Zootopia+ expands upon the world of 2016’s Zootopia, an Oscar-winning animated success for Walt Disney Animation Studios. It wholly leans into one of the highlights of that movie: seeing how a modern cosmopolitan city would be conceived and run if it was organized for the rest of the animal kingdom as opposed to just the Homo Sapiens.
This comes in the form of six shorts, uploaded at once on Disney+ but quite varied in their inspirations. All of them take an interesting, sometimes thought-provoking challenge in how they give us another glimpse into the world of Zootopia.
The first, “Hopp On Board“, is a masterclass in showing character through action, as Detective Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), the hero of the feature film, has an unexpected passenger in the form of her baby sister join her on her train to the big city. Judy’s parents Bonnie and Stu (Bonnie Hunt and Don Lake) give chase in their pickup truck.
The second, “The Real Rodents of Little Rodentia“, is a homage to the incredibly successful Real Housewives franchise. It also establishes one of the main through points for the shorts, the marriage of mobster Mr. Big’s (Maurice LaMarche) daughter Fru Fru (Leah Latham). She is having a wedding prep nightmare as her cousin arrives and begins to take all the attention.
It comes replete with to-camera confessional style interviews and the same approach to the drama, all shrew-fights, and squabbling. The invention which goes into building the world is on show in their approach to the stories too: it’s fun to see reality TV through a Zootopia lens, where the security guards on offer are polar bears and a runaway giant donut is life-threatening.
Said donut is critical to the next short, “Duke the Musical“, which stands apart as the only short to be presented nearly fully in song. The song itself is a toe-tapping number in the style of the Hollywood musical, as Duke the weasel (Alan Tudyk) laments his inability to hit the big time in both crime and life.
After that follows “The Godfather of the Bride“, a spin on the classic Mario Puzo tale which instead recaps how Mr. Big made his empire in Zootopia and the city of Little Rodentia too. As you might expect, this is not quite a hardbitten crime tale but quite a lovely parable on friendship and finding your space in the world, whether you’re a shrew or a polar bear.
Then we have “So You Think You Can Prance?”, not quite a parody in the same way as the Housewives short but similarly fun in its homage to So You Think You Can Dance? It marks the return of Shakira’s popstar Gazelle as well as fan-favorite Clawhauser and Chief Bogo (Nate Torrence and Idris Elba). It’s fun, frivolous, and camp, even slipping in a reference to Shakira’s original tie-in song, “Try Anything”.
Finally closing out the set is “Dinner Rush”, a sketch which sees server Sam (Charlotte Nicdao) up against the clock to make it to the Gazelle concert and stuck having to deal with the sloths who show up for a romantic meal, Flash and Priscilla (Raymond S Persi, Kristen Bell). It’s an extended riff on the DMV scene from the original movie, with added romance and stakes for likeable hero Sam.
It concludes with an appearance from Judy and Nick (Jason Bateman), the film’s original heroes, both of whom also make a number of small cameos throughout the show if you are keen-eyed enough to spot them.
it’s all gorgeously animated, as you’d expect, and Disney has of course managed to get back some big names to continue their roles. They’ve obviously been made with love and thought, and you can respect their approach in thinking up fun scenarios to play with and bring the characters into.
They’re also keenly self-referential, with Duke presenting some counterfeit DVDs in a musical segment that references other Disney titles such as Pig Hero 6, and an app mentioned in “So You Think You Can Prance?” inspired by one they released around the time of the original movie. Even the title is a reference to the streaming platform it sits upon. Could we have seen more of our original heroes? Perhaps, but I don’t think that’s the point of this collection. Instead, it builds upon favorites from the movie and establishes whole new ones.
This set of six tales expands the world beyond Judy and Nick’s police adventure, opening up new opportunities for creativity and the trademark mix of humor and heart that is synonymous with the Disney name.