms out to show Avalonia on the giant turtle, re-emphasizes the concept of Earth’s aliveness (see animism, vitalism, Gaia, Pachamama) and reminds viewers that we are but a small part of a huge planet.

©2024 ClimateLit (Alexandra Delacruz)

Check out Into Film’s collection of Strange World teaching resources (for ages 7-11):

Publisher: Disney, 2022

Pages: 1h 42m


Audience: Little People (4-7), Questers (8-13)

Format: Films

Topics: Animism, Climate Change, Collective Action, Earth Care, Earth Stewardship, Earth's Aliveness, Ecocentrism, Energy Transition, Environmentalism, Fossil Fuels, Gaia, Green Living, Natural Resources, Pachamama, Permaculture, Polyculture, Slow Violence, Sustainability, Vitalism, Wind Power, Youth Climate Activism