Disney’s newest film, “Strange World” takes viewers into an uncharted, treacherous landscape, and helping the audience get there took the work of dedicated filmmakers, production team members and animators. And helping them get there were consultants – experts in their fields to help make the movie believable.
One of those consultants, Cal State San Bernardino professor Stuart Sumida, used his extensive knowledge and background in anatomy and paleontology to help the animators and production team make the characters both realistic and fantastic at the same time.
For Sumida, who teaches in the CSUSB College of Natural Sciences’ Department of Biology, his efforts in the film also marked a milestone – “Strange World” was his 70th film as a consultant working with animators.
“On Strange World, I was a scientific consultant from the early stages of the film when the ideas for story and environment were developed,” Sumida said, providing guidance on animal or character shape, movement and anatomical structure.
The film also allowed Sumida to work with his wife, Elizabeth Rega, a professor of anatomy and associate vice provost for academic development at Western University of Health Sciences, as both served as consultants.
“It was wide open, allowing us to offer all sorts of ideas ranging from anatomy and physiology to ecology and evolution,” Sumida said. “The filmmakers, especially the director Brian Hall, were very open to all sorts of ideas.”
Both Sumida and Rega are featured in behind-the-scenes video on the making of the film on the National Geographic Facebook page.
Sumida has worked for most of the major film animation studios working on films that include Pixar’s “Soul” – the winner in the best animated feature film categories of the 2021 Academy Awards and the 2021 Golden Globe Awards – and films that have been nominated for the Academy Awards Best Animated Feature of the Year, such as this year’s “Puss in Boots, the Last Wish,” from Dreamworks Animation. Other nominated animation films he has consulted on include “How to Train Your Dragon,” “Ratatouille,” “Surf’s Up,” “Bolt” and “Kung Fu Panda,” and this year’s third season of “His Dark Materials” now streaming on HBO and the BBC.
Sumida has also served as a consultant for video games, and in November last year was a keynote speaker at the Konsöll Conference for Video Games in Bergen, Norway.
Sumida, who is currently the vice president of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, lectures on subjects that include human anatomy and physiology, evolution and topics in zoology. He is the author of three books and more than 70 journal articles – many with students, introducing them to the process of research and publication in refereed journals.
He is just as comfortable outside the classroom or lecture hall, be it in paleontology digs in Europe and the United States or reconstructing fossilized dinosaur skeletons. He is recognized internationally for his research on biological transformations that took place as back-boned animals adapted to life on land and as co-discoverer of the earliest bipedal animal to ever run on two legs, predating dinosaurian bipeds by over 60 million years.
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ original action-packed adventure “Strange World” introduces a legendary family of explorers, the Clades, as they attempt to navigate an uncharted, treacherous land alongside a motley crew that includes a mischievous blob, a three-legged dog and a slew of ravenous creatures.