On so many levels, ZOOTOPIA is a hit.
It isn’t often that you find a picture (much less an animated one) that’s entertaining and engaging but then to layer on a meaningful punch and heart, that makes it all the more rare and yet that’s exactly what Disney Animation has created.
From the shut-up-and-take-my-money adorable characters to the well-formed plot, to the smart humor and the cheeky character interactions, ZOOTOPIA is a clear winner.
There may be a lot of pre-judgment that this just another mediocre “talking animal film”–the likes of which are seemingly a dollar a dozen lately–but ZOOTOPIA really towers above them all.
The marketing hasn’t been doing too many favors either in terms of the heavy reliance on the corny puns and movie spoof posters but trust me when I say that it is much more special than a few cheesy promo pieces.
Sure, the anthropomorphic world is full of tongue-in-cheek visual gags (including tons of real-world references with animalized names) but they really serve as the backdrop to the characters and the storyline.
The city of Zootopia is made up of a predominant majority of “prey” citizens including sheep, gazelles, and bunnies like our lead Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin). The remaining 10% of the populace is made up of “predators” such as lions, jaguars, and foxes like the other lead Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman). When issues come into play that pit citizen against citizen, it unfolds a mystery that leads our heroes on an adventure to uncover the truth and restore peace.
Without getting into plot development, the overall moral through-line touches on tolerance and acceptance. Last year’s INSIDE OUT provided a similar sort of moral compass giving parents opportunities to help children interpret their feelings.
With these themes being ever-relevant, it seems this year in particular has put these ideas into the spotlight. So it’s almost prophetic that Disney could have chosen the theme around which to base the story. It provides an easy way for parents to explain these real-life social conflicts.
But it’s not like watching an after school PSA. It’s handled so beautifully without being too preachy. In fact, the overall tone is actually quite vibrant, humorous, and fun.
There’s also a bunch of eye candy, cheeky gags, in-jokes (references to several Disney pictures including the upcoming Moana), and sights to feast upon. Here’s a few we found in a recently released clip featuring Easter eggs for FROZEN and BIG HERO 6. Also, while it’s not completely clear or spelled out, it also seems that this may very well be the first Disney animated picture to showcase a gay couple.
Zootopia is renowned as the city where “anyone can be anything” and staying true to that motto the city truly does seem to be an almost utopian haven of acceptance, progress, and understanding. The franchise is ripe for future stories and I’m sure that once ZOOTOPIA leaves theaters that it will not be the last we see of this engaging world.
It is really starting to become clear that the house of Mouse is in the middle of an animation renaissance. ZOOTOPIA continues a trend of absolutely solid films worthy of the Disney brand and it’s exciting to see more films in the vein of hits like WRECK IT RALPH, BIG HERO 6, TANGLED, and yes, even FROZEN.
Can it muster up a succesful box office? It seems all but certain.
ZOOTOPIA hops into theaters March 4.