Movie 55: Zootopia

zootopia posterIt’s kind of crazy I haven’t done a Disney Canon review since November 7, 2014!  Of course last year there was no Disney Canon film so that caused the delay.  In return for the delay, we get 2 Canon films this year with Zootopia and Moana.  And my friends, I will start the hyperbole early because if Moana is half as good as Zootopia, than I propose 2016 is the greatest year ever for Walt Disney Animated Studios. Yep, I really believe that is true.

Zootopia is a real gem, a special film that lives up to the all the hype.

Now I was not initially sold on Zootopia. I didn’t love the first 2 trailers and then the 3rd trailer I worried showed too much.  I was also nervous because the previous anthropomorphic film, Chicken Little, is one of my least favorites- relying too much on puns and a strange combination of 3 stories in 1 with a mean-spirited tone.

Fortunately, I can happily inform all of you my fears were unfounded.  I know all film is subjective, but I would be surprised if every last moviegoer doesn’t find something to love about this movie.  It just seemed to have it all.

I will only tell you a brief summary so no worry about spoilers

zootopia1Zootopia exists in an anthropomorphic world where animals have evolved past their original predator and prey natures and live in harmony- particularly in the more evolved big city.  Little Judy Hopps grows up in the country and hears the stories of Zootopia a city where ‘anyone can do anything’.

She decides as  young bunny to become a police officer and to her parents chagrin get a job on the force under Chief Bogo.  Judy is part of an affirmative action type program promoting minorities within the force.  You see, all of the other officers are predators (lions, bears, elephants etc).  Chief Bogo has no time for this bunny and assigns her to parking duty.

zootopia100As a meter maid she meets a fox Nick Wilde who is a sly con artist.  Through various turn of events her and Nick get involved in a case involving missing mammals.  Chief Bogo gives Judy 48 hours to solve the case or it is back to parking duty.

zootopia15That’s all I will say about the story because I want it to be a surprise.   (I will do a full spoiler review later on like I did with Inside Out).

Going into Zootopia, I thought it was going to be a straight on comedy but like The Lego Movie it manages to weave together emotion, humor and beautiful visuals all together in a very entertaining film.  But perhaps even more effectively than Lego, is the message at the heart of the film.  Zootopia has the potential to change perspectives of children and families.

zootopia trailer2-2I certainly can’t think of any other Disney Canon film that tackles such topics as diversity, tolerance, hatred, racism, bullying, fear, and more with so much skill and power.  I can imagine families all over the world talking about the way Judy is treated and marginalized and the way people use fear to control and justify hate.  It’s really quite remarkable.

Yet the film never becomes preachy.  This is not a Fern Gully or even a Fox and the Hound.  This is because all of the characters have these fears and prejudices and are also victims of them at different points in the story.  This makes great characters without a bad corporate greedy guy villain like in The Lorax (boy what a contrast that movie is with this!).

zootopia trailer2-3It also weaves the message within the case and Judy’s journey to never give up on her dreams. It never felt heavy handed or like a message movie to me, which was refreshing.

It’s remarkable how likable and endearing the characters are.  I loved Judy Hopps and her underdog spirit so much (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin).  Nick Wilde, voiced by Jason Bateman, is slick, sarcastic but sweet in his own way.  They are such a great combo. You can tell that they did voice work together (not common in animation) because the chemistry is there!

The other characters are great.  Idris Elba, JK Simmons, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate and more are used effectively and unlike most say Dreamworks cast do not feel there for only celebrity-sake.   Perhaps the only unnecessary star is Shakira as a pop singer Gazelle but she is in the movie very briefly.

zootopia1000While Zootopia wasn’t the uproarious comedy I was expecting, there are some good jokes. I definitely laughed a fair amount.  Disney is even willing to poke fun at itself.  For example, there are 2 Frozen jokes that made me chuckle.

I was worried the movie might feel too generic with its buddy cop elements but it really doesn’t.  The setting is so different with unique worlds like Tundratown, Rain Forrest District and Bunnyburrow that it helps keep it fresh.  And to be honest, I don’t really mind a familiar plot if everything else is engaging and working and this was.

It’s hard to compare Zootopia to Frozen and Tangled.  I will leave those comparisons for Moana, but I do think it is better than Big Hero 6 and Wreck-it Ralph, despite those being strong films in their own way.

zootopia sloth2And I don’t want to undersell Zootopia’s stunning visuals.  The world building is remarkable and full of surprises.  I loved all the character designs and how they kept everything to scale like real animals.  Judy is a bunny so of course she is way smaller than the bears and lions.  That was brilliant.

It’s funny, sweet, with 2 wonderful lead characters kids and adults will be able to relate with.  There are jokes for adults like Godfather references and things like that but nothing too tawdry.

