When I first heard of Zootopia, I was excited. I like anthropomorphic animal films because I grew up with a lot of them, mostly Disney, growing up. Plus, the story looked interesting: a tiny female rabbit being a cop in a big city in a job filled with male animals three times her size while having to solve a murder with the help of a fox. It looked like it was going to be one of Disney’s most progressive films yet.
Though as the film got closer I got less interested. Not because of the film itself, it still looked interesting, but because it was coming out between Deadpool and Captain America: Civil War. Two Marvel movies I was really excited about and honestly, I just wanted it to be May already so I could watch Civil War, the film I was REALLY excited about since I’d already seen and loved Deadpool. But I already had my ticket, so I went.
In this world, predators and prey live together in peace. The crowning jewel of this achievement is Zootopia, basically the New York City of their world with different environment neighbourhoods like the boroughs in NYC. Judy Hopps, play by Ginnifer Goodwin, grows up in a farming community with many brothers and sisters, dreaming of being a cop in Zootopia. Despite her family’s fears for her safety and her so-called inherent disadvantages as a small bunny, she becomes the first rabbit officer and is assigned to Zootopia. However, much to her dismay, she’s made a meter maid and is seen as a publicity job for the mayor and “not a real cop”. This changes when Judy insists on taking on the missing animal case of a mongoose, one of many missing cases of predators around the city but overlooked in favour of the larger animals. Judy and her boss make a deal, she has 2 days to solve the case or she leaves the force for good. She teams up with a con fox named Nick, played by Jason Bateman, and finds out that the predators are turning “savage”. Judy sees it as predictors devolving back to their biological instincts, but is it?
All right, so it’s kinda obvious that the film is about prejudice and the harm of stereotypes, particularly against race though also women to an extent about, a problem that sadly is still very present in our society. In white human society, whites are seen as ‘prey’ while everyone else are seen pretty much as ‘predators’. Same with women and men. These are the stereotypes. The film notably has pretty much all male predators, with some exceptions, while most of the prey seen are women. These stereotypes are harmful as they mean that all behaviour and personality is biological when in reality it’s based on how someone grew up and their life experiences. Prejudices and hatred of others are things that are learnt rather than something present at birth. Judy’s fear of foxes, for example, comes from her family’s fear and childhood experiences with a bully who was a fox, not anything inherent.
The mystery is actually pretty good too. At one point you think the movie’s over and the mystery’s solved, but then you realise there’s still half a movie left. The real mastermind is still out there. I figured out who it was as soon as I saw the henchmen, but I won’t give it away. It’s clever how they get out of the bad guy’s last trap and trick them too. The story’s just clever. This is a message that’s been done before, but I like how they did it here. It’s not like the Pocahontas or Avatar story that’s been done to death. It might be the first time Disney’s addressed this moral in a modern setting.
The characters are interesting. Judy and Nick are likeable and sympathetic in their backstories and motives. The two have a good relationship that thankfully doesn’t end with them in a romance, for obvious species reasons…I mean that as animals not as race…Immature shut up about this now. The other characters are memorable, though a few stand out more. There’s one character who’s a homage to The Godfather, there’s an entire joke about the DMV being filled with sloths, there’s even a gazelle voiced by Shakira who’s a famous pop star and sings the end credit song.
Do I need to talk about the animation at this point? It’s Disney. Good animation is expected. Likewise, the voice acting is great. Goodwin’s voice is plucky and energetic, but not annoyingly so. Bateman’s sounds just enough like you can trust him to make Nick’s ability to con people believable and a bit shocking when it’s revealed, but also lets you sympathises with him. The sloths say words one at a time and slowly, but not slow enough to make it a pain to sit through. It’s just enough to be funny. And oh look, Idris Elba’s in this movie too!
Zootopia’s been described as “The best Disney film since the Lion King.” Then again, people said the same of Frozen. I do think it’s a good movie and worth your time. It’s definitely one of Disney’s most progressive movies, just like I had hoped. I’m glad I saw it.
(Photo via Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)