Features and Columns · Movies

Can We Have More Solarpunk Movies, Please?

Be right back, I’m off to find some overalls and my gardening gloves.
Strange World Disney
Walt Disney Studios
By  · Published on September 6th, 2023

Welcome to The Queue — your daily distraction of curated video content sourced from across the web. Today, we’re watching a video essay that looks at Disney’s 2022 animated film ‘Strange World,’ and its incorporation of the futuristic ecology-minded up-and-coming genre known as “Solarpunk.”

Science fiction’s vision of the future is, on the whole, pretty bleak. Sand dunes that used to be oceans. Rotting skylines, affixed with salvaged neon billboards selling soft drinks. Underground bunkers hastily built to shield humanity from a toxic atmosphere. We’ve seen it before. We’ll probably see it again.

Indeed, the image of a deteriorating corporate dystopia has almost become ordinary. Which, consequently, defangs any purported “scare ’em straight” messaging. If the polluted worlds of Mad Max or The Matrix were powerful enough to prompt change, we wouldn’t be experiencing the hottest summer on record … every summer.

Solarpunk offers an alternative approach. Not quite a genre in its own right, but quickly making a name for itself across a variety of mediums, Solarpunk is an optimistic reaction to more cynical readings of the future. Maybe there’s a future where we can find a way to make sustainable urban living a possibility. Maybe the more radical thing is to envision a future where we aren’t living on a deteriorating planet.

Released in 2022, Strange World is thematically aligned with Solarpunk values. And while its Disney origins do have a certain greenwashing aftertaste, its keen interest in systemic change (rather than individual action) and its acknowledgment of Solarpunk’s debt to indigenous and afro- future-proofing is noteworthy.

Is Strange World an on-the-nose allegory? Yeah. But there’s also an argument to be made that its Solarpunk message has more bite than what the rest of climate has been slinging for decades.

Watch “In Defense of Disney’s Strange Solarpunk World”

Who made this?

This video essay on why solarpunk vibes make Disney’s Strange World worth defending is by Pop Culture Detective, a YouTuber who makes essays that explore the intersections of politics, masculinity, and entertainment. The channel is hosted by Jonathan McIntosh, and you can subscribe to it here. They’re also on TikTok!

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Meg has been writing professionally about all things film-related since 2016. She is a Senior Contributor at Film School Rejects as well as a Curator for One Perfect Shot. She has attended international film festivals such as TIFF, Hot Docs, and the Nitrate Picture Show as a member of the press. In her day job as an archivist and records manager, she regularly works with physical media and is committed to ensuring ongoing physical media accessibility in the digital age. You can find more of Meg's work at Cinema Scope, Dead Central, and Nonfics. She has also appeared on a number of film-related podcasts, including All the President's Minutes, Zodiac: Chronicle, Cannes I Kick It?, and Junk Filter. Her work has been shared on NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour, Business Insider, and CherryPicks. Meg has a B.A. from the University of King's College and a Master of Information degree from the University of Toronto.