Zootopia Could Begin a New Disney Renaissance
Disney animated features. They've been around for nearly one hundred years. Many of them classics, some of them garbage. We haven't had much luck this past decade with the animated features out of one of the largest production companies in the world. Sure, we've had some good shots: Tangled, Frozen, The Princess and the Frog to mention a few, but when it comes to the best, I don't know if I'd throw these titles in there with them. That is, until now.
Zootopia, the latest animated feature out of Disney Studios is something very, very special and in more ways than one. There's much to be said about this wildly hilarious and esoteric film that hopefully I'll be able to hit in this review. Let us start with the basics. Zootopia is a film that was slated for release a couple years ago until the entire production team realized that the movie didn't hit the expectations the team had set for themselves. What would a normal production company do in this case? They'd say "screw it" Stamp a big SHIP on the canister and let it flop in theaters. However, that's not what this group of animators did. They saw that there was great potential in this film and wanted to truly take the time to release that potential. Zootopia is a film that was written and rewritten and rewritten until everyone on board felt it was the best it possibly could be and you know what? They did it.
They saw that there was great potential in this film and wanted to truly take the time to release that potential.
The story follows Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a little bunny from the small town of Bunnyburrow who has big dreams of becoming the first bunny cop in the history of the force. Cute right? She's bullied for her dreams and even spoken down to, in a comical way, by her parents. She then proves everyone wrong and becomes just what she's always dreamed of. She travels to the city of Zootopia, where she believes her life will change for the better. It's not until she gets to the city that she realizes it isn't all the happiness and sunshine that it's been made out to be her whole life. There's a strange disconnect between predators and prey throughout the universe in an incredibly well written comparison to modern day racism. The characters are heartfelt, they are jaded, and in same ways more real than live action characters in some movies we see these days.
The voice acting from the entire cast is on point. No one phoned in their dialogue, no one fell flat. Their voices represented their animal counterparts perfectly and everything just hit sharp in a way that made this feel like more than just an animated film. Directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore had their work cut out for them with this film and they fulfilled their duties and then some.
Officer Hopps soon comes across a sly Fox, literally, by the name of Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) a con artist in the fair city. After her precinct is brought up to speed on 14 missing predator cases, Judy takes it upon herself to find one of the missing persons, to her chief's dismay. The two make a deal that if Judy can't find the missing person (or Otter) in 48 hours, she'll turn in her badge and quit the force for good. At this juncture you may be thinking that there's nothing unique about this story, it's a children's film taken from the book of movie tropes. Just you wait.
Judy enlists [blackmails] Nick Wilde, after discovering he's one of the last people to see Mr. Otterton (the missing Otter) in person to help with her investigation. The two of them soon discover that there's far more to this case than meets the eye. Otterton had turned savage as they call it, and was taken away by an unknown assailant after being in cahoots with Mr. Big, an Arctic Shrew that is beautifully based off The Godfather's Don Corleone. In these scenarios Zootopia does something that hits home for both children and adults. It takes these adult references, puts them in the eyes of children, all while maintaining a balance of graceful homage and laugh out loud humor.
After more of the chase and investigation, Judy discovers that all the missing predators are being held captive as they revert to their savage ways by the Mayor of Zootopia. This leads Judy to believe that the savage nature is something engrained in the predator's DNA. This is one of the things that's brilliant about Zootopia. Officer Hopps makes the assumption that predators are inherently savage or violent. It's this not so subtle nod to prejudice that really sets Zootopia aside from other animated features. Sure, there are plenty of animated features that tip their hat to real issues going on in the world, but that's all they do. Zootopia is about those issues. Whether it be police brutality, prejudice, racism, issues with equality or whatnot, Zootopia does not shy away. They know the adults will follow and understand them, but more importantly they realize that these issues are far more important for the children to understand.
It's this not so subtle nod to prejudice that really sets Zootopia aside from other animated features
Judy later discovers that the predators are being framed by the Assistant Mayor, now Mayor of Zootopia, a sheep who hates predators more than anything. Her and Nick, together, help take down the Mayor and save Zootopia.
On the outside, yes Zootopia may seem like a simple film about animals living together in a big city, or even a simple cop comedy for that matter, but it is so much more than just an animated children's film. Under the layers of humor, which you will seriously be laughing the entire time at, is a deep passion to help raise awareness of serious issues going on in the world. It handles those issues gracefully, artistically, and most importantly, it handles them correctly for both adults and children. This movie is not just for one or the other. I urge all adults to go see this movie because you will be laughing the entire time while cringing at the realism portrayed in the prejudice of the characters. I urge you to take your children to see Zootopia. Let the production team do what they so want to do, teach children from an early age that racism and prejudice are bad in a way that is a fun, learning experience for everyone involved. Zootopia is truly the beginning of a new Disney era and it's the perfect film to prompt what could be a new wave of animated features.