Zootopia delivers that warm, fuzzy feeling

Michael Wiggin

A deviant leaves her small, restrictive town for the big city in pursuit of a dream that no one believes she can achieve. Only Disney could turn such a safe, conventional story into not only its most successful non-Pixar weekend debut with $73.7 million but also one of the most audacious films in recent memory. Armed with the creativity and attention to detail that Disney knows best, Zootopia delivers another box office smash that can both entertain and intrigue almost any audience member.

The movie stars Judy Hopps (played by Ginnifer Goodwin) who has aspired to be the first bunny police officer ever since she was a child. In spite of everyone’s doubts, including her parents’, she succeeds and becomes the first bunny officer at the anthropomorphic metropolis of Zootopia. But even her chief, a buffalo named Bogo (played by Idris Elba), doesn’t trust such a small officer and assigns her to parking duty. There, she meets a con-artist fox called Nick Wilde (played by Jason Bateman) who ends up helping Lieutenant Hopps go beyond her jurisdiction to uncover the mysterious disappearance of predators across the megacity.

From a visual standpoint, this movie is one of Disney’s finest. Every second on screen is colorfully rich and wonderfully imaginative. The animators take into account the proportion, size and even diet of all the different animals, illustrating all the innovative ways such a diversity of species would live and commune in a city. The metropolis itself is divided into four biomes — sahara, rain forest, tundra and megacity — and each subsection yields its own diverse palette of colors and camera angles, allowing for beautiful aesthetic variety.

The animation itself is also impeccable. There’s a chase scene through a miniature rodent town that is one of the smoothest animation sequences I’ve ever seen. As said before, the attention to detail is incredible: capturing the little mannerisms of all the animals gives the characters so much life while the differences in height and behavior serve for some hilarious visual comedy. Coupled with pleasing character designs and appropriate casting, Zootopia feels refreshingly real and natural, which, given its surreal premise, is perhaps its greatest accomplishment.

This authenticity also serves wonders for the characters. The relationship between Hopps and Wilde develops at a steady, genuine pace, so by the end of the movie I truly considered them to be best friends. The motivations and actions of all the side characters, while not particularly fleshed out, make sense, once again helping to establish a tangible sense of realism.

Ultimately, all this credibility supports the overarching theme of Zootopia — that the prejudice which surrounds us does not define us and can be broken if we try hard enough. The pervasiveness of discrimination is expressed throughout the film, both in Hopps’ and Wilde’s past and present. Even more impressively, every character exhibits prejudice, even our heroes, emphasizing how universally tempted we are to label people out of fear or ignorance.

This isn’t any watered-down intolerance for kids either. There’s been a growing debate regarding how the PG rating has become meaningless when nearly harmless kids’ movies such as Frozen or Peanuts receive them. Zootopia, on the other hand, definitely deserves it. The flashbacks that depict the hatred Hopps and Wilde experienced when they were children are surprisingly dark and ugly, just like real prejudice can be. Similarly, the tension that accumulates between predators and prey over the course of the movie demonstrates true societal paranoia.

As a result, the pain driving the actions of our main characters feels legitimate, as does the moral of how to overcome the bigotry of others and ourselves. While this lesson is timely in light of current divisive politics, the movie brilliantly develops its own timeless prejudice that reflects their society specifically. Because of this, the moral of Zootopia can be just as relevant 30 years down the road as it is today, in addition to being unique enough that audience members can interpret their own personal prejudices through the movie’s moral.

All deserved praise aside, the movie did have a few minor flaws. While I think the visual comedy and fast-paced wit between Hopps and Wilde is excellent, the comedic dialogue fluctuates from hilarious to jokes that aren’t as funny compared to the rest of the movie. As I mentioned earlier, the story itself can also sometimes be perceived as conventional and therefore a little predictable in the third act. However, these issues aren’t necessarily bad, but compared to the rest of the movie, it noticeably lacks.

All things considered, Zootopia is one of the best Disney movies to come out this decade. The visuals are spectacular, the characters lovable, the theme fantastic. It’s a movie so well-rounded and heartwarming I’d encourage everyone, especially kids, to see it.