Now, ever since John Lasseter came in to help Disney out so they don't make films like Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Treasure Planet or Brother Bear ever again (while Pixar was making the classics), I don't believe that Walt Disney Animation Studios can make one bad film. They can get formulaic with their princess films, yes. And they can even reach Don Bluth levels of cutesy-wutesy too. But never make terrible films...
With that said, "Zootopia" is good but not in the same league as other Disney films (specifically the modern ones (Bolt, Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6, etc.)). Why? Well, it does stand out when it comes to having a 3-act structure telling an entire story on it's own. The first act is when Judy Hopps gets a job at the Zootopia Police Department but as a parking meter maid having to put up with Nick Wilde. The second act is Judy having 48 hours to solve the case of the missing mammals and team up with Nick at the same time. And the third act, I won't say since major spoilers are involved. Unfortunately, all 3 acts aren't all that strong and at times you know what'll happen at certain points plus they all remind me of several animated films with similar plotlines. Like, the first two acts (or really the first half of the movie) would remind me of "Monsters University" with elements from "Toy Story" then the third act would remind me of "Wreck-It Ralph" (And yes! I'm fully aware that a director can rip-off his/her own work and it can work (just not for Sam Rami with "Army of Darkness" and "Wizard of Oz")) and "Penguins of Madagascar".
But, I'm not saying that the story is bad. It is told very decently and there are times where you'd root for the both of them. It's not the best story that Disney can think of but you can't really say it's bad. And before I go on, I need to address 2 (technically 3) things...
1. The message it's trying to convey
For one thing, the message they're going for deals with racism, prejudice against certain species and it really reminds me of the Anti-White Message that "Tomorrowland" was going for. So, I'm not gonna complain like anyone else (or those people who accused "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" of Anti-White Genocide).
2. The humor and the Easter Eggs
I will admit that there are some scenes that really cracked me up but the humor that's highlighted consists of bad animal puns that involve product placement plus I should mention that I am not a fan of how cartoons today would put in modern gags like selfies, touch screen phones, apps, FaceTime and all of those things (though I can get past "Gravity Falls" doing it). As for the Easter Eggs, I won't give them away but they make it obvious that Walt Disney Animation Studios is trying to be Pixar and take back their crown as the king of animation from them. I'm not saying that as a Pixar fan because I love Disney as much as Pixar but keep in mind that I grew up in the era where Disney made Box Office bombs and that Pixar was having all the success.
If I have to narrow down the movie's strongest aspects (aside from the heart being in the right place), it's that "Zootopia" is a great example of how Disney has learned how to evolve with their computer animation without the help of Pixar. The backgrounds are absolutely beautiful and as unique as what we've seen in "Wreck-It Ralph" and "Big Hero 6", although we've seen what other studios (even Disney) can do with anthropomorphic animals, they along with the backgrounds manage to make the movie look very colorful and it also compliments the texture and the character animation giving the animators plenty to work with. It really stands out when they're in Zootopia or any of the other locations in the movie. Another thing is that the action sequences in the 2nd act are really the most engaging but there's not as much to go by as "Big Hero 6". I dunno, maybe that's just me since I do have a fascination with superhero stories and I'm used to Disney films making movies like that. But, Disney still did a fantastic job nonetheless.
While there are about as many characters as "The Good Dinosaur" (not counting the background characters), it's simple who we need to focus on, let's start with Judy who's pretty much the same character as Mike in "Monsters University" but also as optimistic as Anna from "Frozen" despite everyone around her telling her to give up and that she'll never be the first rabbit officer on the force. She is well-built and well written as a character by being strong on her own or working with Nick Wilde to solve the missing mammal case. There's Nick Wilde whose best described as a more likable and more sympathetic version of Surly from "The Nut Job" though you get to feel for him more in the second act and care more for his relationship with Judy as the movie progresses. There's Mayor Lionheart (OK, somebody give J.K. Simmons a voice acting job with Pixar and Blue Sky!) who's really unlikable and really...
They just make him a red herring and I swear they made Assistant Mayor Bellweather the villain just so they can avoid the whole 'corrupted mayor' plotline that's been done before in other movies and shows. And it just makes writing a villain for a Disney movie formulaic and predictable.
As for the other characters, the only important one is Chief Bogo who is voiced by Heimdall from the "Thor" movies (I know it's Idris Elba, but as a Marvel fan, I seriously have to call him that). The rest we don't focus on a lot but they don't never appear again like "The Good Dinosaur", Flash is just there because he was in all the promotional material (same with Gazelle), Mr.Big is there so there's at least an antagonist for misdirection, Duke Weaselton is there because they want for Alan Tudyk to be Disney's John Ratzenberger and I swear that they got Bonnie Hunt to voice Judy's mom so it feels like a Pixar movie. Though I will say that Finnick really cracked me up. Plus, the only reason they got Kristen Bell to voice the female sloth in the DMV scene was because she recorded that voice message for that sick girl once... (Look It Up!)
It's hard to care for some of the characters that aren't Nick or Judy, but only some of them would get memorable by time.
"Zootopia" isn't the most memorable nor is it one of the best Disney movies. It's OK with some nice and colorful animation, but it's story and characters take a lot of time to feel as Pixar-esque as "Bolt" and "Wreck-It Ralph". My best recommendation is to wait for the DVD, I will say that everything does seem to fit together but don't expect it to be like "Big Hero 6" or "Frozen". Oh! And there is no short in theaters with this (and probably not with "Finding Dory" either).
Previews I saw in theaters with this movie:
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
- The Secret Life of Pets
- The Angry Birds Movie
- The Jungle Book (While I'm against Live-Action remakes of Disney classics, it does look good in some ways where it's like the original classic)
- Ice Age: Collision Course (I am DONE with the Ice Age franchise! So, no I will not be seeing it!)
- Finding Dory (You should know how excited I am for this movie!)