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

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

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


Zootropolis+ logo

Short-form storytelling has been the underrated hero of Disney’s streaming era. Creators seem to be liberated by the structure and lower stakes that a short, or series of shorts, provides. Zootropolis+ slipped under the radar of the zeitgeist in a way that I initially found worrisome, but by putting in the time for the show I was rewarded with a collection of delightfully silly, creative and colorful stories from across the world of Zootropolis.

Revisiting a successful IP not only brings an established audience, but also cynicism in revisiting a successful IP to feed into your established audience. Such concerns are valid, to a certain extent. Zootropolis+ tends to lean on the “hey, I’ve seen that thing before” effect, dropping in brief cameos from recognizable characters from the film. Zootropolis’ main character, Judy Hopps, makes a few cameo appearances on the fringes of the plot, as does her co-lead, Nick Wilde.

Zootropolis+ Judy Hopps catches a donut

©2022 Disney. All rights reserved.

Additionally, the iconic sloths from the original film have a card centered around them. Although the joke about them being slow is the only one shown here, the format means it doesn’t get completely old. Fortunately, the exp-appealing trick of recognizable cameos isn’t the only thing 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 at times surpass the original film, the backgrounds are incredibly detailed and the textures are a credit to the photorealistic direction that Disney has been going into lately.

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The performances are also fantastic at times. Don Lake’s reprise of the role of Stu Hopps is among the funniest the series has to offer. His charisma bleeds through the microphone and elevates an already fun script. His delivery of the line “I only saw the one part of a sheep without hair” will stick with me for a while.

A struggle with the show is really establishing a target audience. Many Disney properties aim to be entertaining for children as well as for the adults watching them (an ideology that assumes adults can’t enjoy a cartoon on their own, but I digress), but Zootopia+ oscillates between appealing a little too much to one or the other. For example, it’s hard to see a kid 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 that made the first film the cultural staple it is. This story is slower, and quite beautiful, but definitely lacks the color and humor 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 Pance.” 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-adoring, TikTok dance-re-creating younger end of the Gen Z population.

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Something that hits 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 the ridiculousness of the plot mixed with incredible one-liners like the aforementioned joke from Don Lake make it an encapsulation of what the show was meant to be.

Tonal inconsistency is often a feature of anthology storytelling, in fact it’s one of the joys of the medium. Zootropolis+ fulfills the quota of putting us in the shoes of eccentric characters from different parts of the city, as much as a collection of six shorts can.

Due to the length of the season, having a creepy episode has a big impact on its overall perception. A longer season would have avoided this problem and deepened the world building of Zootropolis+, which seemed to be a goal of this series. As it stands, the show asks you to pick and choose your favorite 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 sleek, modern six-episode format, but you can feel the passion and creativity of the film crew breaking through those guidelines. Finding individuality and a singular voice among the Disney machine is an achievement, even if it comes at the expense of the consistency of the show at large.

Zootropolis+ is now streaming on Disney+

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