Zootopia

Posted: March 8, 2016 in Movie Reviews

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Walt Disney once said, “Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive.” While this may not be one of those inspirational Walt Disney quotes on a mug, it nonetheless rings true as a testament to his studio’s 75 + years of animation and imagination. And if there’s one quintessential word to surmise the Disney success, it’s imagination. It’s why billions of people have flown over Neverland in a pirate ship or sailed the Spanish Main with vagabonds or have been hijacked by 999 grim, grinning ghosts; because imagination——whether experienced through Disneyland or the art of animation——is one thing that Disney has always excelled at.

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Summary: (No spoilers)

Since a young age, rabbit Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin——Once Upon a Time) has dreamed of becoming a police officer in the bustling city of Zootopia, a place where predator and prey——of all sizes——live in harmony. After successfully becoming Zootopia’s first rabbit officer, her success is only met by consistent discouragement as nobody believes that such a small creature can endure the pressures of police work.

But when Judy is given a chance to crack an important case, she employs the use of a slick, wily Fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman——Horrible Bosses). Together, these otherwise incompatible companions must work as a team, setting aside stereotypes, to accomplish their goal.

Also starring:  Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, and J.K. Simmons

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Walt Disney Animation Studios has been delivering quite the variety lately. Princess flicks The Princess and the Frog, Tangled, and Frozen gave a charming-yet-modern spin to the classic fairy tales; the gaming-heavy Wreck-It Ralph opened an entire realm for a potential franchise within the world of video games; and though I personally found the Big Hero 6 narrative to be a bit underwhelming, it was still proof that Disney can handle the aesthetic authenticity (not to mention character appeal) of anything they put their creative hand to.

Zootopia continues with that unprecedented creative range by creating yet another immersive world ripe for genius storytelling. And if there’s one thing that the great Walt Disney inspired in his animators, it was creating those worlds——the foundation for visionary storytelling. At its core, Zootopia carries current connotations and weaves it into its plot. Animals have evolved and advanced over the years from primitive predator-eats-prey mindsets to living together peacefully in an urban setting.

But not all is well in Zootopia, for some predators are seemingly reverting back to their savage ways. It’s up to officer Hopps to discover what is causing this damaging pandemic. But over the course of the film, she discovers that wide-spread concern is becoming just as harmful as the actual crazed animals. This concern quickly becomes fear, which becomes panic, which turns into pure animosity for all predators, even those who have committed no wrong. It’s Civil Rights- and current-America in the animal world.

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But lest you think that this is a socio-political thesis set within a childrens’ movie, you couldn’t be more wrong. Zootopia is just as much a Disney Animation film as Aladdin; it simply carries with it nuances and implications that can be seen in today’s society. Within Zootopia, many animals are seen as one way, and one way only. The brute animals such as the rhinos comprise the police force. The smaller, more helpless creatures have the office jobs. And the sloths are, quite appropriately, employed at the DMV (a hilarious scene that will have you laughing aloud). While this mindset perfectly reflects today’s society, it also depicts that your size and stature and background needn’t have bearing over what you can accomplish, an idea that Walt himself cherished and lived by.

Disney chooses the fox, a creature known throughout the centuries for its craftiness, as its secondary protagonist. They’re not a trusted species in Zootopia, but the film suggests that stereotypes, though often seeded in truth, should not define the individual. Though a person may be of descent that is commonly associated with a particular viewpoint, it isn’t incumbent of that person to live within that stereotype. Ultimately, Zootopia teaches that stereotypes are often in place for a reason, but that it’s also the responsibility of society to not blindly assume.

In a nutshell:

What truly makes Zootopia work as a film is not its mere preaching about social morals, but the way in which it makes you connect with the characters authentically. It imbues these characters with dimension, even giving some of them back stories that might leave a tear in your eye. Set within a richly-detailed world (I can’t wait to buy the Blu-ray so I can pause and absorb every detail), this film proves yet again that Disney is the master at telling beautiful stories with mature themes within child-friendly environments. As fun as the minions are, this is the stuff that fulfills you in a wholly positive way and leaves you happier and more cheerful than when you started out.

 

8.5 stars

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