Disney’s been on the rise the past few years, what with Tangled, Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph, and all the live-action remakes they’ve been pumping out, and Zootopia proves they’re moving full steam ahead. Tarzan, Beauty and the Beast, and Frozen 2 are all in the works or set to release soon. As a kid who grew up with The Lion King and Aladdin, it’s good to see Disney come back into their own.
Zootopia was a pleasant surprise. When I first saw the poster for an animated kids movie with talking animals living in a bustling metropolis, I thought it looked silly, maybe a little fun, with a bunch of laughs for the kids. I was not prepared for the story that unfolded before me.
***Some Spoilers Ahead***
Zootopia combines the tale of the small-town girl in the big city with a police/political thriller, all wrapped up with anthropomorphic animals and the animal puns that go with it. Predators and prey have learned to live in harmony, the crowning achievement from this peace being the city of Zootopia, an incredibly diverse haven that can accommodate most any mammal on the planet (yep, it’s just mammals in this movie. Makes things way easier.).
Judy Hopps (a bunny, duh) is the first bunny police officer in Zootopia history, and she certainly doesn’t have it easy. Bunnies are ‘cute and dumb’, according to every single character in the film, including her own family. With every step she takes, Judy has to be more resourceful and clever than the bigger, stronger animals out there to even get by. All of this culminates in an ultimatum from her boss , who doesn’t want her on the force because – you guessed it – she’s a bunny.
Judy isn’t the only one who faces discrimination. She works alongside con-artist Nick Wilde, a snarky, bitter fox. And guess what? Predators get a bad rap for being predators, and foxes also get a bad rap for being untrustworthy. They end up working together to solve a slew of disappearances in Zootopia, or both of them are in serious trouble.
Part of the reason this movie works so well is because Judy and Nick are fantastic together. I’m not talking romantically, even though that’s what literally every fan wants. They naturally fall into a genuine friendship based on shared experiences and exceptional circumstances. You can’t help but be a little heartbroken when they fight in the middle of the movie or smile when they reconcile their differences. It’s also a huge testament to the abilities of Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman, who absolutely nailed the voices of Judy and Nick, respectively
The big theme in this movie is overcoming adversity in all walks of life. This certainly isn’t the first movie to attempt to convey strength and perseverance over all obstacles. However, very few movies out there manage to tackle racism, sexism, police discrimination, profiling, bullying, affirmative action, fear-mongering, and political scandal all in one coherent story, especially not kids stories. Admittedly, the plot is a by-the-numbers crime thriller, which helps enormously in presenting these issues to the target audience: kids.
There’s also something to be said about the timeliness of this movie. I don’t know if writers have access to a fortune teller who will predict what issues will be most pressing on people’s minds the year the movie comes out, but somehow Disney nailed it. With all the violence and bigotry in the world today, Zootopia manages to talk about so many problems in today’s society with surprising clarity and a fantastic message of hope and love. Don’t be fooled by the well-animated, lovable animals on the screen, especially the sloths. Zootopia is one of those movies that, despite the premise, leaves people thinking about the real world more than they’d expect. It’s classic ‘90s Disney with fantastic 3-D animation, and hopefully it doesn’t become as irritating as Frozen did.
If you’ve seen Zootopia, let me know what your thoughts are.
I’m always looking for new stories, no matter the medium. If you know of any great books, movies, or video games that you absolutely love, let me know in the comments and, if I hadn’t read it, I’ll add it to the list!