Categories
Scene

Was ‘Zootopia+’ what we expected?

In 2016, Walt Disney Animation released its 55th animated film, “Zootopia.” Many fans of the film have been patiently waiting for a sequel to the movie to pick up right where the film left off. However, Disney decided to take a different approach to the “Zootopia” world and announced they were going to release a web-television series that is simply titled “Zootopia+.”

Released on Nov. 9, 2022 on Disney+, “Zootopia+” is actually a series of short films that take place during certain scenes of the movie. Separated into six, each one runs for just under 15 minutes. Many of them parody film genres such as film noir, musicals, romantic-comedies and action, and it parodies television shows like “The Real Housewives” and dance competitions. The films include many of the characters from the original, including Bonnie Hopps (Bonnie Hunt), Fru-Fru (Leah Latham), Officer Clawhauser (Nate Torrence) and of course, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman). Most of these short films expand on many of the characters from the original film’s plot — such as the preparation for Fru-Fru’s wedding — and reveal a lot of the characters’ backstories, like Mr. Big’s (Maurice LaMarche) backstory in coming to America. 

The series was developed to actually have ten episodes, but due to an order from corporate to release a six-episode series, the directors Trent Correy and Josie Trinidad were kind of limited. The idea of the series was that they wanted to explore secondary characters from the film instead of just expanding on the main characters’ backstories and personalities. The creators brought back composer Michael Giacchino for the short film about Duke Weaselton (Alan Tudyk), but also brought in Curtis Green and Giacchino’s son Mick for the rest of the music for the series. 

The series, though short, has several positives going for it. First off, the animation is absolutely breathtaking. Being that this is a Disney project, the animation doesn’t let up, and it doesn’t become too dated, either. I also love most of the stories that the series centers on. I thought that the episode about Fru-Fru’s wedding was very clever, in that there is an expansion for how the wedding was prepared and it even shows a bit of what it is like for wedding preparations to not go the way they were planned. I also loved the episode on Mr. Big’s backstory, as it resembled “The Godfather: Part II” to a tee, and I was also very interested in Mr. Big’s story and what purpose he served in the film. I also thought the order of the episodes coinciding with the film was a nice touch.

While the series had the aforementioned positives, there were also some negatives that make it lose a lot of points in my book. Firstly, many of the short films were not really necessary, or they just made no sense whatsoever. One example is the one about Duke Weaselton, because it was just totally out-of-place. I was so confused when it turned into a musical all of the sudden. I also was not a big fan of the one with Clawhauser and Chief Bogo (Idris Elba). It was not necessary to the story, and it was a huge detractor for me. But the biggest problem I had with the series was that I didn’t particularly want a series of short films that just took place during the events of the first movie. I would much rather have had a direct sequel to the original film than just a series of shorts reiterating the events.

In conclusion, I am very split down the middle on this series, as it has a lot of positives but also has that one major negative that is it being a not-totally-necessary continuation of “Zootopia.”

Title: “Zootopia+”

Streaming: Disney+

Directors: Trent Correy and Josie Trinidad

Starring: Bonnie Hunt, Alan Tudyk, Idris Elba

If you liked: “Zootopia”

Shamrocks: 3.5 out of 5

Contact Nicole Bilyak at nbilyak01@saintmarys.edu.

Categories
Scene

Book Nook: The infamous and upcoming Percy Jackson adaptations

I recently watched the 2005 film “Pride and Prejudice,” based on Jane Austen’s 1813 novel of the same name. It was excellent. Many movie adaptations of books struggle to convey their lengthy events in a completely different medium, but this is not the case with “Pride and Prejudice.” The writing succeeds in staying true to the book and creating an enjoyable movie. Readers of the novel will appreciate the actors’ interpretations of their respective characters. However, you could watch the film without reading the book and immensely enjoy it.

This made me think back to my days of watching the Percy Jackson film adaptations, which were terrible. They were incredibly loose adaptations, and the antithesis of everything the “Pride and Prejudice” film did well.

The novel series Percy Jackson & the Olympians by Rick Riordan is about a 12-year-old half-human son of the Greek god of the sea, Poseidon, who goes on adventures with his demigod friends and saves the world multiple times. It consists of five books covering Percy’s life over a few years at a magical camp for demigods on Long Island.

I loved the book series. It was a staple of my middle school experience. I would stay up extremely late to read about how Percy and his friends defeated monsters. I would read the series at the dinner table with my family, which was admittedly rude. But I was so absorbed in the writing, I physically could not put them down until I was finished. The characters had so much depth, the plot was fast-paced and the references to Greek mythology were incredibly interesting.

The film adaptations of the first two books in the series, “The Lightning Thief” and “Sea of Monsters,” were a disappointment. They changed key elements of the original Percy Jackson we know and love, like the characters’ personalities and the monsters they encounter. Reading the series and knowing how badly the movie portrayed the storyline was painful. But the films don’t just fail as adaptations, they fail to be good movies. Even for people who didn’t read the books, the movies were just plain unenjoyable. They could not stand on their own if they were not tied to the Percy Jackson series.

The pacing in the movies was jarring and the emotional development of the characters felt awkward and forced. Although the acting was decent, the characters felt one-dimensional at times. The focus of the films rested much more on the action and fight scenes than anything else.

Disney+ plans to release a television series adaptation of Percy Jackson. The good news is that Rick Riordan is on the writing team for the show. Hopefully, his influence will result in a series that stays true to the books, only deviating from the original plot in ways that are entertaining, improve upon the novels and translate their events for the silver screen.

The episodic format is also promising for the upcoming Percy Jackson release. TV shows typically can better adapt their source material because they have a longer runtime compared to movies. “Pride and Prejudice,” similarly, had a TV series adaptation on the BBC that was much more faithful to the original story. 

