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By: Joe Jodoin
As the first movie from Disney Animation since 2014’s Big Hero Six, Zootopia is a welcome return for the studio. The film possesses many of the same qualities as Disney’s other classics: top-notch animation, lovable characters and a powerful message for children and adults alike.
The film takes place in a world of anthropomorphic animals, and follows a young bunny named Judy Hopps. Judy has wanted to be a police officer her whole life, but after finally getting accepted to the force, she faces discrimination and exclusion from all her coworkers for being nothing but a cute little bunny. To prove herself a worthy cop, she sets out to solve a conspiracy involving 14 missing mammals, and enlists the help of a con artist fox named Nick Wilde to help her solve the case.
The brilliance of this premise is that it contains so much potential. It can work as an amalgamation of crime drama tropes, a parody of modern lifestyles in an anthropomorphized world and explore serious discrimination problems that people face in the real world. For the most part, Zootopia achieves all of these things, but also bites off more than it can chew.
The voice cast is incredible, featuring the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J. K. Simmons and Alan Tudyk among others. Goodwin is the voice of Judy Hopps, and has a vast majority of the dialogue in the movie. She does an incredible job, and it’s almost impossible to imagine anyone else as the voice of Judy. The film definitely would not have been nearly as good if it wasn’t for her incredible vocal performance, in scenes that are both heart-wrenching and heart-warming.
The story is definitely more about what it takes to overcome discrimination, and the importance of treating everyone as equals, than it is about a conspiracy. The film satirizes racism with incredibly strong parallels between how different species of animals treat each other and how people of different skin colors treat each other. It also tackles sexism and stereotypes, arguing that a woman can do anything that a man can do. In the film’s third act, it goes even further, and shows how people can be discriminatory against a certain group without even realizing it because of how engrained stereotypes are in our collective consciousness. The way it confronts real world issues in such a blunt and powerful way is the main reason this film could go down in history as a Disney classic.
Furthermore, the attention to detail in Zootopia is astonishing. When Judy goes to a neighbourhood of mice, she looks like a giant relative to all the buildings. However, she looks tiny when at the police station, since everyone there is a larger animal like a rhino or elephant. The way the movie works with scale and environment is very clever. More highlights include scenes from the trailers, such as the sloth scene at the DMV, the godfather parody scene and a fox committing a con with popsicles and a fake baby.
Sadly, due to the film’s incredible scope and amount of potential, it can feel disjointed and jumbled, moving from one place to another every few minutes. It is normally a good thing when a film has a fast pace, but Zootopia moves so fast that it stumbles often. Some scenes will be working very well, but then will move onto the next scene too quickly. This takes away from some of the emotional impact that the film aimed to have, and also made it less funny as it was almost exhausting keeping up with everything that was going on. To put this in perspective, the villain isn’t even revealed until the last 15 minutes of the movie, and the whole climax, denouement and conclusion all occur incredibly fast. It would definitely have been more enjoyable if it was over two hours long, but that’s not the worst complaint to have about a movie.
Overall, Zootopia is a fun and original addition to the Disney cannon, and is almost impossible not to like. It has a great message that all kids should hear, tons of pop-culture references and a balance of character and heart. However, the whole isn’t quite as strong as the sum of its parts, making it feel like a minor disappointment.