A movie about anthropomorphic animals? Haven't we seen that before?
The answer is most probably a big "yes". Yet with Disney's new animated feature Zootopia, Disney wants to breathe new life into this classic cartoon concept. Backed up by an admittedly very humorous marketing campaign complete with parody posters of other big blockbuster movies now with an animal twist, question is whether Zootopia's story about cop bunny Judy Hopps and criminal fox Nick Wilde can bring enough new ideas or at least entertainment to the table to make an entire city filled with animals seem like a new exciting concept again?...
In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a fugitive con artist fox and a rookie bunny cop must work together to uncover a conspiracy.
Though at first glance Zootopia might seem like your standard animated kids movie with anthropomorphic animals doing the main part of the show and nothing more, Zootopia takes the theme of animals now being civilized really to its heart and develops a story around said theme that makes the entire affair feel remarkably creative and fresh again.
Topped up with some kid friendly humor that also has its fare share of generational gap crossing entertainment value and even subtle adult gags hidden in it, you got a nice recipe for success.
|Zootopia is actually really worth taking a trip to.|
So, as already said, Zootopia's focus on a world ruled by anthropomorphic animals is a formula that surely is nothing new and since has been done over and over again since the dawn of time, yet Zootopia manages to tell a very entertaining and imaginative story that truely brings this seemingly classic and run-dry formula to new life. This is achieved by Zootopia's story really focussing on animals having evolved from instinct-driven animals to actual civilized creatures that have learned to live together. Not only is this a nice backstory of Zootopia's world itself that deepens the lore, but it also is an integral part of Zootopia's surprisingly smarter than expected detective story.
With that said, Zootopia actually doesn't feature an expected journey or adventure plot but rather a refreshing take on a cartoon-esque detective story with investigations by protagonists bunny cop Judy Hopps and criminal fox Nick Wilde. This alone is a very refreshing change of pace for a Disney animated movie, and one of the standout aspects of Zootopia itself - but it doesn't stop just there.
Though the movie starts off in a quite familiar way, its plot about finding the whereabouts of a missing otter father lead the duo of detectives, Judy and Nick, across the entirety of Zootopia's creatively designed districts and even lead to some twists and turns you won't necessarily see coming. And even though the investigation thread and plot is kept at such a simple level that kids should have no problem following the story, the mystery surrounding the case is actually kept in such a constant mysterious light that it can become even puzzling for adult viewers to find out who exactly is behind it all.
|Featuring twists and turns that some might not see coming.|
Sure enough, Zootopia's nevertheless makes use of a handful of familiar plot devices like the two protagonist friends having a dispute and differing opinions that they have to work out etc., yet the movie manages to actually keep those moments to a necessary minimum to get another more important and surprisingly well handeled topic across - racism.
Yes, racism. In a very unexpected move, Disney managed to have Zootopia's story revolving very much around the issue of racism and stereotyping. The brilliance about this however, is that Zootopia manages to handle this very sensitive issue in this kids movie in such a way that kids will understand it without shoving it right in their face. In other words, instead of the ethnic differences between people of different countries and different beliefs, Zootopia instead mirrors and showcases the same issue with the help of Zootopia being inhabited by different animal species. Both throughout its comedy and story, the movie builds up a sense of wonder and actual credibility that Zootopia is filled with different animals who all have their specific characteristics yet evolved and thus learned to live together despite their differences between herbivores and carnivoers. It's this harmonic life between the different animals that gets threatened due to some significant events during the story that put the animals' tolerance and acceptance for each other to the test.
While adults will immediately see the connections between the animals suddenly starting to stereotype each other in Zootopia, kids might not draw the real-life parallels initially but nevertheless will understand the issue perfectly. Once again, it's a very sensitive topic handeled with great care and explained very well to younger viewers of the movie without scaring them. Yet, of course the tackled issues are also solved with a powerful and timeless message and morale in the end as it is typical for Disney.
|Certainly didn't expect Disney to tackle THAT specific topic here.|
Yet aside from the serious tones and topics in Zootopia, most of the movie is of course not a super strict lesson on racism but a good old fashioned and very cartoon-like feeling animated comedy.
