Zootopia is a movie that has stuck with me all year because it’s one of those animated movies I feel is important for children to watch. Even with all of the good animated movies released in 2016, Zootopia found a way to stick out because of how mature it is. I hope this a trend that continues because 2015 gave us Inside Out, which presented emotions to the audience in a way we had never seen before. These are the types of movies I feel need to be made.
Zootopia follows the story of Judy Hopps, a bunny who moves to Zootopia to become a police officer. While she’s there she meets up with Nick Wilde, a sly Fox who hustles people for a living. Most of this movie falls on the shoulders of the interactions between these two characters, and yes their dialogue is excellent. The way they bounce off of each other with their banter is one of the true highlights of the movie. Judy is trying to do good, while Nick is telling her why she’s stupid for believing the things she does. The dialogue is fluid, creative, and hilarious.
The voice cast for this movie is great as well. Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman as Judy and Nick both do excellent jobs. Jason Bateman is especially good with his delivery, which works as the key to a lot of the comedy. We also get solid supporting performances from other actors like Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, and Alan Tudyk. Overall it’s cast that does a great job without needing bigger actors to play leading roles.
Zootopia’s best aspect is definitely its world building. As you explore Zootopia from Judy’s perspective, you begin to understand the dynamics of the world. You understand how certain animals are viewed and what certain social norms are within the city. This feeds into those mature themes I spoke of before. What Zootopia attempts to do is create an all animal world that closely mimics our world, then tackles discrimination in that world any chance it gets. Whether it be racism or sexism the movie does not shy away from trying to tear down those ideas. What makes it smart is how its applied. A specific animal is not used to mirror a specific ethnicity. Instead they do their best to make it clear that these animals are not meant to be a 1:1 allegory for race. The animal’s positions within the attempted social commentary switches frequently.
In the movie, animals are either considered predators or prey. The prey are the large majority in Zootopia, while the predators are the minority. It’s pretty easy to apply that in this scenario the prey are meant to be an allegory for white people, and the predators are black people (or a minority group in general). The movie flips these roles when you start to learn about the police of Zootopia. The large majority of police officers are actually predators. It’s pretty common knowledge that most police officers are white, so the idea of this being a 1:1 allegory was quickly put to rest.
There are other social issues that are addressed in the movie as well. One of my favorites was how they addressed stereotypes. In one clever scene they take the commonly used phrase “an elephant never forgets” and use it as a way turn that stereotype on its head by introducing the most forgetful elephant ever.
If I had to think of negatives for the movie, the only thing that comes to mind is how heavy handed the content can get. I love that Zootopia addresses these type of social issues, but at times the messages are beat over your head. In specific scenes it comes off as preachy. It doesn’t happen often, but at certain moments the movie lacks subtlety.
Overall, Zootopia is an excellent film. In a way it plays out like two different films playing at once. There’s this kids movie with talking animals that children will enjoy. Then there’s this mature film full of social commentary that teenagers and adults can understand and appreciate. It’s a movie that has messages that I feel will continue to be relevant for a very long time.
Zootopia gets a 91/100