Inspired by Disney’s classic theme park attraction, the story takes audiences on a thrilling journey through grief, ghosts, and afterlife acceptance. With an all-star cast including LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson, and Jamie Lee Curtis, this family-friendly spirited film is one many can relate to, including Simien himself. “My father passed when I was young, and so much of my life has been about figuring out how to be the man I am meant to be,” he said.
Ahead of the film’s home release, the filmmaker spoke about upcoming projects, the importance of representation in cinema, what it means to be a Black queer creative in Hollywood, plus much more.
What do you hope to capture in the minds of audiences when they see this film?
I certainly wanted to give folks a sense of escapism, but also with something meaty in that escapism. I grew up on these Disney movies where you go and it’s like a religious experience. You get taken away from the humdrum, but there’s usually something pertinent in there. When I read the script, I felt like, Wow, this is a family movie about grief. What an odd but important combination of things. I hope people really enjoy it and feel like it has something for them.
What would you say is your favorite aspect of Ben’s hero journey?
Oh, wow. I think him opening up to Travis. It’s just such a sweet thing to see. There’s something really powerful, and yet it shouldn’t be powerful, but it is because it’s rare to see a Black man not only move through his own grief but provide something to a kid, a Black kid that you imagine Ben never even had himself. You realize, at a certain point, you’ve got to give what you haven’t gotten yet. Stories about people who managed to do that really touch my heart.