While Zootopia does great in handling its serious topics, the comedy, jokes and fun in the movie sure enough don't come too short but fittingly dictate roughly 80% of the entire experience.
On the dominant forefront of all the fun in Zootopia stands its creativity in putting the different personalities of the different animals to such good use, that it's simply fun seeing in what way each animal species managed to be a part in Zootopia. From hamsters in business suits during the rush hour, over an elephant yoga instructor who funnily enough forgets seemingly everything important, all the way to sloths being employed as government employees with hilarious results.
On top of that, Zootopia of course also features a nice amount of good old slapstick humor without overdoing it. Therefore, the story alternates in a very comfortable pace between focussing on the investigation plot, verbal humor and slapstick humor. This is all wrapped up in gorgeously animated sceneries that take us to each of the very different districts in the city of Zootopia that range from the jungle district, over the tundra district, to the city centre.
|Sloths as governmental employees?...Oh those real life parallels.|
Looking at the roster of characters, Zootopia of course features a whole bunch of animal personas. Just as varied and colorful as the city of Zootopia itself, the movie's characters are plenty and all across the board fun to watch.
Focussing on the main characters though, Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, is posed as a very relatable main character to root for. Instead of a know-it-all type of person who annoyingly overly engages herself in her job (like Reese Witherspoon in Hot Pursuit), Hopps is introduced as a good hearted yet a bit workaholic like flawed person in the movie. On the other hand, we have the total opposite with the criminal fox Nick Wilde, voiced by Jason Bateman, who is paired with Hopps against his will to solve a mysterious case. Of course the very diverse duo will predictably solve out their relationship issues like distrust etc. during the story, yet luckily this is not shoved as much in the viewers' face this time around. Instead the investigation takes center stage most of the time, and therefore, seeing Nick and Judy interact and work together during the investigations without too many arguments make both of them very fun to watch and charismatic as a result. It ultimately feels very much comparable to the dynamic of Bernard and Bianca from Disney's classic animated feature The Rescuers.
Furthermore we of course also got a ton of other fun characters, like the adorable secretary sheep Bellwhether, or most notably police Chief Bogo, voiced by Idris Elba, who also manages to deliver a good palette of jokes.
|Pick your favorite. There's plenty to choose from.|
Overall, Zootopia is a rock solid effort by Disney that manages to make the entire formula of anthropomorphic animals feel incerdibly fresh again. With Zootopia putting an animal twist on various real-life aspects, from different corporate brands to specific everyday jobs done by animals, the entire city of Zootopia itself is a big manifestation of creativity and imagination.
On top of that, Zootopia turns out to not be your typical adventure storyline, but instead it's an actually quite cleverly written detective story whose investigations manage to strike the right balance between not being too complicated for kids to get, yet also not too simple, so that adults also will actually have some guessing to do for themselves. Spiced up with the two charismatic protagonists Judy and Nick having to visit the colorful and varied districts of Zootopia and meet different quirky and fun characters along the way, it's a very balanced and entertaining take on a story rarely featured in animated movies nowadays.
What's most surprising however, is how well Zootopia furthermore manages to handle some very serious and ever so current themes like racism and stereotyping in its story. Not only does it make the real-life parallels for adults very clear, but most notably, it showcases and explains those serious topics in a very clever way for kids to understand, before giving an expectedly timeless and powerful message on the topic.
Zootopia sure enough doesn't necessarily explore any groundbreaking new dimensions or mark a new milestone for animated movies, yet it nevertheless stands strong as a thoughtful, very entertaining and all around rock solid animation movie effort from Disney. It's beautifully animated and just a well-rounded package from top to bottom, equally enjoyable for adults and kids alike.
Final Verdict: 8 out of 10