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Zootropolis+ 6 Episode Spin-off Series Now on Disney+ Review

// Reviews

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Short-form storytelling has been the underappreciated hero of Disney’s streaming era. Creators seem to be freed by the structure and lower stakes that a short, or a series of shorts, brings. Zootropolis+ ducked under the radar of the zeitgeist in a way which I initially found worrying, but by putting time aside for the show I was rewarded with a collection of delightfully silly, creative and colourful stories from around the world of Zootropolis.

Revisiting a successful IP brings not only an established audience but also cynicism about revisiting a successful IP in order to pander to your established audience. Such concerns are valid, to a degree. Zootropolis+ does have a tendency to lean on the ‘hey I’ve seen that thing before’ effect, dropping in brief cameos from recognisable characters from the film. Zootropolis’ main character, Judy Hopps, makes a few cameo appearances at the edges of the action, as does her co-lead, Nick Wilde.

Zootropolis+ Judy Hopps catching a donut

©2022 Disney. All rights reserved.

Additionally, the iconic sloths from the original film have a short centred around them. Though the joke of them being slow is the only one on show here, the format means that it doesn’t quite get old. Thankfully the exec-pleasing trick of recognisable cameos is not the only one up the sleeve of showrunners Trent Correy and Josie Trinidad.

Access to established assets from the previous franchise entry is not squandered in these shorts. Characters are expressive in ways that outdo the original film at times, backgrounds are incredibly detailed and the textures are a credit to the photoreal direction which Disney has been advancing into recently.

Performances are stellar at times too. Don Lake’s reprisal of the role of Stu Hopps is amongst the most fun the series has to offer. His charisma bleeds through the microphone and elevates an already funny script. His delivery of the line “I just saw the only part of a sheep with no hair” will stick with me for a while.

A struggle of the show is to really establish a target audience. Many Disney properties aim to be entertaining for children as well as the adults supervising them (an ideology that assumes adults can’t enjoy a cartoon by themselves but I digress), but Zootopia+ veers between appealing a little too much to one or the other. For example, it is difficult to see a child getting too much out of episode two, a riff on The Real Housewives. The parody is well-made and funny, but only works with prior knowledge of the original show.

A parody of The Godfather takes this even further by introducing a class commentary which made the first movie the cultural staple that it is. This story is slower, and rather beautiful, but is decidedly without the colour and humour of other episodes.

Zootropolis+ Godfather parody

© 2022 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Existing on the opposite side of the spectrum is episode 5, “So You Think You Can Prance.” Following Officer Clawhauser’s surreal audition for a dance competition show, the episode is the definition of bubblegum. While other entries felt like the creators making something for themselves, this one was definitely aimed at the pop star-idolising, TikTok dance-recreating younger end of the Gen Z population.

Something that strikes the audience balance perfectly is the pilot. We follow Stu and Bonnie Hops as they chase after their baby who has wandered onto a train. The simplicity of the setup and ridiculousness of the action mixed with incredible one-liners like the aforementioned joke from Don Lake make it an encapsulation of what the show was intended to be.

Tonal inconsistency is often a feature of anthology storytelling, in fact it is one of the joys of the medium. Zootropolis+ fulfils the quota of putting us in the shoes of eccentric characters from different pockets of the city, to the extent that a collection of six shorts can.

Due to the length of the season, having one unenjoyable episode has a large effect on its overall perception. A longer season would have avoided this issue and deepened the world-building of Zootropolis+, something that seemed to be a goal of this series. As it stands, the show asks you to pick and choose your favourite, self-contained stories to return to, but this is unreasonable with only six episodes available.

And thus, the show feels caught between the things it wanted to achieve and the things it needed to achieve. Zootropolis+ needed to appeal to a wide audience while fitting into a slim, modern six episode format, but you can feel the passion and creativity of the filmmaking team breaking through those guidelines. Finding individuality and a singular voice amongst the Disney machine is some achievement, even if it comes at the cost of the consistency of the show at large.

Zootropolis+ is now streaming on Disney+

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