Zootopia (2016): Welcome to the Urban Jungle

Posted: June 28, 2016 in Action, Adventure, Animated

Judy Hopps aspires to do more than work with her family’s carrot farm. Graduating at the top of her class, she sets off for Zootopia, a metropolis where animals of all backgrounds live together in harmony outside of the traditional predator-prey relationship. As the first rabbit police officer, she believes she will be treated as an equal. Instead, she is reduced to the role of a meter maid. Though she gets caught up with a mischievous fox, it is a series of reports of feral animals that present an opportunity to rise to something more. The only problem is that the case may lead her to the awful truth about predators and prey.

Disney Wins Again: While it was not one of the Pixar features, the proven formula for Disney films continues to breed successful additions to their library. Anthropomorphic animals tend to be hits with all audiences, but the thought and care into the environments was just as important as the characters themselves. Creating a metropolis that engages animals from all walks of life took some true planning and thoughtfulness. All of the themed animal puns and connections did not hurt either.

Social Justice on a Different Level: This film tackled some interesting social justice themes. The elimination of predator-prey relationships was meant to be a move toward social equality, but fear of the predators falling back into their violent ways could have been interpreted in several different ways. It could have been a representation of hidden bigotry being ingrained and something that has to be overcome. It could have been related to a sense of being unable to fight one’s primitive ways, though this is overcome in the end. Judy’s and Nick’s stories challenged those perceptions as both worked through their ingrained fears. The odd twist in this case was that the story focused on the prey holding prejudice against the predators, distrusting the predators’ ability to overcome base instincts.

Cartoon Buddy Cop Comedy: While there are plenty of buddy cop comedies out there, few star a rabbit and a fox. Their personalities could not be anymore different from each other. Judy represented a someone focused and determined to achieve great things. She focused on honesty and hard work. Nick was more like his animal namesake. Sly and shifty, he was focused on skirting the law to earn money and cheat the system. They only found themselves stuck together when Judy realized that she needed someone who could help her solve the disappearing citizens case and she could exploit his many misdeeds to lock him in as a partner. Their understanding and respect for each other grew over time, as one would expect from a Disney film.

Final Verdict: Rich with content, story, and atmosphere, Zootopia is another strong showing from Disney. While it may have not surpassed the phenomenon of Frozen, its deeper story and thought-provoking themes make for a stronger overall film. This may be a dark horse to sneak its way into Oscar status, even with other major releases like Finding Dory and Secret Life of Pets in the mix.

Dan’s Rating: 4.5/5


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