It’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
Zootopia 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.
As 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.
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.
I 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!).
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.
While 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.
And 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.
Aside 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. Congrats 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: