- Category: Volume 87 (Fall 2015 - Spring 2016)
- Published: 30 March 2016
- Written by BRIDGET NOCERA | STAFF WRITER
As a Disney film starring a bunch of talking animals, one might go into a screening of Zootopia, Walt Disney Pictures’ newest animated comedy directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore, and expect nothing less than an overdone idea and clichéd story.
Zootopia proves that it’s best to leave expectations at the door.
The film is not only incredibly intelligent and clever, which should amuse all audience members no matter what age, but also provides an important message while still being fun and surprising at every turn. While looking like many animated films of the famed company’s past, Zootopia feels new and exciting a là recent hits Inside Out and Wreck-It Ralph, thanks to some brilliantly original characters, gorgeous animations, and a memorable storyline.
Zootopia follows the astute and ambitious Judy Hopps, a female rabbit who, despite her small stature and unassuming upbringing in the farmland of Bunnyburrow with her protective family, ventures to the busting city of Zootopia to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming a police officer. As she is forced to play traffic cop instead of being assigned real police work, she meets the conniving Nick Wilde, a charming con-artist fox, and learns of an ongoing investigation of animals going missing under mysterious circumstances.
Howard, who co-directed Bolt in 2008 and Tangled in 2010, and Moore, who wrote and directed 2012’s Wreck-It Ralph, bring an exciting edge to Zootopia in their directing and writing. The central mystery is an interesting framework for the rest of the film, and the audience is quickly engaged in the story. The directors also build the world of Zootopia perfectly, establishing the various parts of the city (ranging from Tundratown to Sahara Square), jobs, lifestyles, and even entertainment in Zootopia (a pop singing gazelle played by Shakira pops up throughout the film). This is all heightened thanks to the stunning animation that makes every color, scene, and character come to life onscreen. Howard and Moore create a believable and inviting world, making it hard not to feel immersed and get swept up into the story.
Another element that makes Zootopia so inventive is the lovable, engaging characters at its center. Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, is quick-witted, endlessly motivated, and absolutely fearless. It’s incredibly easy to love the character, and she is a perfect hero for children to see and hopefully learn from. Her journey to become a police officer, despite her family, her superiors, and just her own physical limitations, is inspiring, and you cannot help but root for her to not only live her dream, but to prove her naysayers wrong. She is bound to become an iconic character, and I would have loved to see such a strong-willed character on-screen when I was a young girl. Goodwin is perfectly sweet as Judy, only adding more fantastic qualities to the character.
The other main character, Nick Wilde, is also great to see. He’s clever yet caring deep down, and fights to keep his guard up. His interactions with Judy allow his character to open up more and more throughout the film, while creating an irresistibly entertaining friendship. Jason Bateman, who provides the voice for Nick, is no stranger to the sarcastic, straight man role in many comedies, so it should be no surprise that he is excellent here.
Finally, Zootopia really succeeds in its fearlessness to approach a topic and message that is timely and important. The one message of the film, which involves following your dreams no matter what, is obviously overdone. While the film doesn’t suffer for it, mostly thanks to Judy’s new and interesting story, it can seem a bit predictable. It’s the film’s second message warning against prejudice that is the most striking and well-done. The plot shows that while predator and prey may live in harmony, there is still a deep-seeded judgment and prejudice that these characters must learn to overcome. For young children, this is a topic not often explicitly seen in media for their age group, so it’s excellent to see it being done so forwardly in Zootopia.
Zootopia could not be a more enjoyable experience. With unforgettable characters, an engaging story, stunning animation, clever jokes, and so much more, it is easily one of the best films of the year so far. Despite it being another addition to the already large category of “Disney films with talking animals,” Zootopia is, much like its characters and story, so much more than meets the eye.
IMAGES TAKEN from movies.disney.com and thedisneyblog.com