As a special surprise, Disney+ just released a new short form series from Walt Disney Animation Studios called Zenimation. “Refresh your senses with a moment of mindfulness,” says the intro to each themed episode. In just under 5-minutes, viewers will experience memorable moments from the studio’s films like never before – with sound effects only.
In the early 2000’s, Pixar released the “Ultimate Toy Box” 3-disc DVD collection of Toy Story and Toy Story 2. Among the special features was a “Sound Effects Only” audio track, essentially giving you the chance to see the films with no dialogue or score. It allowed the sound effects department to shine and I remember thinking it was strange that more films didn’t offer this. Finding Zenimation on Disney+ revives the concept in clip show form.
With a total of ten themed episodes, fans of Disney animation are invited to sit back, relax, and enjoy the art of sound effects paired with some of the best animation in the world. I was given access to three episodes in advance of the hush-hush premiere themed to water, cities, and discovery.
“Water” is pretty self explanatory, with an almost ASMR-esque experience with clips from Moana, The Little Mermaid, The Lion King, Frozen 2, and Lilo & Stitch. The editing is pretty creative, with a rolling wave from one clip creating a seamless transition to another film. It also uses clips from the opening credits of The Little Mermaid without any text, giving audiences the full animated picture for the first time.
“Cityscapes” is the most vast of the subjects I experienced and packed in the most number of animated films. Beauty and the Beast, Hercules, Zootopia, Frozen, Big Hero 6, The Princess and the Frog, Treasure Planet, Wreck-It Ralph, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Mulan, Aladdin, Tangled, Meet the Robinsons, and Ralph Breaks the Internet are all featured in this short. As the title suggests, it’s a little more “hustle and bustle” than the rest of the series likely is.
The last short I saw was called “Discovery,” featuring inspiring moments from Big Hero 6, Tarzan, Frozen, Frozen 2, Tangled, Bolt, The Lion King, Aladdin, Moana, and The Little Mermaid. This was my favorite of the three, particularly the floating lantern sequence from Tangled. It’s amazing how magical it feels even without the Alan Menken music.
While not all of the Zenimation shorts are truly calming, they all foster a deeper appreciation for sound effects and Disney Animation. Watching them is like losing one of your senses and suddenly having your others heightened. I found myself better able to observe the intricate details of the animation while listening to the sound effects. If you want to make a game of it, try guessing what some of the sounds you’re hearing actually are.
I give Zenimation 4 out of 5 animated buena vistas.
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.