Hit Me with Your Best Shot: Zootopia

I haven’t participated in Hit Me with Your Best Shot in a while because of traveling and not being interested in the selections but this week I had to participate! If you don’t know Hit Me with Your Best Shot is a series by Nathaniel over at the Film Experience where a bunch of bloggers all watch the same film and pick one shot that conveys that film to us. You can see all my entries here.  Like I said, this week I had to participate because the topic is Disney’s latest animated classic Zootopia!

I have spoken, dissected, reviewed Zootopia in about every way you can. My friend AJ and I spent over 90 minutes discussing every last detail of the film.

I even recently reviewed The Art of Zootopia.

But I want to address one of the complaints I’ve heard about the film. People say the messaging is too heavy-handed and that the metaphor falls apart. To those that make this claim I would like to introduce you to something called a FABLE!

fableAs the definition implies a fable is a story that exists to teach a lesson usually to children. To me saying Zootopia is heavy-handed is as insane as saying the Tortoise and the Hare  or the Boy Who Cried Wolf are too heavy handed. THEY ARE FABLES!!! Again, they exist to teach lessons to children. Are nursery rhymes heavy handed? Do we need to not read the Lion and the Mouse or other Aesops Fables to kids any more because they are too heavy-handed? Give me a break…

I mean what’s next someone claim the tortoise and hare metaphor is flawed because it doesn’t show a broad range of athletes in the race! Of course not, all fables and all metaphors are at a certain point flawed. But they teach the lesson they are meant to teach to children. Talk about overthinking it.

But Zootopia isn’t just a fable for children. There’s lots for adults too-

Now what makes Zootopia special is it takes a fable about prejudice (amongst other things  that people always forget about like bullying and never giving up) and adds a detective story that’s very entertaining. It has all the flavor of a film noir buddy cop story we used to get in the 80s with great chemistry between Judy and Nick. AND even more than that it has amazing world building with an incredible attention to detail for each of the lands of Zootopia. The voice acting is superb and it has tremendous heart.

But even adding to the greatness of Zootopia is how funny it is.  There are tons of background jokes in signs, dvd covers and the like but there also great primary jokes. My favorite that still makes me laugh each time is Mr Big and his skunk rug. This is a play up on the Godfather meant to entertain adults.  Everything down to the design of the wedding is a perfect send up and it makes me laugh.

In this scene with Mr Big, you also get some key elements of the fable.  We learn that “My child. We may be evolved, but deep down, we are still animals.” Deep down inside we all have weaknesses and prejudices we pretend aren’t there but that is no excuse. Through the story Judy realizes her own ‘deep down inside’ feelings and learns to be a better person (or bunny)!

So for me the best shot combines humor, beautiful lighting and design, and a memory of what Judy has just learned. It has everything I love about Zootopia- a film which I think is the best Disney non-musical since 101 Dalmatians and one of the only truly memorable movies of 2016

zootopia best shot

The Art of Zootopia Review

P1500034I think someone that doesn’t like Zootopia may actually like the Art of Zootopia.  It is so great. It gives you such a clear image of the attention to detail that went into the film that it is so fascinating. Details like vending machines and buildings that are briefly seen are incredible in addition to all the major set pieces getting fleshed out. It’s my favorite movie of the year and one of my favorite art books.

It starts with an introduction from John Lasseter where he shares his excitement for the all-animal world “I challenged the filmmakers to imagine Zootopia as a world that is truly and uniquely animal, where there are no people and mammals have evolved to human levels of intelligence.  For inspiration I encouraged them to dive deeply into research on animals and their habitats”. His happiness with the finished product is evident “I believe the cleverness and fun add up to make Zootopia one of the most entertaining films we’ve ever made.  At its heart, it’s pure Disney.  But it’s also unlike anything we’ve ever seen before in animation”

Next you have a foreward from Byron Howard and Rich Moore.  They talk about how they changed their vision from a futuristic tone to more natural in feeling. “But through our research we came to understand that cities are a reflection of their inhabitants’ history and lifestyles, and that Zootopia had to evolve as a human city does. It had to haave layers built up over time to make it feel like a place that truly exists”

P1500037Then we take a world building approach to the rest of the book. We get to see the thought that went into each of the burrows and learn about little details we might have missed. What I loved is seeing details like this page on Koslov’s Palace a place I don’t think even made it in the movie, or if did it’s brief. They even have the borscht served designed!

