[One Piece Film Retrospective] #3: Chopper Kingdom on the Land Of Strange Animals (2002)

When i set out to rewatch all One Piece movies for the newly written retrospective, there were some i wasn’t exactly…. looking forward to revisit. The third theathrical film, Chopper Kingdom on the Land Of Strange Animals, kinda falls in the “yeah whatever” category, as i don’t hate it or anything, but in hindsight it’s plenty less interesting to discuss or see than it was the first time around.

Like the two previous movies, it was a mid lenght film shown in a double bill with another mid lenght Digimon film, this time Digimon Tamers: Runaway Locomon, and came with a featurette as well, the “european football” themed “Dream Soccer King” (already reviewed last year).

The more i think about this movie, the more i feel the main motif for making it was the Toei staff wanting to draw and animate lots of weird animal hybrids, and that they came up with the actual story later, as the premise feels like a mash up of ideas from other animated movies with talking animals or something, a bit Lion King a bit Jungle Book mostly, with this island kingdom inhabited by animals that has been waiting for a new king to fall from the heavens, according to a prophecy.

The Straw Hats accidentally get on the crown shaped island due to some underwater volcanoes erupting, and Chopper is separated from the others, falling into the assembly of animals that did await their new king to be delivered unto them, as the previous one died not too long ago.

I don’t mean any of what i previously said about the plot not being the priority here as a negative, because it’s pretty obvious they wanted to do something fun, with a lot of weird things bobbing about, running, flying, or just being fun to look as still crowds, also making for a fun game of spotting– more or less – hidden Pandamen.

I’m glad there’s this weird animal kingdom at the forefront and stuff like the villain using bull-like animals that eat horns to find the treasure he’s after, because the idea of having Chopper “forced” to be king for the good of these animals… doesn’t have much backstory for both the villain and Momambi it’s the same old shit (the abandoned boy and the villain knowing his father stuff, that one), and the villain itself it’s another goofball that it’s actually a vile bastard but it’s mostly played for laughs, made more obvious by its two main lackeys, one called “General Hotdog”, for fuck’s sake.

Yeah, they most likely figure out the conflict at the heart of the story wasn’t really good, original or worth caring too much about, and so deliberately doubled down on the comedy and the weird designs, like the main villain, called Baron Butler, is basically a 90s punk version of Falco from his “Rock Me Amadeus” video who mostly uses a violin to control the weird bulls in order to gather and EAT horns. Mostly raw, too.

As to why, he’s a treasure hunter searching for some legendary animal horns that are supposed to grant an insane power to those who consume them, the King’ Horns, which work as the new non-canonical Devil Fruit stand-in power, in this case transforming Butler into a….. “Super Saiyan Horned Bear” thing. Why not? At least it’s something a bit different, and in the same spirit of changing things around a bit, they deliberately switched the rivals for Zoro and Sanji to clash for akin personalities and not the fighting styles.

I do find Mobambi, this movie’s little lost/escaped kid, pretty damn annoying though, i won’t lie, even for the standards of these One Piece movies or specials it’s one of the more annoying and often grating, at least the kid from the Clockwork Island Adventure had some guts to back up his lamenting, Mobambi it’s mostly whiny and kinda makes you wanna slap him, even when he actually does some brave that almost kills him. Still, not the most charming kid character of this kind.

I think this also marks the first one where they approached these short films with some proper cinematic flair, as this is the first one to properly feel budgeted and drawn to take advantage of the big screen, as in the spectactle of weird animals rampaging, etc., but it’s clear this one leans heavily on the comedy, there is some action but the fights are very sparse and quickly over, while also making you feel the script it’s deliberately prolonging stuff just by having Chopper not fight until the very end…. as if he completely forgot he has the Rumble Balls and its various offensive or defensive forms (and it establishes clearly that this movie takes place somewhere after the Drum Island Arc, as Chopper remembers Hilluk) until there’s only 10 minutes left to the movie.

Not one of my favourites, but Chopper’s Kingdom On the Land Of Strange Animals it’s still something a bit different than before, delivering on its desire to have a little One Piece adventure about talking animals. And one that does get bonus points for having a goofy villain that looks like a british punk rocker and Mozart violently clashed into each other’s wardrobe. Cute.

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