Forty-Eight: Zootopia (2016) (10 out of 10)
By: Scott M. Waldman
Disney and its animation department has produced another wonder in the form of a city and world entirely populated by the predators and prey of the animal kingdom. The department has so far brought the world of arcade games (Wreck-It Ralph), superheroes (Big Hero 6), and fairytales (Frozen, Tangled) to life and Zootopia takes a huge step by creating an environment that is made for all species, short like a rabbit or tall like a giraffe. It is a gorgeous animated spectacle filled with inventive scenery and likeable characters brought to life by an impressive cast and deep plot that is perfectly relatable to our current society and yet still looks like a children’s film. This film can be seen by anyone and each of us will notice something different about it; the amount of detail embedded into this film’s many locations places enough Easter-eggs in the basket to cripple the bunny carrying them.
The main cast of the film is made up of a bunny named Judy (Ginnifer Goodwin) who hopes to be a cop in a force made up of predators, and a sly con-artist fox named Nick (Jason Bateman). Judy has dreamed of becoming a cop since she was a child (for a few years) and travels to the emerald city of Zootopia to rise up the ranks, but is thrown down to the meter-maid patrol by her apex superior Chief Bogo (Idris Elba as an ox). Judy’s ambitions throw her onto a missing animal’s case that winds her about the underbelly of the metropolis which requires the sleek Nick and his street-smarts to solve. The case in question is not as it seems as it brings about conspiracy in the city’s political administration as well as the line between predator and prey. That line is a common theme throughout the film which creates a social issue, not just between the two leads, but the entire society as a whole. In truth, this film proves how possible the idea of two opposites living together can be once those opposites realize how similar their dreams are a staple of a Disney movie.
The world created by the animation department is impossibly perfect; most kids imagine such a place where everyone lives together in such harmony, but the themes within the beauty are mature in nature. The trains are made for all species by creating multiple tiers based on size, the zones of the sprawling metropolis are made up of zones based on environmental preferences, and everything from the animal’s behaviors and social media formats are parodied from our own society. The DMV is run by sloths which prove to be somewhat more efficient than our own world’s DMV employees the mob is run by a shrew based on Marlon Brando’s Don Corleone (Godfather), and a lion is the mayor of the city (J.K. Simmons) reminiscent to that of The Lion King (1994). Every character is, more or less, stereotypically put into place which is exactly what causes much of the ‘uproar’ within the city. That theme is revisited throughout the film, and drives home the message that anyone can be what they want to be—another habit of Disney.
In terms of negative criticism, there isn’t much to be said. The idea is too original for the film industry and using the animated medium to portray such an idea was a perfect way to go in terms of building the city, forming the characters, and allowing everyone to roam free within the fenceless sanctuary. It’s a powerful film that deserves the attention it gained critically and audiences should give it the same attention; they won’t be disappointed by the amount of action, horror, drama, and humor that thrives in the environment. The film could next expand further out and give us more worlds to study and explore (if a sequel happens). For being called a kids movie, Zootopia breaks into Wreck-It Ralph’s territory by bringing in plenty of adult themes and references (e.g. Breaking Bad) to make it relatable to the social disparity and harmony on our own horizon. Zootopia (2016) deserves a 10 out of 10 for being a children’s world filled with adult themes that parents will enjoy as much as their kids.