P1500039You also get layouts on the lead characters and see their evolution.

P1500035And I loved learning more about side characters like all the planning behind the 2 polar bear guards of the shrew.

P1500038There are great design details that didn’t make it into the film like an amusement park of sorts.

P1500043It’s details like these that make The Art of Zootopia a great find and one you should put in your collection. It’s got enough reading to be informative and the artwork to dazzle.

If any of you pick up the Art of Zootopia let me know what you think.

Animated News 3/24/16

Hi guys!  It’s time for another week in animated news. Here’s the video with all the latest:

Major points I cover-

  1. Zootopia takes 3rd top spot at box office dropping only 25.9% from last week (typical drops are 50%).  It made $38 million in the states and $64.8 internationally creating a combined total of $591.7 million.  I am thrilled to see it do so well because I really loved Zootopia.
    1. If you haven’t checked out my in depth discussion of Zootopia with  my friend AJ click here
  2. Little Prince is picked up by Netflix.  Last week we discussed Paramount’s bizarre drop of The Little Prince a week before its US release.  This week we learned that Netflix has optioned the film and it will be available to stream sometime this year.
  3. Bubbles MJ project- the makers of Anomalisa have announced a new stop motion project that will revolve around Michael Jackson’s pet chimp named Bubbles.  I can’t even imagine this project but it has a script co-written by Dan Harmon, creator of Community and other funny shows, so who knows?
  4.  April and the Extraordinary World Voice Cast- We learned the English voice cast for April and the Extraordinary World.  This includes Paul Giamatti, Tony Hale, Susan Sarandon and JK Simmons. April debuted this weekend in LA and NYC and will come to Utah April 22 (The reviews are great on April so I am getting very excited).
  5. Lego Batman trailer-

      All you lovely Lego Movie fans we got our first peak at the spinoff movie Lego Batman today.  This will feature Will Arnett, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Cera, Zach Galifianakis, Maria Carey.  I liked the trailer a lot.  I think I am particularly anxious for this film with the superhero overkill I’m currently feeling.  I can’t wait to have some of the same hilarious writing of the Lego Movie skewering comic book movies.  I wish it was out today!

  6. Alex Hirsch show- Last news is Gravity Falls creator Alex Hirsch is developing a new animated show for Fox for next year.  I can only assume this will be part of their Sunday animation line up and I’m really excited.  I loved Gravity Falls and am curious to see what his sensibilities are like in a more grown up non-Disney platform.

So there you have it.  What do you think of these news items?  Are you excited by the Lego Batman trailer?

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend.  🙂

Also if you ever hear of news I should include tweet or email me at smilingldsgirl@yahoo.com.  That would be so helpful.

Talking About Zootopia

My friend AJ joined me to talk all about Zootopia today.  We dive into the nitty gritty talking about the plot in detail, so this is very spoilery! We talk about the messaging and some of the complaints between both sides of the political spectrum.  We talk about the imagery, character design, story and Zootopia’s place in the history of Disney animation.  I am going to write up this breakdown in essay format later in the week in a spoilery review but I thought you might enjoy listening to the video.

It’s more the kind of video you listen to while doing other things or driving because it is an hour and half.

Let me know what you think of our discussion and the points we bring up.

Animated News 3/10/16

Hey guys!  I’m excited to share with you a new video series I am trying out. It’s a video where I cover all the news in both animated TV shows and movies.  I thought of this because I don’t really like reviewing trailers, so it seemed like a good way to cover the trailer but also other topics that I think are interesting.  I figured I could make my viewers aware of smaller projects or shows that might be off their radar.

There are obviously going to be room for improvement but I think it is a pretty good start.  Let me know if you have any suggestions.

