It seems that Disney has been on a role the last few years. While Pixar was the measuring stick for animated movies for a number of years, critical disappointments like Cars 2, Brave, and Monsters University proved they were not perfect. However, more than the fact that those movies were not up to the par set by Pixar, the fact that Disney heated up at the same time was part of the reason that people started to look away from Pixar somewhat.
The year that Cars 2 came out was the same year that Disney did the impossible and brought back Winnie the Pooh in a heartwarming and successful effort. While Pixar was releasing Brave and Monsters University, Disney released Wreck-it Ralph and Frozen, and suddenly Disney was the superior brand. While Pixar rebounded strongly in 2015 with Inside Out, Disney answered with Big Hero 6 and now Zootopia, and Disney remains the more consistent property.
Zootopia is a talking animals’ movie, but it is also one of the best movies that Disney has released in a long time when it comes to a social conscious. Big Hero 6 was a superhero movie, Frozen was about strong female characters, and Wreck-it Ralph was about a bad guy proving to be a hero. Zootopia is a mystery that has the strong message that hard work and determination can help people do good things and make the world a better place in the end.
It also is one of the strongest movies in years when it comes to multiculturalism and how anyone, regardless of species, can be a hero – and a villain.
Judy Hopps is a rabbit in a world where animals have evolved from hunters and predators and prey to normal creatures, who wear clothes, work jobs, and interact normally. Judy’s life goal is to be a police officer, something her parents try to dissuade her of by telling her that chasing dreams only leads to heartbreak. This makes her work harder. When her police academy training goes bad and she is pushed to quit, she works harder and ends up as the valedictorian to her class.
Judy’s dream comes true and is sent to mid-cities to become a … meter maid. See, the police are all large mammals and they don’t believe she belongs, which causes Judy to fight even harder. When a mysterious missing person’s case falls into her lap, she is given 48 hours to find the missing person or quit. Of course, Judy never gives up.
She meets a con-artist fox named Nick, and after some antagonistic moments between them, they start to work together on the case.
What works best about the central story of the movie is that Judy and Nick are not just thrown together. They have to work to earn the other’s trust. They have to fight through stereotypes and misunderstandings, and none of it feels fake or forced. They develop as unusual partners through good storytelling. That is where Zootopia works best. This is a movie that tells a story and does it well. There are clues that leads to revelations that leads to the ultimate showdown with the bad guys, and it all feels natural and works as well as any basic mystery movie.
There are also a lot of funny moments in the movie and some serious social commentary. At one point in the movie, it is pointed out that 90 percent of society are animals that were formerly prey and that the best way to keep everyone is line is to make them fear the other 10 percent, the former predators. With the Presidential elections coming up, it seems that preying on the fear of the weak is the biggest political weapon for some candidates. This movie simply says that good people help each other instead of holding others down. It doesn’t matter if people see you as a predator or prey, no one should be categorized just on the basis of what they look like, or where they came from.
The message is not heavy handed either. It is done with careful consideration and comes across as naturally as everything else in the movie.
There is also something to be said about a kid’s animated movie that homages The Godfather and Breaking Bad.
The design is incredible as well. Zootopia is set up with numerous different worlds all in one large city. There is the country, rain forest, desert, main city, and all are connected with a train. Everyone lives in one giant world, and it looks amazing and adds to the diversity of the movie.
At the end of the day, Zootopia is a movie that hits on all cylinders. It tells a story of never giving up, even when no one else believes you have what it takes to succeed. It tells the story of friendship and trust, and how two very different people can be positive influences in each other’s lives. It tells the story of helping others and of how fear-mongering does more harm than good. It has a great message, very funny moments, and a story worthy of Disney.