This past weekend I got the chance to see Disney’s latest animated film, Zootopia. I will say that going into it I did not have high expectations – it looked cute, sure, but somewhat of a basic plot that seemed more appealing to kids than adults. I have to admit that I was totally wrong about it. Maybe the trailers are misleading, I don’t know, but it wasn’t what I expected and I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.
The basic story is this: Zootopia takes place in a world where all animals have evolved enough to be treated equally – they don’t try to eat each other, everyone (supposedly) gets along regardless of species. The tagline for Zootopia is “anyone can be anything!” And Judy Hops takes that to heart when she decides to be the first bunny cop. She is surprised along the way to find that not everyone fully believes the slogan and many are doubtful of her ability to be a cop. In order to prove herself she is given the job of finding a missing mammal in 48 hours and ends up teaming up with con artist fox Nick Wilde in order to do so. Sounds pretty basic, right? Typical overcoming the odds to prove yourself story. Luckily, that’s not all that Zootopia turns out to be.
Woven into the entire plot line is a very important message/commentary, and that’s what is truly at the heart of Zootopia. Even in a world where we think prejudice has died, all it takes is one little thing to show that’s not the case at all. And the prejudice goes both ways, too – predators think less of “prey” like Judy because she is small and doesn’t seem as powerful. But even Judy can be at fault in her thinking, lumping together predators into a group and judging them as a group. I heard that the writers chose to portray this message with animals because it doesn’t focus on just one type of racism or prejudice. Judy isn’t discriminated against because of the color of her skin or because she’s a female, but because she’s a bunny. And there are stereotypes about bunnies. There are stereotypes about foxes too. And elephants, and lions, etc. In a way, choosing to use animals makes the message more applicable in many senses. It’s not just about racism, it’s about the effects of racism, sexism, bullying, and anything else where we judge people without truly knowing them.
If you ask me that’s a powerful message, and such an important one to share in our world today. Zootopia’s strongest point is that the message isn’t overly preachy, either. There’s not a “holier-than-thou” character who is trying to show people the right way to do things. Everyone has faults. It ties into the plot and it’s just really well done. That plot itself, by the way (in particular the case/mystery that they are trying to solve) is fine. It’s nothing super special or surprising, though there are some good scenes along the way. The action itself seemed highly predictable (my husband and I were whispering too each other about what was going to happen before it happened), but that’s okay because the rest of the movie is so strong. It’s not necessarily about the overarching “mystery” plot so much as it is about the smaller scenes that make up the plot and the message it sends.
And that’s not to say that all of Zootopia is serious, either. In fact, a lot of it is funny. And not just funny, but clever too. In fact, Disney even takes time to poke fun at itself! There are two Frozen references within the film, and there is a weasel selling bootleg DVDs of films like “Wreck-It Rhino” and “Wrangled.” I need to watch it again just to catch all of the little references!
The two main characters, Judy and Nick, are really likable too. I appreciate the fact that they both have a lot of good in them, but they both have flaws as well. And they balance each other out perfectly. Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman did a fantastic job voicing the characters – I can’t imagine two people that might have been better, honestly.
All in all, I enjoyed Zootopia a lot. I thought it was a smart movie with a really important message that was woven into the plot naturally, and not to hit you over the head. I will definitely look forward to seeing it again and I’m glad that Disney tackled something like this.
Have you seen Zootopia? What are your thoughts on it?