Also, what do you think of this week’s news?  In the video I cover:

Box office for Zootopia and Boy and the Beast

Trailers for Kubo and the 2 Strings and Red Shoes and the 7 Dwarves

Movie announcements for animated Ghostbusters and Surfs Up 2: Wave Mania

Utah release of Boy and the World and Only Yesterday

Aaron Springer Billy Dilly Show

Ducktales reboot image review

Cancellation of Wander Over Yonder

Tangled Before Ever After series

Big Hero 6 series announcement

Does any of this news interest you?  Let’s discuss it in the comments section here or on the youtube video.  If you feel so inclined give it a thumbs up!  Thanks so much. 🙂

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:

Zootopia UK Trailer Review

We got a new UK trailer for Zootopia this weekend. I only have a minute but I thought I would share my thoughts on it with you guys.  First of all, it is a long trailer that tells a lot about the movie.  I have a feeling it shares most of the good jokes and I have a pretty good idea of the plot and what is going to happen.  So, if you are someone that doesn’t want to be “spoiled” before a movie and want to know as little as possible- STAY AWAY!

My other worry is the plot feels rather generic.  Nick Wilde is a con-man and he and Judy Hopps work together to solve a case seems like something I’ve seen a lot. Plus usually that kind of movie the 2 mismatched investigators end up falling for each other.  Can that happen in Zootopia?  Are we going to introduce inter-species relationships in Zootopia?  That seems weird.

But I do hope the characters, setting and writing are strong enough to boost the generic plot. I still have a good feeling about Judy Hopps and feel she will be a very good character.

We also learned in the trailer the film is going to be called Zootropolis in the UK for some reason. That’s kind of strange?

If you watched the trailer what did you think? Did it temper your enthusiasm at all?  Did you think they showed too much? If I”m honest it felt a little Minionsy to me. I worry all the good jokes are in the trailer (and action scenes for that matter).

Let me know what you think!

Also my friend AJ and I are having a google hangout today where we talk about the upcoming year of animation.  We’d love to have you participate or put questions in the comments section.


Zootopia Full Trailer Review

We all had a fun surprise this morning with the first longer Zootopia trailer released!  I haven’t been 100% on board with this film but I am now.  I loved this trailer!  I love the story it appears we are getting with Judy Hobbs being the lead character.  She is trying to prove her worth to the police force by solving a case in 48 hours.  That sounds great! It looks like it is not just going to be a comedic movie but have real heart too.

Here is my review of the trailer

The actual trailer

What do you think?  I’m so excited to see the film.  It looks creative, fun and different film from Disney.  Let’s hope so at least!

Most Anticipated Films of 2016

Hey guys!  2015 is quickly winding down for all of us and it has been a decent year for movies. There have been some great highs, which I talked about it in my best of the year post and some lows which I will be sharing in my worst of list on Tuesday.   I will also be posting my ranking of 2015 in animation this week after I have my google hangout video with Art from AtoZ Reviews on Wednesday.  If you guys want to participate in that discussion here is the link.  I’d love to have your feedback and insight. https://plus.google.com/events/cjaokemaobi5t77snk1rpgr1sg4

Moving on, 2016 looks like it could be a promising year for movies and while I don’t think we will get something on the level of Inside Out you never know.

I have compiled my 20 Most Anticipated Films of 2016.  I am sure some of these will end up being duds and some unknown to me will be favorites of the year.

Here is my video explaining each of the picks and why I am looking forward to them.  I would love if you guys gave a thumbs up and a watch to the video.  Thanks!

20. Secret Life of Pets

secret life of pets219. Assassins Creed

assasins creed18. Storks

storks17. Independence Day 2: Resurgence

independence_day_2_poster_116. The Little Prince

little prince15. Everybody Wants Some


14. Untitled 5th Bourne Film

Jason-Bourne-character-poster13. Ghostbusters

ghostbusters 201612. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

fantastic beasts211. Dr Strange

doctor strange10. Zootopia

zootopia poster9. Hail Cesar

hail_caesar8. Kubo and the Two Strings

kubo poster27. Captain America: Civil War

civil war poster6. The Jungle Book

jungle book poster25. Finding Dory

finding dory poster4. BFG

bfg63. Star Wars: Rogue One

rogue one22. X-men Apocalypse

xmen apocolypse21. Moana

moana4So there you have it.  What are you looking forward to in 2016?  Please put in the comments section and thanks!