It is hard to imagine that a crime thriller about prejudice, corruption, and the viral spreading of misconceptions, is above all else a family-friendly animated adventure comedy. Zootopia brings a beautifully exotic world to life in a way that we are accustomed to expect from Pixar, not Disney. For the adults, the film is an overt allegory for intolerance and how fear can be used as a weapon, and for kids it is a story about perseverance and never letting others hold you back from achieving your dreams.
The writers clearly had fun using the animals’ characteristics to build backstory. The use of different animals as the characters allowed the writers clever ways to play around with stereotypes. Many of the characters’ role in Zootopia are clearly determined by their physical attributes and tendencies. For example, the sly fox, the deceitful weasel, the large and powerful polar bear. Other characters are a walking contradiction that provide intrinsic comedy. For example, the arctic shrew crime boss, Mr. Big.
Zootopia follows a young female rabbit, Judy (Ginnifer Goodwin), as she transitions from the rural outskirts to the the big city, Zootopia. Her dreams to become the first rabbit police officer come true after finishing police academy at the top of her class. After arriving in Zootopia, Judy begins to learn that the big city is not what she expected.
Her desire to be an integral part of the force leads her to have 48 hours to prove her worth or she will be terminated. Judy teams up with the sly fox, Nick (Jason Bateman), to solve a mystery. The ensuing crime plot unfolds with Judy and Nick teaching each other the important lesson of not “judging a book by its cover”.
The movie shows how intolerance and fear can erode society if it goes unchecked. The corruption of power and the use of drugs to spread misconceptions and hate seem like they would not blend well with a family picture. However, this is something that animated films have been doing for years. I am glad that animated film making is keeping up with the political climate and exposing kids, even with undertones, to the scarier aspects of society. The film is a step in the right direction for Disney and I hope this is not an anomaly.
Directed by: Byron Howard , Rich Moore, Jared Bush
Cinematography: Matthias Lechner
Screenplay by: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston
Score by: Michael Giacchino
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate
Runtime: 1h 48m
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Distributed by: Walt Disney Animation Studios