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Welcome, World Travelers! Once Upon A Studio is a Great Short 100 Years in the Making!

Welcome, World Travelers! Once Upon A Studio is a Great Short 100 Years in the Making!

by James Coulter

Welcome World Travelers

Originally, I was going to review Elemental. The movie had been on streaming for a month now, so it seemed about time to review it. Unfortunately, after watching it, I didn’t feel like I had much to say about it that wasn’t different from my initial pre-conception of, “this feels like Zootopia only with elements.”

So, it says something when a 9-minute animated short is the best thing Disney (including Marvel) has (thus far) released this year.

Disney Once Upon a Studio image from IMDB

Sometimes, it feels uncanny that movie studios like Disney and Warner Bros. are now more than a century old. For the past 100 years, Disney has remained the gold standard of animation. And to commemorate their milestone, they released a special animated short celebrating their 100-year legacy.

“Once Upon a Studio” is a nine-minute short that premiered earlier this week on Sun. Oct. 15 on ABC. The short is currently available for streaming on Disney Plus and Hulu, and it will be played as an opening short for Wish, which premieres in theaters on Nov. 24.

The story itself is simple. On the evening of the 100th anniversary of Disney Animation Studios, after the building closes for the evening, Mickey and Minnie Mouse come to life and gather the other animated characters from all of Disney’s animated movies for a group picture to celebrate the occasion. Shenanigans ensue–especially when Goofy is tasked with operating the camera!

Screenshot images from trailer

And when I say every character from all of Disney’s animated movies, I mean all of them. This short features a total of 500 characters, all from Disney’s 100-year filmography, from movies and shorts past and present, the most recent character being Princess Asha from Wish.

I won’t spoil any of the characters who appear in this short (and, really, trying to name all 500 of them would take too long anyway!). But trust me when I say that watching the entire short, especially the group shot at the very end, feels a lot like playing “Where’s Waldo” with different Disney characters. If you have a favorite character from a favorite movie, chances are they make an appearance in this short.

Again, when I say every character makes an appearance, I really do mean it. Along with its more popular animated movies, this short also features Disney characters from underrated movies like Bolt and Meet the Robinsons, as well as from classic shorts, animated segments of live-action films, and even from shows at the Disney Parks. (Again, no spoilers, but there’s a character from a short-lived Disney Hollywood Studios attraction whose appearance proved to be quite a pleasant surprise. Disney fans who know will know!)

Perhaps the best aspect of the film is seeing the different characters, both two and three-dimensional, come to life. The animators really did their best to emulate the animation styles of each character so they look and feel like they appear in their respective movies. They even use archival sound clips so many of them sound exactly as they do in their original films. The most notable example is the Genie from Aladdin, who is voiced with un-used audio recording from the late Robin Williams.

And, of course, the best part is seeing all these different characters with different animation styles interact with each other. There are moments where two and three-dimensional characters interact with each other, and–to the animator’s credit—they really do look and feel like they share the same environment. And seeing them interact with each other is a treat. There are plenty of moments that will make you say, “Of course,that character would react that way to that other character” and “Of course, those two characters would get along great!”

Potential spoiler, but there’s a moment where Mickey reminisces about the good old days with Walt Disney. That moment is underscored with a musical rendition of “Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins. That musical score was performed for the short by the original composer himself, Richard Sherman. Yes, even at 94 years old, he was able to play the piano in Walt’s old office for this particular short. Yes, it is as amazing as it sounds.

Overall, yes, this is an animated short from a large multinational corporation celebrating its century-old virtual monopoly on the animation industry (as well as its current virtual monopoly in the entertainment industry with its past mergers) through a self-congratulatory showcase of its intellectual properties in a style-over-substance animated short that’s essentially serving member berries to the audience. It’s a corporate product. But, dang it, if it isn’t a tasty corporate product.

If you grew up watching Disney movies, watching this short will make you feel like a child all over again. Happy 100th birthday, Disney! Here’s to another 100 years!

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