Despite this, I am still scared of how it will turn out. The Percy Jackson movies have permanently lowered my expectations.

Contact Caitlin Brannigan at cbrannig@nd.edu.

Categories
Scene

‘Bear in the Big Blue House’ and ‘PB&J Otter’: A retrospective

Since its final airing in 2011, Walt Disney Studios’ preschool channel Playhouse Disney has been all but radio silent for years. But a little thing called Disney+ came along, and the streaming service began to gain several well-known Playhouse Disney shows such as “Rolie Polie Olie” and “Out of the Box.” For years, fans of Playhouse Disney have wanted “Bear in the Big Blue House” to join Disney+. Finally, on Oct. 19, 2022, Disney+ finally put all four seasons of “Bear in the Big Blue House” as well as all three seasons of “PB&J Otter” on the platform. With these two shows appearing on Disney+, it seems reasonable to look back on both shows, see why they were so lovable back then and understand why they resurfaced now in 2022.

“Bear in the Big Blue House” aired in 1997 and starred Noel MacNeal as the titular Bear who lives in a big blue house. The show utilized problem-solving, sharing, cooperation and developing life skills. The show was a massive success for kids who were preschool age, and it was a larger success for those who were on the autism spectrum disorder. This comes from the fact that Bear has a caring attitude and was considered gentle, especially with the gag of Bear sticking his nose into the camera and “sniffing” the viewers.

In an interview with Insider, MacNeal stated that there was never a show quite like “Bear in the Big Blue House.” The show, as stated earlier, ran for only four seasons, and there was a three-year hiatus after the third season due to the fact that Lynne Thigpen, who voiced Luna the Moon, suddenly passed away in 2003. Later, Tara Mooney, who voiced Shadow, claimed the crew’s hearts weren’t in the show anymore. So, the show concluded with its fourth season in 2006. 

On the flip side, “PB&J Otter” was another very popular show that aired on Playhouse Disney. Premiering on Mar. 15, 1998, the show was about the Otter family, particularly the three children: Peanut, Baby Butter and Jelly (all named after a peanut butter and jelly sandwich). The show’s structure introduced the idea of something called the “Noodle Dance” where Peanut, Baby Butter and Jelly would have to think of something and to get the creative juices flowing. The three children would dance and would eventually find an idea that may or may not work. The show only aired for three seasons, concluding on Oct. 15, 2000. 

I remembered watching both of these shows as well as the other two shows mentioned above when I was younger. But I remembered “Bear in the Big Blue House” the most because it was one of the more relaxing shows that really stood out to me. As an autistic, I never really noticed that Bear was really gentle for those who were autistic. But now that I look back on the show, I can really see it. I totally side with MacNeal saying the show was relaxing in that Bear had that sweet and endearing attitude toward any viewer of the show. With “PB&J Otter,” I hardly remember the show, but from what I can remember, the show was quite wacky but still very cute. Since I watched the show when I was much younger, I understood it more in my five-year-old mind, but now, as a college student, I still don’t understand why the show was even that innovative. 

Overall, it is very nice to see that Disney+ is now bringing back all of the Playhouse Disney shows from the late ‘90s, and now, the younger generation can watch these shows anytime they want on Disney+.

Contact Nicole at nbilyak01@saintmarys.edu.

Categories
Scene

‘Andor’: A brave new world in that faraway galaxy

In 2016, Lucasfilm released the first of the “Star Wars” spin-off films, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” The film was a massive success and provided a new perspective on the Rebel Alliance. It took until this September to continue the journey “Rogue One” began into the underbelly of the famous rebellion in “Star Wars” when Disney+ aired the first three episodes of the newest “Star Wars” show, “Andor.”

This foray into the faraway galaxy stars Diego Luna as the titular Cassian Andor. In these first episodes, we meet him as an ostensibly undistinguished thief who, while searching for his missing sister, kills two officers who work for a megacorporation which essentially runs its own government upholding the Empire. This forces Andor to go on the run before company officer Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) arrests him. While trying to find a way off the planet Ferrix (which is under the jurisdiction of the company), Andor enlists the help of Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona), a mechanic and black market dealer.  She tries to help Andor get enough money to get off of Ferrix by reaching out to her mysterious contact Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård). Interspersed with this thriller are flashbacks to Andor’s childhood that explore his home planet Kenari, which has become the host of an Imperial mining project.

I have very mixed feelings about this show. One of its positives is that its cinematography is absolutely gorgeous. It looked very cinematic with a film noir feel, a genre influence the showrunner (and “Jason Bourne” scribe) Tony Gilroy has publicly celebrated. This doesn’t feel like a “Star Wars” product, even though it has the name attached to it; it feels very much like a spy thriller. I also like the subtlety of the flashbacks involving Andor and his sister. It didn’t detract too much from the main plot, but it serves the purpose of looking into Andor’s childhood and why he is the way he is. 

The show, however, has a major problem with pacing. The first two episodes of the show were very slow, which made them a bit painful for me to watch. As a massive “Star Wars” fan, I was expecting them to be very flashy and action-packed, so the first two episodes just didn’t do it for me. But when I watched the third episode, I was very satisfied, as it set up the next episode well and felt much like a “Star Wars” entry. 

In conclusion, “Andor” is a decent addition to the “Star Wars” franchise and offers a look into a compelling character whom fans have been waiting to know. The show will be releasing episodes weekly all the way up to Nov. 23, 2022 on Disney+.

Title: “Andor”

Starring: Diego Luna, Stellan Skarsgård

If you liked: “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Where to watch: Disney+

Shamrocks: 4 out of 5

Contact Nicole Bilyak at nbilyak01@saintmarys.edu.