Zootopia is a fun field crime mystery made for the entire family. This movie has, almost everything you could want from a film, cute adorable creatures, a great plot, amazing animation, and of course, world changing social justice themes that will turn children into liberal social justice warriors in just one viewing.
Zootopia tells the story of Judy Hopps, out plucky ambitious protagonist who, from an early age, wants to be a police officer in the big city of Zootopia. The only problem is, she’s a rabbit and rabbits are far too small to be police officers in a big city like Zootopia because Judy lives in a world where animals have evolved, both predator and prey, together. The world she lives in is inhabited by all manner of creatures, except most primates, which have grown past their wild eat each other ways and now they live in a peaceful society where most everyone gets along and they don’t eat each other. Judy pursues her dreams and eventually she makes it through the police academy and is hired on and assigned to the city center. Soon after, she finds out a missing person and she’s on the case, but she needs to enlist the help of Nick Wilde, a fox, to solve the case. Bad news is, she doesn’t have long and the clock is ticking.
Zootopia was a marvel of a movie coming in with a near 100% score at Rotten Tomatoes for almost a full week before dropping only 2% to a 98%. The reason for their success was that Zootopia is magnificent from a microscopic level. The artists who designed the animals in this movie, including Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde, spent a very long time placing microscopic detail into this movie. At one point during the filming the designers were actually sent out to view animal fur through a microscope in order to better animate the animals. The crew even created nearly every hair in the film individually in order to make sure that each fur patching was unique to the individual animals. It was this microscopic detail that left me in awe at the waving of Nick Wilde’s fur in the wind. Of course, you’re not interested in how “in awe” I was, I’m sure you, the reader, are simply wondering if this helped the movie in a substantial way. While normally I would say that animation doesn’t have to be great for a movie to be great, I will say that the Zootopia team turned this movie into eye candy from start to finish and it shows.
Another great part of the movie was the familiarity. The world that Zootopia exists in is full of alien locations and ideas but all of it was placed with such care and with so much reverence for the real world that it really showed in the final release. Watching this movie you get the feeling that the locations are real, or at least based off of real world locations. There are places like Saharra Square which was loosely based on Las Vegas. The thing that makes this a great part of the movie is how much it enhances your experience that you have seen, or even been to, these places. Unfortunately they also wanted to have a dose of reality in the story and the characters that existed within. In Zootopia we see a predator that is refused service at a store because “predators can’t be trusted”. This is a stark reminder that no matter how evolved these animals, and by parallel us humans, are there is still racism that needs to be addressed.
That brings me to the script and, also, to a spoiler warning. For a few paragraphs here I’m going to go in depth on the script, so if you haven’t seen it yet, this is your warning. TL;DR version race relations are a real world issue that Zootopia tackles perfectly
Zootopia, while filled with animals working together, is a dark movie that attempts to tackle the very real world issue of race relations and even gender issues in the United States. The movie features Judy Hopps, the rabbit protagonist I mentioned earlier, joining the police squad in Zootopia, but I didn’t mention that in order to make it she had to work twice as hard. This is because rabbits, in Zootopia, are an unsubtle representation of females in the work force. She is even given the job as a meter maid by the police chief because she is too small to be a real police officer. She is, in a sense, just a political tool being used by the mayor to foster support with the smaller animals in Zootopia. However, this is one of the great parts of the movie. The script is full of these little snippets that, each one by itself, give us a greater understanding of how we all are acting as a society. The script teaches us that, we are all capable of our own biases and this is a message that I feel is left absent in many movies these days.
Furthermore, this movie is about race relations, another issue in our real life day to day. Nick Wilde, the fox character, is seen by the majority of the other animals as shifty or shady, and definitely untrustworthy. Even after he helps Judy Hopps solve the case he’s thrown under the bus, albeit innocently enough, by Judy. This leads to our struggle and lowest point of the second act, as Judy Hopps goes back to life on the farm.
This is just an example of the racial issues tackled by Zootopia, and they do it in epic fashion.
The writers and directors of Zootopia are no strangers to this kind of movie, having a lot of experience with animation. Byron Howard, for example, has worked on movies like, Lilo and Stitch, and Tangled, and his experience shines through on this project. The characters all feel like they could be real, and they all have such emotion coming through their computer generated faces (which says something about the animators and their design team as well). All of this work makes for a supremely realistic feel to an otherwise unbelievable situation. And Howard’s experience in movies like “Brother Bear” have sharpened his skills in being able to tackle adult themes while still making a movie for the whole family.
With the Screenplay writing of Jared Bush, screenwriter of Big Hero 6, you just know you’re going to get an amazing and cohesive story without the absolute destruction of a city in order to make you care. That’s one of the things I found myself loving about this movie. It didn’t feel like it needed to be complex in order to get people to understand. In Zootopia we get to visit a long lost movie genre, the buddy-cop film. Jared Bush brings it back in simple fashion. Not that simple is bad, in fact, simple is great, we need simple nowadays because we haven’t had simple in so long that complex has become just a dream within a dream within a dream (I’m looking at you Conception).
And then there’s the acting, from Ginnifer Goodwin of “Once Upon a Time” fame, and Jason Bateman from “Arrested Development”. These two stars voice Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde (respectively) and wouldn’t really have been my first choices considering their lack of experience in the realm of voice acting. But the two nailed their parts expertly, becoming the characters and really letting the emotion show in their voices where it couldn’t really shine through the animation.
In summation, Zootopia is a movie for all ages masterfully directed, written, and acted throughout. The message of this movie is timeless and one that was definitely needed at the current state of the world. The scenes are beautifully imagined and created, and the characters are vibrant, alive, and totally believable. The movie itself has an issue with the pace but that can be forgiven for the wide audience that it attempted to capture.