Disney XD premiered a special holiday preview episode of Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero. The series will have a traditional premiere early next year, but this episode zapped us into the Christmas dimension, so it made sense that it would premiere early. What do I mean by zapped into the Christmas dimension? I guess I should explain, Penn Zero is a part-time hero who gets zapped into various dimensions to battle part-time villain Rippen, voiced by Alfred Molina, and his minion, voiced by Larry Wilmore.
Luckily for Penn, he has his pals, Sashi (Tania Gunadi) and Boone (Adam DeVine) that dimension hop with their friend. Speaking of dimensions, Penn’s parents, Vonnie (Lea Thompson) and Brock (Gary Cole) are stuck in another dimension called the "Most Dangerous World Imaginable.” Penn’s only ability to talk to them come from a device called the Multi-Universe Hologram Uplink, MUHU for short. Since his parents are trapped, Penn lives with his his Aunt Rose (Rosie Perez) and Uncle Chuck (Lenny Venito).
But back to Penn. Despite being only part-time, Penn lives up to the hero title. In fact, spoiler alert, he saves Christmas in this special holiday preview. (You honestly didn’t think he was going to fail his first mission, did you?) But he does this while dealing with the everyday problems of an average kid (think Kim Possible).
While the animation style is unique, the episode uses more than visual style to make it stand out. The show’s action/adventure storyline is combined with real emotion as Penn truly misses his parents during the Christmas season and getting zapped into the Christmas dimension just accentuates those feelings.
The voice cast is superb and is able to carry its own through silliness, such as an egg-based Christmas diorama, and the more emotional parts of the episode. In terms of story, it seems in the vein of Phineas and Ferb with an aspirational streak. This episode even included a song, a Phineas and Ferb hallmark, but I do not know if that will continue in future episodes.
It is often said that the hallmark of Disney animation is telling great stories with appealing characters inside a believe world. While it is hard to judge a series by one episode, so far we have gotten a fun story with appealing if albeit goofy characters. And while dimension hopping may not be the most grounded concept, it does allow for each episode to contain a brand new world to explore.
I enjoyed Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero and I think it makes a great companion piece to Phineas and Ferb and Gravity Falls as a part of Disney XD’s animation slate. It also continues the great tradition of Disney Television Animation, which keeps adapting for new generations.