In talking about movies with a good friend of mine, I get to exercise my movie trivia pretty regularly. This means that I can tell him why I prefer Mulan over Frozen AKA why it’s an under-appreciated film, and we can both walk away with our opinions intact, because of mutual respect and celebrations of diversity. But sometimes there are perfectly loved movies out there that can do just as good of a job showcasing tolerance, empowerment, and everyday humour.
Conveniently enough, today’s movie review does exactly that.
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, J.K. Simmons
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
released on blu-ray June 7, 2016
Rotten Tomatoes: 98%, Audience Score 94%
The Guardian: ****/*****
Zootopia was directed by Americans Byron P. Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush. Howard is known co-directing Bolt and Tangled, whil Moore is known for his work on TV shows like The Simpsons, The Critic, and Futurama, as well as directing Wreck-It Ralph. Bush is less known but he did co-create the Disney animated series Penn Zero and write the script for Zootopia.
I’m not entirely sure why Disney needed 2 directors and a co-director to round out the leadership on this project, but I suspect it had a lot to do with all of the animation updates they made for the animals, Frankensteined from the movies Bolt, Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph, and Frozen. Regardless, this is now easily in my top 10 Disney movies of all-time, maybe even top 5.
But you’re probably wondering what Zootopia is about aren’t you? Well, if you haven’t seen it yet, then it’s definitely time to buckle up.
Zootopia is a buddy-cop movie, that often feels like a romantic comedy similar to North by Northwest or Roman Holiday – A classic story with anthropomorphic animals and current technology.
Early on we are introduced to the story of Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a young bunny who wants to become the first ever bunny police officer, though she is from rural Bunnyburrow and met with conflicting advice from her parents. They tell her to have dreams, but not to believe in them too much. And to settle because settling isn’t so bad. We also learn that the world has evolved so that predators and prey all get along and don’t eat each other.
But that doesn’t stop Judy’s parents from warning her about foxes before she heads off to the big city of Zootopia. And thus we get into the meat of the story. We quickly learn that Zootopia isn’t a utopia at all, there is a missing predators case which the police force are struggling to solve and then the police chief (Idris Elba) reminds Hopps that she isn’t in an animated fantasy with musicals. So he makes her a meter maid.
Of course Hopps sets out to prove him wrong, and in the process uncovers fox con artist Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) and his schemes to earn quick money. The stakes continue to escalate and eventually Hopps puts her new career on the line, just to solve the missing predators case and prove herself, tricking Wilde into helping her out.
The humour and topical ideas are what make the movie stand out, and while the animation is top notch, I found myself consistently watching to see what would happen with our two leads. That Disney was able to construct such an excellent story about conflict and the subtleties of prejudice that exist currently, is nothing short of amazing. I can’t say enough good about this story and it’s characterizations.
Pros: Between the message of tolerance and acceptance, to the hero’s journey which seats a minority at the front, to the excellent animation, to the topical humour, Zootopia is brilliant and empowering to all.
Cons: If you think about it too much, the use of animal behaviour to describe classes, ethnicities and culture is a difficult pill to swallow – And ironically creates generalizations itself. Also the Shakira song is kinda weak. You’ll hear what I hear after repeated listens.
Runtime: 1 hour 48 minutes.
Points of Interest: Originally the story was set up for Nick Wilde as the protagonist, but test audience didn’t connect with him easily and were more interested in Judy Hopps, so the script was changed. Also, the film consists of only mammals. There are no reptiles, amphibians, birds or fish to be found.
I might be biased, much like Bryon Howard, because my all-time favourite Disney movie is the 1970’s Robin Hood. Which if you haven’t seen it, is a travesty. That movie is also centred around animals as well, but then again with a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes and glowing reviews everywhere, it’s difficult not to believe that a tale of animals isn’t just good fun.
I’ll make this final point, if you’re worried about this movie being too preachy, it never feels like that message is being driven incredibly hard, the humour is often on point and capable of referencing AMC’s Breaking Bad is not something to shake an elephant pop stick at, otherwise you might end up with red wood. But that’s just a theory.