Animation films centring on animals have arguably been done to death, from early Disney entrants like Bambi to Dreamworks’ Madagascar. Even so, Disney Pixar’s latest creation is a carefully crafted masterpiece that highlights the famed studio’s adept storytelling.
Although it may play around with some slightly overworked ideas, Zootropolis still manages to have its own unique tone that makes us laugh just as much as any other Disney-Pixar concoction. And even though the crooks of the story may be cliché, it actually manages to deliver some punchy, genuinely thought-provoking, political and cultural messages. But allow us to expand a little on that.
Zootropolis is as much about the American dream as it is about anthropomorphic animals. It tells of Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), a young bunny who wants to be a police officer, living in a human-free world where prey and predators now exist together in harmony. Alongside eclectic characters voiced by Idris Elba, Jason Bateman and J.K Simmons, Hopps must move to the big city and solve a complicated kidnapping case in order to prove herself.
From the off, the laughs come quick and lathered in Disney Pixar’s trademark wit. Blink and you may miss it. As you may expect, a world completely occupied by animals is littered with humorous Easter eggs, be it Carrot phones instead of Apple iPhones, a Mousy’s department store in place of Macy’s, and even a nod to one of the studios’ own films with Wreck it Rhino.
The humor is kept diverse enough for parents to keep on laughing too, with a scene that plays out just like Breaking Bad as well as a particularly hilarious Godfather parody. Much like other recent Disney films brewing with secret grownup jokes, we are constantly left thinking – can they do that?
Traveling to the concrete jungle of Zootropolis gives the guys in the animation department a lot to play around with. Consisting of multiple ecosystems – a desert, rainforest, and tundra to name but a few – Zootropolis is a beautifully shape-shifting color pallet. And we have all learned by now that Disney Pixar’s animation department has nailed the animal/fur side of things.
As we already mentioned, shipping out to the big city and achieving your dream plays a big part in the film and will no doubt resonate with younger viewers. The overriding message however is really drilled home about three quarters of the way through, thanks to a twist in the plot. Without giving too much away, it revolves around prejudice shown towards a minority (in this case the predators of the jungle) due to the acts of a small group.
Most animation films tend to successfully deliver their underlying statements, but it’s been a while since one was executed in such a clever and creative way, by using animals to highlight society’s flaws when it comes to social segregation. It even throws in a reference to cultural slang when our Bunny protagonist Hopps is called “cute” by another animal. Her reaction? “bunnies can call other bunnies cute, but when others do it…”
Something as simple as using animal characteristic to negatively stereotype – i.e. sly and untrustworthy foxes or soft, cuddly and useless bunnies – is implemented in such a way that makes us reflect on racial typecasts and their effects. These are by no means new cultural or political subjects, but it is great to see that Disney’s writers are willing to put in the work and deliver a message that will literally have you applauding its attentiveness.
Strip away the strong sub text though and Zootropolis would still be a largely entertaining family film. But Disney Pixar don’t do anything in halves. The script has clearly been carefully constructed in such a way that it speaks to a plethora of audiences, possibly more so than any other film that has rolled out of the studio’s doors.
The screening of Zootropolis was attended by The Metropolist at ODEON Liverpool ONE.