Overview: A bunny cop and a sly fox must partner up to solve a missing persons case. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; 2016; PG; 108 minutes.
Bunny Cop Crime: Besides the fact that Zootopia is an animated film starring animals, it follows the standard structure of an effective buddy cop adventure. The straight-laced protagonist is forced to pair up with a person who goes against their principles in order to crack a case. However, the case turns out to have a much larger scope than expected, and the duo must take matters into their own hands. It’s a classic formula that doesn’t need fixing. It’s Walt Disney Animation’s insertion of relevant themes and clever use of the animal kingdom as a backdrop that makes Zootopia so fresh and exciting. In the same way they modernized their own formula with Frozen and showcased diversity within the Marvel formula with Big Hero 6, they once again prove their mastery over formula innovation with Zootopia.
Hare in the City: Bunny cop Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) are our windows into the city jungle. Goodwin is great in her role as a good intentioned, aspiring police officer and Bateman confirms he is the right fit for the sly fox with apex comedic timing. Chief Bogo (Idris Elba), a tough police captain with a soft side, Benjamin Clawhauser (Nate Torrence), a gluttonous cheetah, and many other stand-out characters populate Zootopia, bringing levity to a lot of scenes spread out throughout the film.
The actual city of Zootopia comes to life wonderfully, with the imaginative and clever world building that Directors Bryon Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush thought up. They do an amazing job in letting Zootopia reflect the real world’s modern society, both in its ideal and problematic aspects. There are definitely some funny bits, like sloths running the DMV or a rat being the crime boss, but the film also tackles some sad realities, like discrimination among races and how that dictates your role in society.
Utopian Society: Like George Orwell’s Animal Farm, and like every other fable put to print, Zootopia uses animals to illustrate prevalent and relevant problems within our society. What appeared to me as a paint-by-numbers animal animation with a few clever jokes actually turned out to be a depiction of the chaos and brutality that is caused by discrimination and racial profiling.
Without going into explicit detail, Zootopia tackles these relevant topics with enough intelligence and enough subtlety to make the allegory effective. The film shows the cruelty of intolerance and letting race dictates your place in society. The two main protagonists and the main villain are all defined by how society has treated them in accordance with their race, and they all illustrate different personas created by that discrimination; the one who chooses to rise above it, the one who is forced to accept the “natural order,” and the one who continues to enforce inequality. The three personas lend themselves to some distressing scenes. One character suffering through traumatic events related to discrimination as a child, another character triggering a city-wide contempt for minorities. The character arcs come to fruition in a fulfilling way by the end of the film, in an ending that some might consider too easy compared to the real world. However, I think it perfectly delivers its ideas and themes to its audience.
Overall: Zootopia is a funny, thrilling, intelligent, and relevant film. It continues Disney’s recent push for more diverse and more modern approaches to their classic roots, but its execution and ambition easily put it at the top of Disney Animation’s Resurgence era.