Disney brings us a colorful world of civilized animals, filled with humor and fun...
It's been a little over 10 years since the Walt Disney Company decided to produce computer-animated films from its in-house animation studio, alongside Pixar making its own line of 3D animated films. At this point, the quality of Disney 3D animated films has gotten better to the point where the quality gap between Disney and Pixar is now smaller. I observed this after watching Disney's 2016 animated film Zootopia, a movie that a few people could mistake for a Pixar movie if the poster didn't advertise the Disney name so clearly. It's a movie that is imaginative, funny, and engaging.
Let me explain why I say Zootopia is imaginative. It centers on a modern city whose inhabitants are civilized animals of many species, big and small. At first, the city looks very much like a real-life human metropolis. But look closely and you'll see that the different sections of the city are also different ecosystems. For example, you have the icy and snowy Tundratown where polar bears reside, as well as the rain forest district where trains, automobiles, and other artificial city elements exist alongside the trees and vines. It's such a creative concept that I only wish the movie had shown us more of the other city ecosystems. (Then again, if Zootopia 2 gets made, maybe I'll have that chance.)
If you're wondering what's outside Zootopia, there is a farm town where a rabbit family grows, harvests, and sells carrots. This is where we are introduced to the main character: a rabbit named Judy Hopps who dreams of being a police officer in Zootopia rather than a carrot farmer on the family farm. The decision to be a cop worries her parents at first, but with determination, Judy passes the training at the Zootopia Police Academy to the delight of everyone in town. Judy then moves to Zootopia, starts her first day of work, and is given her first assignment. Not a part in solving a case of 14 missing mammals, but rather duty as a meter maid issuing parking tickets.
With determination, she is able to convince the police chief to let her help on the missing mammal case. Aiding her investigation is Nick Wilde, a con artist fox with a cool personality and a hint of untrustworthiness. Interestingly, there is much cooperation between Judy and Nick, as they spend more time working together than against each other. Still, there is a hilarious scene where they go to the Department of Mammal Vehicles to run a license plate number. The sloth they speak to is already exceedingly slow, and Nick makes it worse by telling a joke that delays things even further, because the sloth's smile and laughter take several extra seconds.
I will not say any more on the plot, other than the fact that it follows along nicely and the things Judy and Nick uncover were not what I predicted. I will say that there are plenty of good scenes with action or humor, and the theme of self-determination and success no matter who you are is nicely presented here. Just because Judy is the smallest cop on the force, not a big animal like every other cop, doesn't mean she can't get the job done.
Speaking of themes, there is one more that appears in Zootopia, and it's one I never expected: prejudice versus acceptance. We first see this with the way the police do not see Judy's value. But there are also moments where animals that are usually prey in the natural world are suspicious of animals that are traditionally predators in the natural world, plus an early scene where Judy in her childhood is bullied by a fox. If you think about it, it's no accident that the story centers on a rabbit and a fox working together to solve a mystery. Judy and Nick do, for the most part, put aside their biological differences, just as all citizens of Zootopia should in order to live together in harmony.
So yes, Zootopia goes a bit deeper than the usual animated film, though it's not in classic Pixar territory. That's OK, though. The important thing is that this movie will make you smile thanks to its nicely written story, exciting action, and good humor. This is also the kind of movie that should remind you to not overlook 3D animated film from Disney's in-house studio, in case you're still not sold on that line of movies because you think only Pixar films are superior. So with that, I shall give Zootopia a rating of 8 out of 10, because it reminds us that any kind of animal (or human, for that matter) can be anything he or she wants.
Anthony's Rating: 8/10
(Review originally published at http://anthonysfilmreview.com/Film/Z/Zootopia.htm)