Zootopia has to be, for me, one of the best Disney films I have seen in quite some time. In part because it is so self aware– it pokes fun at other Disney films (and their often insufferable is not entirely true positive messages)and even takes a step beyond the fantasy world the movie created for itself. Zootopia, in fact, feels like it goes full circle. It starts off as a cutesy animal-run world where the little adorable Judy Hopps has a dream of being a cop and making the world a better place. She dreams of going to the city of Zootopia where their motto is “anyone can be anything” and she truly takes that motto to heart. And, of course, like any Disney movie you would expect some hardships or struggles along the way– but not like the ones I saw in the film. When I say the movie goes “full circle” what I mean to say is that the movie places you in a fantasy world with cute animals and a grand design, but the world ends up paralleling our own more than a fantasy world. In place of loft dreams, Judy Hopps is met with scorn, hate, and prejudice…and in place of adorable animals, we get racism, distrust and segregation. And that’s why I think this movie stands out for me as one of the best Disney films– it takes the imaginative and makes it real. We’ve always seen elements of these in some Disney films but certainly not on this scale– and certainly not with this much focus.
And that is not to say that there is no fun in this film– kids and adults alike will get their fair share of laughs and enjoyment out of this movie. It is incredibly cute and incredible funny when the film wants to be. It’s just that beneath the city of Zootopia there is a lot of unresolved species to species tension that eventually reaches a boiling point in the movie. And when I say this movie is self-aware, I mean it… there is even a scene in which Chief Bogo, the head of the police force and all around angry Buffalo states that, “Life isn’t some cartoon musical where you sing a little song and all your insipid dreams magically come true. So let it go” and, obviously, this is a jab at Frozen as well as many Disney films in general, but it goes deeper than that even! It reflects our own reality and the hardships that we have to face on a daily basis. We can’t sing a song and makes our dreams come true, we cannot ignore the glaring problems staring us in the face– we have to face them head on or risk being crushed by them. So, while this film does have quite a bit of fun, jokes and cuteness, I think it has a strong positive message you can take away from it as an adult or even a child.
The casting in Zootopia also could not have been any more perfect! Ginnifer Goodwin IS Judy Hopps! If you don’t know her all that well, Ginnifer Goodwin has been around for a while not but her current major role is playing Snow White in the television series Once Upon a Time. I am fairly certain that when they casted her they basically just told her to do the following: “Be yourself!”. The character of Judy Hopps is a tough one to play, in my opinion, because it is very easy to be cynical but it is extremely hard to be likable when you’re overly optimistic. And, in fact, that is what I thought the character of Judy Hopps would be like based on the trailers, but she, like her partner Nick Wilde, actually have a fair amount of growth throughout the movie– neither is the same person by the end of the film. But Goodwin’s voice acting is perfect for playing a fierce yet cute little bunny she has a fair amount of lines or actions that make you go “awe! So cute” but equally, if not more that show you how bad ass she is. Because, while she is a teeny tiny bunny rabbit that grew up on a carrot farm, she is also a bunny that never took ‘no’ for an answer and persevered where everyone else told her she would fail. So when she is faced with MORE impossible tasks throughout the course of the film, she chooses to try her best and risk failure rather than quit. That is, in my opinion, is a character worth aspiring to.
But she wouldn’t be able to carry this move on her own, her overly optimistic nature could be grating on some people. And, for those people, Disney casted Jason Batman as the other leading role for this film, Nick Wilde. Nick Wilde is the sly con-artist fox that reluctantly partners with Juddy Hopps when she is given the task of finding a missing otter, named Mr. Otterton, and he, like Mrs. Goodwin, is perfectly cast for this role. Bateman has always had this sort of angry-at-the-world dry and cynical humor about him (think Arrested Development) and that works well for this role. Wilde is a fox that, like Judy, once tried to break away from his biological shell as a young kid, but was unfortunately chewed up and spit out by the city of Zootopia. So as an adult he turned to a life of crime, conning any suck that would cross his path because, as Nick says in the film, “If the world chose to see me as a sneaky fox, that is what they were going to get” (or something like that I haven’t seen the movie for a couple of weeks now!).
And this is where most movie would have been content with their characters. Many television shows and movies play the trope of “two unlikely cops becoming partners” to the point where it is cliché and boring. And that is certainly where these two characters start in the film, they couldn’t be more different! But throughout the film, they show glimpses of change and, while the core of the character might be the same, they have definitive character growth by the end of the movie. Judy Hopps isn’t the same naïve optimistic bunny she ways, sure she still believes in people– but she definitely is willing to do some rule-breaking to get the job done. While Wilde is still a cunning fox, but he also opened his heart to someone in the film (Judy) and, possibly for the first time in his life, was accepted rather than rejected. It’s great when a movie/show chooses to progress a character, it fills me with a sense of fulfillment that I would have otherwise not had.
This movie is packed with even more awesome voice actors like Edris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Jenny Slate and more. You can tell that they spent a solid amount of time picking the right voices for the job– it really pays off in the final cut of the movie. But even more than that, the people in charge of the graphics went a long way in terms of making the animals look real and life-like. According to Screen Rant, one giraffe in Zootopia had over 9 million cgi strands of hair. “That’s more hairs than rendered in all the characters of the last three Disney animated features. Even Rapunzel’s hair in Tangled was only made up of 100,000 to 200,000, but it still demanded the attention of 20 animators and 10 software engineers just to get it to behave.” That seriously impresses me if for no other reason than the fact that they could have spent way less time/money on this and I bet the final project would not have suffered that much by it. It is this attention to detail, however, that really pushes this film to being truly great for me!
So… obviously I loved this movie, but what did you think? Have you seen it yet? Let me know in the comments below! And if you haven’t seen it… what the hell is taking you so long!? You make me sad.
Here is my video review of Zootopia