Walt Disney Animation Studios has been playing with the cosmos for nearly a century, from Sorcerer Mickey making music in the stars in Fantasia to Hercules getting his own constellation and as recently as Moana where the stars were used to help the titular character navigate the seas. But in Zenith, a new Short Circuit project coming to Disney+, Walt Disney Animation Studios explores the heavens in a new and unexpected way.
A majestic elk made of star stuff explores the constellations, bucking around Lyra and Cancer and knocking them around a little, getting planetary matter stuck in his horns. When he shakes them off, he unintentionally creates a black hole that only he can defeat if he’s to stop it from consuming all of the constellations he loves to play with.
Zenith is as majestic and wondrous as it sounds. Despite having a really exciting climax, it’s also a very soothing and relaxing short, with a classical inspired score. I can see myself watching Zenith as a nice way to unwind after a stressful day.
Director Jennifer Stratton was inspired by her favorite film, Fantasia, and memories of exploring her grandmother’s backyard with animal lawn ornaments when she conceived of Zenith. You’ll be familiar with Stratton’s work if you’ve seen the films Zootopia, Moana, or Ralph Breaks the Internet as she worked on all three as a Look Development Artist. The music comes from Nathan Curtis, who also provides the score for several Short Circuit films and serves in a supervisory capacity at Walt Disney Animation Studios when he’s not writing music.
What sets Zenith apart from anything you’ve ever seen before is that nearly the entire short comes from the special effects department, who had to work hard to turn the model of Sven from Frozen into a transparent being made of space matter. Sven’s model has obviously been reworked and the final design looks more like adult Bambi than the reindeer from the Frozen series. They also had to create the Chernabog-inspired black hole made of negative space.
Zenith is fresh, imaginative, and inspiring. You’ve never seen anything like it before and it will be a long time before anything this bold or original materializes again. You’ll relish the few minutes you get to spend inside Jennifer Stratton’s imagination.
I give Zenith 5 out of 5 Saturn rings on an antler.
Zenith will be available exclusively on Disney+
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.