Disney+ keeps churning out new, original, exclusive content week after week and the fun continues on February 28th with the premiere of their newest unscripted series, Shop Class. This family-friendly competition show brings together teams of students and teachers to compete against each other on a task. Over the course of eight episodes, contestants will proceed through a bracket to become the Shop Class Champion.
Hosted by Justin Long (the voice of Alvin in Fox’s Alvin and the Chipmunks film series), the show is shot in a brightly colored garage and an outdoor area where contestants can create pretty much anything they need. After making introductions and debuting that episode’s challenge, Long mostly disappears until it’s time to judge the crafts, where his hosting duties are once again needed.
Why would Disney fans care about Shop Class? Well for starters, each episode features a guest judge from Walt Disney Imagineering. In their introduction, they talk about their role within WDI and some of the projects they’ve worked on. In the two episodes I got to screen, guest judges were Jameel Haiat (Principal Production Designer on Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance) and Kathryn Yancey (Show Mechanical Engineer on Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge). It’s interesting to see how they approach critiquing each project when compared to the series’ regular judges, Brooks Atwood (Architect) and Lauren Makk (Interior Design).
Another reason Disney fans will appreciate Shop Class is that the projects are very creative and the contestants are asked to think outside the box. In one episode, the challenge is to create a Little Free Library and one of the teams goes as far as to make theirs a rocket ship that opens up to reveal book shelves. Another episode finds them making their own mini-golf course, with one team making theirs a fairytale castle complete with some distinctly Disney touches.
That being said, Shop Class has a more niche audience than other competition shows like American Ninja Warrior, Project Runway, Top Chef, or Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Okay, so some of those are pretty niche as well, but the thing they all have is big personalities across the board. From the hosts to the judges to the contestants, they’re able to convince you that the stakes are high and if all else fails, there’s drama between contestants to fall back on.
Shop Class is wholesome, with each team consisting of two middle grade kids and their shop teacher. Demonstrating good sportsmanship, there’s no conflict between teams and the most exciting thing about the series is that they’re usually scrambling to put the finishing touches on their projects. It’s refreshing to see a competition series be a good role model for how kids (and adults) should behave in a competitive situation.
If you like watching talented kids build cool stuff, then Shop Class is for you. If you need more excitement and conflict to get into a competition series, this is likely too vanilla for your tastes. But it ultimately achieves what it sets out to do, creating an entertaining series inspired by an elective course that is perfect for the whole family to watch together.
I give Shop Class 3.5 out of 5 torx screws.
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.