Released: March 2016 | Type: Animation |Rating: PG| Produced by: Walt Disney Animation Studios | Major themes: racism, prejudice, following dreams | My Score – Storytelling: GOLD & Production: DIAMOND (Bronze – Diamond)
One thing about a good investigation, it often uncovers more than meets the eye. And one good thing about Zootopia, it proves its worth as a solid and deep film without much investigation. Zootopia is an animated story of a world, and city, where the animal population walks (upright) and talks, who make a life there, and even have a need of a police force. It’s this world into which a young rabbit called Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) boldly bounds, with her desire to “make the world a better place” as a police officer.
We see Judy rise to challenge after challenge in her determination to join and impact the Zootopian Police Department (ZPD). Along with her precocious attitude (and a parting gift from her parents of anti-fox spray), 24 year-old Judy leaves her rural farming town and faces her new role in the police city-side. She finds a rather hostile welcome in more ways than one. Although touted as being a place where any animal “can be anything”, our heroine discovers there are no shortcuts in Zootopia to fulfilling her dreams. Judy finds there a very dismissive and restrictive police chief and too many tempting cases to chase down and get her into hot water. Officer Hopps soon meets one ‘foxy’ Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman) who skirts the law with his quick wit and convenient permits. Nick proves reluctantly helpful to Judy as they delve into a “missing mammal” case. The case sometimes baffles and other times spells disaster for the two unlikely pair.
After thousands of years of peace between animals, even between predators and prey, old fears and prejudices still simmer in the city. Tensions rise further as Judy’s and Nick’s investigations suggest a worrisome theory that could tear the city apart. Zootopia is a mixing-pot, but not one that produces “Utopia”, it turns out.
Why It’s Great
A film that appeals to a wide range of ages is hard to balance, and growing up I’ve been spoiled by great movies that do this well. Zootopia is a film that really stands out to me as a well crafted story that manages to touch on the serious issues of racism, segregation, and prejudice while remaining an enjoyable romp for the kids. It’s commendable that Disney, an American company, brought up issues like these. Racism remains an issue in America, and it must require a lot of wisdom and thought to highlight it in a fair way. Thankfully, Zootopia is a show-case of a careful approach to bringing up prejudice and racism to a young audience. I did feel, though, it simplified the issue a bit too much, with the ideas of an old “predators verses prey” prejudice, and the harbouring of fear of the past, as examples. Maybe not all things translate perfectly into an animal-run world.
Zootopia looked and sounded absolutely terrific on our home sound system and my laptop, so I can imagine it excelled on the cinema screen. The way the film imagines a world of animals, with many, many nods to our world, is very believable and beautiful. I think the reason it strikes such a chord with me is because it feels real and its characters feel like people, with believable tales (and tails) and emotions. You can really side with Judy and her frustration at her treatment by the chief, and with Nick and his resignation at always being thought of as untrustworthy.
The message of Judy’s narrative, of being anything you want to be, regardless of opposition and obstacles, seems decent in the right context. Parents who want to use themes in this movie to encourage good thinking and learning in their children, need to mine this idea well. There are ways this can be used to permit any decision by anyone, simply because they are following their dream. I’ll mention one example in the film in the next section.
Why It’s Not So Great
The film is fairly mature in its themes and language for a kid’s film sometimes, and so, as with most films, it shouldn’t be used as a distraction for the kids to watch, while the adults chat in another room. There is a scene where Judy and Nick make inquiries at a club where the animals are free to be au naturel, baring all fur. There is no exposure, but it’s played as sexy and forbidden. The city’s’ claim of “anyone can be anything” is quoted here. There are a lot of exclamations thrown around that are harmless and animal related, but of import, God’s name is misused several times.
Zootopia feels a bit too full of characters and too long, especially for a younger audience.
I’ll admit it must be hard to fit in stacks of comedy for the adults and kids, a complete narrative with a conclusive ending, and a thoughtful and lasting theme that resonates into a feature film. At 1 hour and 50 minutes, including the credits, the film works hard to deliver on so many fronts, but it may overwork the viewer a bit. I guess sometimes proper police investigations last longer than you might want!
Zooopia is a highly positive film about chasing your dreams in the telling of the tale of Judy, the unlikely rabbit cop. It’s also a simple commentary on racism and prejudice that doesn’t overwhelm the fun. And boy, is it funny! At least every five minutes that passed I was chuckling with my siblings over something in the film. It’s all so evenly balanced.
Disney knows how to make quality family films that remain classics. Zootopia stands out as a classic, even in the four months since it’s release. It gives me hope for the future of film as a medium for highlighting real-life problems that need addressing by our society.
Zootopia encouraged me as a Christian in several ways. It reminded me not to assume
someone’s nature before I meet them and get to know them. Everyone is complicated and has a story, and it’s worth listening a while before judging. As always, the principles of being the first to love, being quick to listen and slow to speak and get angry* ring true.
Because of the nature of the deeper content, along with a suggestive and a few quite scary scenes, I would recommend the minimum age of viewing to be around 6-7 years.
And that’s all folks. God be with you all. Thanks for reading!
*“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” – James 1:19-20 (Bible Gateway, ESV)
All pictures were sourced at theDisneyBlog.com
Info about the movie was partly sourced from the Zootopia article on Wikipedia.