“Zootopia” is one of, if not the greatest animated Disney movie released in recent years. The film combines the perfect balance of childish fantasy with adult themes and commentary.
I sat down in my padded theater seat and collected my bearings as I anxiously awaited the arrival of a film I had not heard very much about. It’s no secret, my presence in this theater’s audience brought the average age of viewers up a couple years. Families, small get-togethers and packs of squirmy/energetic children could be heard giggling while they waited impatiently for the flick. However, even from the beginning, the kids were captivated by the film.
As for the premise of the movie, well, it’s quite simple. A new cop, Judy Hopps, fresh out of her training at the police academy, is assigned to go fight crime in the booming metropolis of a nearby city. She starts off under the radar by working as a measly meter maid. However, she eventually rubs elbows with a sly con artist, Nick Wilde, who helps her solve a large-scale and potentially catastrophic case. Oh, and there’s one more detail you should know. All the characters in this movie are animals!
“Zootopia” is a classic example of how imagination and creativity are the building blocks for success at Disney. Its creators tapped their imagination to a point of intrigue and wonder. “Zootopia” is a world of characters that behave in human-like ways, but still have the fun appeal of animals.
Tigers cross the street, walking upon two legs. Rabbits garden and farm instead of stealing/eating produce like they are so well known. Sloths function within and maintain the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (side note: Disney crushed the casting for these stereotyped workers at the BMV. I, like the rest of the crowd, was clutching my side from how much I was laughing).
As a whole, Disney impresses me with how entertaining they make their movies. At first glance, many people often associate Disney films as strictly “kids movies”. Statements such as this are completely appalling to me. Disney repeatedly creates movies that have the adults laughing harder than the kids. “Zootopia” is no exception to this belief.
For example, “Zootopia” makes sure that it reverses the stereotypical look of animated animals. By this I mean that all animals in the movie wear clothes. Well, almost all of the animals. There is an incredibly hilarious scene that features the two main characters visiting a “nudist colony” (important disclaimer: This scene does not emphasize this in an inappropriate way and is most definitely suitable for children to watch. It simply draws a humorous parallel to the fact that most other animated animals in movies are typically without clothing).
Another of my personal favorite moments happened when the police chief acknowledged the literal elephant in the room in dramatic fashion. This film was outstanding at keeping an adult’s attention.
For being a goofy, animated movie, “Zootopia” also presented the audience with some real themes. For example, the film has an inspirational theme of perseverance. When Hopps first starts out, her peers ridicule her for wanting to become a police officer. She even has a tragic early memory of being beaten up and mocked by a bully that serves as a constant haunt to her daily ambitions.
“Zootopia” also presents its audience with a reflective theme. The movie asks the questions, “What are my dreams?” and “Will I chase them?” Hopps is frequently confronted with the possibility of returning to her family’s vocational roots, farming. She argues back with the idea that being a cop is what she was made to do. She easily could have turned away. In fact, she even comes close to having this become her reality. Yet she embodies the persona of hope and fulfilled dreams in order to accept the trials and pursue what she has always wanted.
Despite all the talk fulfilling dreams and being anything you wish to be, the movie also speaks to a different theme. “Zootopia” confronts its viewers with the idea of judging and stereotyping others. In “Zootopia”, like in real life, rabbits aren’t thought of being tough creatures. Because of this, Hopps is labeled as a terrible candidate for cop. Wilde is a fox and, like we do in real life, “Zootopia” instills creatures with the belief that foxes are nothing but troublesome beasts.
These characters could embrace the judgment and angst that is brought forth against them. They could have easily owned it and their respective stereotypes. But these two characters fight tooth and nail against the norm and what’s expected of them. Hopps becomes a cop (the first bunny-cop) while Wilde proves to everyone that he’s capable of being more than just a sly con artist.
Another pivotal piece to the success of this movie lies in the strong vocal talents. Actress Ginnifer Goodwin, when voicing Hopps, brings to life the spontaneity and enthusiasm which is key to striking emotional ties with a viewing audience. Jason Bateman, who voices Wilde, “returns home” to his comedic nature by making the sarcastically hilarious fox his own personality.
From the outrageous acts of humor to the dramatic moments of sweet characterization, Disney’s “Zootopia” is an outstanding trip onto the wild side.