The latest Disney movie and 55th animated feature takes part in a universe where animals, mainly mammals, live like humans in our world. Disney follows the latest tradition of teaching lessons that it would normally not touch. Where Frozen showed us that true love can come from family and Big Hero Six showed us how to deal with depression, Zootopia teaches us many lessons about our society through animals.
Beware of spoilers ahead for this review.
At the start of the movie we meet our hero bunny, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) who aspires to be the first rabbit cop on the ZPD. She goes against her parents and the norms of her small town to become a police officer in the big city. She meets Nick (Jason Bateman), a sly con fox and the two embark on a journey to solve the case of 14 missing animals. This is done behind the back of the Chief of Police, Bogo, a cape buffalo voiced by Idris Elba. Well into their mission we see learn about the differences between predators and prey. And things start to get rocky.
The city itself is divided into separate districts: the Rainforest district and the Tundra district. The different districts are named after the environment and climate that take place in each area. Zootopia is very large and houses different animals in each district with smaller districts inside. We see this with the rodents. Since they are the smallest mammals in the city they have a smaller city fenced off inside Zootopia. One of the best parts of the movie is that the animals are the same proportions that they are in our world. So rodents drive tiny cars and live in tiny homes.
The side characters of the movie are entertaining and fun. Animals like Gazelle (Shakira) and Yax (Tommy Chong) reflect their real world counterparts. Nate Torrence voices the chubby cheetah dispatcher, Benjamin Clawhauser, who serves as the film’s comedic relief.
This film also contains many references to movies, adult shows, and Disney itself. The references and Easter Eggs are fun and targeted towards the adults in the audience. Kids will love this movie but so will you.
It wouldn’t be a Disney film without a deep meaning. The animals in the city live within their own social norms and limitations. We see this from the beginning of the movie where Judy is told not to dream and to stay home and become a carrot farmer. She defies her parents’ wishes and the norms developed by her society.
The concept of Zootopia is that predators evolve to be tamed and now live side by side of their former prey. But in a reflection of our society, fear is still instilled amongst smaller animals and larger prey type mammals. The story deals with predators turning savage, which delves into the corruption of the city and the unstable relationship between the different types of mammals and classes in the city. It is scary how this movie touched on topics that we are currently dealing with in real life.
Even individual characters reflect what we see in our lives. Nick, a predator animal, wanted to be part of a boy scouts club which only had prey animals as members. It is hinted that Nick grew up poor and his mother spent money on a new uniform for his initiation into the scouts. The story goes dark when Nick goes to the scouts den to join them. Instead of becoming a member he is bullied, beaten, and muzzled. After that incident, Nick refuses to defy his stereotype and becomes the typical, sly fox.
Zootopia is a film that everyone can go watch and enjoy. It reflects our lives in which we are either a predator, a prey, a dreamer, a victim of discrimination. Despite this heavy theme, the overall tone of the film is not dark. Adults are granted a rare, deep movie that children can enjoy, too.
If there’s anything to complain about, it’s ironically the movie is the lack of diverse animals. But maybe we can expect to see more in a sequel. With this third film, Walt Disney Animation Studio is hitting a new golden era of movies.
Zootopia gets a 9 out of 10. It's a hustle sweetheart.