5 Reasons Why Zootopia+ Isn't As Good As It Could Have Been

The sloths in Zootopia+
(Image credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)

If I had one word to describe the recent Disney+ show Zootopia+, it would be "cute." Now, don't get me wrong. I have nothing against "cute." In fact, in small doses, I actually really love cute. Like, Bluey, for instance, which teaches me to be a better father. That is a very cute show. 

I’d also call most Disney movies cute. Like The Princess and the Frog, Lilo and Stitch, and hell, pretty much all of the Disney Animation Studio movies from the 2000s, I would consider cute. So no, I am not a cute-hater. I don’t drown kittens or kick puppies. Cute is good!      

Sometimes, you just want something a little bit more than cute, you know? Like 2016’s Zootopia, for instance, which I consider the best recent Disney animated movie. Zootopia is cute, sure, but it’s also so much more than just cute. In fact, it’s pretty deep when you really consider its themes and ideas. So, when I heard that there would be an animated spin-off series, I was over the moon. But then, I watched it, and well, it could have been a lot better, unfortunately, and I have five reasons why.   

Oh, and some spoilers up ahead. 

Giraffes in Zootopia+

(Image credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)

It Would Rather Be Cute Than Have Anything Meaningful To Say Like The Film Itself 

As I just alluded to in the intro, the new series is content with just being cute, and nothing more, whereas the movie actually had something to say in regards to race, sexism, classism, etc. The 2016 film wasn’t even subtle in its messaging of how judging somebody based on what they look like is a huge, societal problem. Not only that, but if we want a real utopia (or rather, a zootopia), then we have to look beyond what we think we know about people, and really get to know them. Deep stuff, especially for a Disney movie.  

That said, Zootopia+ doesn’t seem to care about messaging. Instead, its six shorts, which range from a musical number to a madcap adventure involving chasing after a baby, don’t have anything to say. Yes, one short that parodies The Godfather, titled “The Godfather of the Bride,” is cute and chuckle worthy, but that’s all it is. Cute. And chuckle worthy.  

I’m not saying that everything has to mean something deeper. This is, after all, a series of shorts on Disney+. But, Zootopa, which I would consider to be even better than Moana, and Frozen when ranking the Disney Animation Studio movies from 2011-2020, was a deeper movie. So, for its long-awaited follow-up to merely be cute and nothing more, well, it’s a disappointment, that’s for sure.   

Several cast members of The Real Rodents of Little Rodentia sitting on a couch in Zootopia+.

(Image credit: Disney+)

It Takes Place During The Events Of The Movie, But Doesn't Really Add To The Story 

Here’s another thing that irks me. Zootopia+ explicitly makes a point to have its shorts take place during the events of the movie, but they don’t have any impact on the film whatsoever. For example, in the musical number, “Duke: The Musical,” Duke Weaselton considers his life of crime (through song!), and ultimately decides that he’s going to be better from now on and leave his life of crime behind. But, by the end of the number, he has a change of heart, and goes back to being a rogue.  

So, what was even the point of that short in the first place then? Just think of a show like Better Call Saul in comparison. (Yes, I’m aware that I’m comparing a hard-hitting drama to a Disney+ short. Just work with me here.) In Better Call Saul, which may or may not be better than Breaking Bad, we learn more about the events of the parent show through the events of the prequel. The prequel/sequel even makes you appreciate Breaking Bad more when you see the nuances of Saul Goodman’s character, and why he was the way he was there.    

Look, I’m not saying that Zootopia+ had to be as good as Better Call Saul, but if you’re going to set a series within the events of the movie, then at least have the events feel relevant to the overall film and not like throwaway content.  

Judy Hopps with her family

(Image credit: Walt Disney Animation Studio)

It Doesn't Feature Any Of The Main Characters That I Want To See 

Also, as much as I enjoyed characters like the sloth from the DMV, or Gazelle in the movie, I honestly didn’t really think I needed to see them again outside of the film. They were fun characters who really livened up the movie, but they didn’t push the story forward in any meaningful way; they were nice ancillary characters, but nothing more. 

So, why then are they the only characters we really get in the shorts? This would be fine if we maybe got one or two shorts centered around Judy Hopps, or Nick Wilde–you know, the real plot-centric characters–but we don’t. Instead, we get shorts based around background characters that are cute, sure, but did I really wait six years for something new in the Zootopia universe only to get stories about Fru-Fru? Seriously? 

I recently wrote an article on my strong emotions about Inside Out 2, and how instead of a movie, I’d much prefer some Disney+ shorts focused around Riley’s emotions. But, after watching Zootopia+, I think I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want that at all. Not if it’s going to be like this.    

Mr. Big as a young lad in Zootopia+

(Image credit: Walt Disney Animation Studio)

It Somehow Makes Zootopia Feel Small 

Something really cool about Zootopia is just how large it all feels. As soon as Judy Hopps leaves her podunk home to move into the big city, you feel that transition in a major way. It’s that, “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” moment that really sets Zootopia apart from other Disney films.

Sadly, Zootopia+ makes the world feel incredibly small. I know this is to make the stories feel more personal, as we see the city in bite-sized chunks in the six shorts. But in doing so, it kind of robs that universe of the whole aspect that made it unique. It’s not a complete deal-breaker, and if I liked the shorts more, then I might have overlooked it. As it stands, though, it’s just another aspect of this short series that I feel could have been much better.  

Fru-Fru in Zootopia+

(Image credit: Walt Disney Animation Studios)

In The End, It Feels Pretty Unnecessary 

Lastly, Zootopia+ really feels like it doesn’t need to exist. I hear from some Star Wars fans that shows like Andor (which you should seriously check out), don’t really need to exist, either, since we already know how it’s going to end because of Rogue One. But, Andor is so good, and we’re learning so much about its title character, that I would argue that the show adds a great deal to the lore of the Star Wars universe.   

Not so with Zootopia+ (opens in new tab), which adds nothing to the movie. When I was finished watching it, I didn’t learn anything I didn’t already know about the characters, and in the end, it all just felt completely unnecessary; like DLC to a video game that was already perfect to begin with. I wish it wasn’t this way, because I was really looking forward to it, but I finished completely unimpressed, which is a bummer, to be sure. 

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Rich Knight
Content Producer

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.