Continuing in the same deeply meaningful, all-reaching vein as Pixar's Inside Out, Zootropolis proves to be one of Disney's finest features to date.
Upon first glance, Zootopia (or as we English people are being forced to call it, Zootropolis) may well seem like just another animal-centric Disney fest – vaguely reminiscent of such classics as The Jungle Book and Robin Hood. What is surprisingly wonderful about the film however, is just how freshly original and thought-provoking it actually is.
The film follows Officer Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a female bunny who, despite the limited expectations thrust upon her by everyone she knows, works hard to achieve her life-long dream of becoming the first bunny in the Zootropolis Police Department. Eager to prove herself to her larger, stronger colleagues on the force, Hopps rejects her station as a “meter maid” (traffic warden) and attempts to pursue a bigger case, in which various unknowing predators have mysteriously gone missing. Reluctantly joining her in the investigation is wily fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), who through his dodgy ‘pawpsicle’ dealings, proves to be a useful initial lead in finding the missing animals.
On one level, this is a relatively simple film with an easily accessible plot, in which two unlikely allies are forced to work together in order to discover ‘the truth’. And on that level alone, younger children will certainly enjoy the adventure that these two perfectly combined characters embark upon. However, for older audiences, Zootropolis offers room for a far deeper and more thought-provoking analysis of the goings on in this Zootopian society, and how certain concerns translate into the current realities of our own world.
Throughout the film, a number of serious sociological issues – ranging from racism to sexism and even, to a certain extent, drug use – are seamlessly fed into the plot to convey a wider message. In the same way that the animals of Zootropolis are silently, but definitively split into Predator/Prey, our own world consistently wages wars based on division and difference. In this film, the ‘moral’ of the story if you will, is to stop allowing prejudices to define people and to shed ourselves of the ignorance that comes with negative stereotypes. On this level, whether younger audiences immediately see the parallels or not, the film has to be commended. In the same way that Inside Out so perfectly appealed to our emotions, Zootropolis has a number of wonderfully clever machinations that speak directly to the mind.
Despite these arguably serious and subversive themes, Zootropolis also manages to strike a good balance between light and dark; mixing its ethical commentary with a relatively breezy sense of humour. And, as is the norm for all good Disney movies, the film and its diverse animal world is also bursting with colour – exhibiting the same professional animation quality that the studio is so lovingly renowned for. The vocal talents in this film have been similarly (and rightly) applauded for their efforts too; the vocal chemistry between Ginnifer Goodwin’s tough, yet vulnerable Hopps and Jason Bateman’s sly, but quietly misunderstood Wilde, is wonderful and really works in establishing the heart of the movie. The likes of Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons and Jenny Slate also make memorable appearances.
Ultimately, Zootropolis is one of those rarely excellent animations that transcends the age-old status of being ‘just a kids’ movie’; going to show that animation still has the raw, unparalleled power to appeal to all ages.
Zootropolis (2016), directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore, is distributed in the UK by Walt Disney Studios, Certificate PG.