And then it adds to all of those strengths with an amazing message about fear and discrimination that was perfectly executed.

zootopia trailer2-8Aside from Shakira not needing to be there, the only ‘negative’ is for kids under 4 there are some scary scenes and moments of peril. But if they can handle scary moments in other Disney titles like Big Hero 6 or even Aladdin they will be fine.  Some may find the way the case plays out a little predictable but I enjoyed it.  zootopia trailer2-4Congrats to Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush for a fantastic job. Oh and tremendous score from Michael Giacchino as well.  What a great movie.  I can’t wait to see it again this weekend!

Overall Grade- Definitely gets an A+

Have you seen Zootopia?  What did you think?  Put in the comments section below.  Thanks!

Here’s my youtube review:

19 thoughts on “Movie 55: Zootopia

  1. Glad you enjoyed it so much despite being not too excited about it in the beginning! I’m thinking of going to see it on Tuesday since I’m on spring break next week.

    This year already looks great for animation: this, Moana, Finding Dory, Kubo and the Two Strings, etc.

  2. I thought the “sloths” trailer was hilarious so I was primed to see Zootopia. I figured it would be good fun. I didn’t expect it to be so political. It is a delicate balancing act making a lighthearted adventure while infusing social commentary into the mix. It pretty much works, although the predator vs. prey allegory doesn’t hold up under intense scrutiny. What then do carnivores eat?

    It’s easy to get bogged down in the details. The overall message is – respect your fellow man – an uplifting moral presented with style and skill. Yeah I loved it too.

    1. Honestly that goes for me too. I honestly can’t add much more to that except to say that the film has very three-dimensional characters who are more relatable than they at first appear, an interesting mystery, a good mix of humor and drama, a sincere intelligent message about discrimination and the way that privilege affects our society, all tied together in a well-written plot that moves at an even pace.

      Really, the only negatives I have apart from the Shakira song are that the villain is fairly weak, the mystery’s solution is revealed a bit too easily, and the only screening I could get into was in 3-D. 3-D usually doesn’t add much to a movie for me, it’s a gimmick, and it irritates me having to put on the 3-D glasses over my regular glasses. That can’t be good for my vision.

      Honestly I’ll have to see this again. I’m not sure if it’s better than Wreck-It Ralph, but definitely an improvement over Big Hero 6. It hearkens back to the Disney tradition, and I honestly do think that Disney has become the new Pixar. The best thing I can say for Zootopia is that it sincerely makes it look easy to make a good movie – just like Pixar used to, which only highlights how disappointing it is that Pixar has been dropping the ball lately (apart from Inside Out). I have high hopes for Moana now, and it’s always good to be optimistic.

    2. Some are saying that’s why no reptiles or birds so the predators could eat them. I’m glad you enjoyed it despite a few plot questions. I guess I didnt find the message as singularly about prejudice as others. That’s there but I also saw messages of using fear to manipulate, never giving up, bullying etc.

  3. Zootopia was simply magnificent. Aside from a few quibbles with the script (such as misuses of God’s name, which I thought were unnecessary), I thought the film was very well put together. Its honest portrayals of racism and stereotypes were some of the best I have ever seen in any movie, animated or not, and I’m inclined to say it stands above most of the Second Disney Renaissance (second only to Tangled in my mind). It’s just so complete. Whereas I felt Big Hero 6 threatened to come undone in the final act (which it didn’t, though it was still a bit of a muddle), I never got that from Zootopia, which felt perfectly paced and timed.

    Judy and Nick are such fabulous characters and their relationship is perfectly constructed. I won’t say more because spoilers 🙂

    I really think Finding Dory and Moana have got an unenviable task in competing with Zootopia. Both will definitely be in with a shout (Secret Life of Pets and Trolls are highly doubtful nominees), but it still seems like Zootopia is the favorite and could even compete for Best Picture.

    Great review as always and the pictures were outstanding.

  4. Over a month after it’s release, I finally got around to seeing Zootopia – known in the UK as “Zootropolis” due to a Danish zoological park that is actually called “Zootopia”.

    Still, after seeing the film I was very much impressed by it. It’s probably the most mature animated Disney film to come out in the 2010s. I’d probably put it up in the same leagues with Tangled and Frozen – which is quite close to other classics like Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Fantasia in my personal ranking.

    My one criticism of it is that while it doesn’t become Fern Gully levels of preachy, the message did feel very bluntly conveyed in a lot of scenes, and it was weird how the word “cute” is considered to rabbits what the N-word is to black people, particularly because of the stigmatic history associated with the N-word. It was just fairly jarring to me, almost to the point of the writers “trying too hard”. Thankfully, that was only one scene and the rest of the film was incredibly well crafted. Now let’s see how Moana measures up, it’s literally the old guard of animators (Clements and Muster) vs the younger generation (Howard, Moore and Bush)!

    1. That’s fair. It could have been a little more subtle but like you I still enioyed the film. I have high hopes for Moana but am just dying for a trailer!!!

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