When a small town bunny heads to the big city to make a difference, she stumbles into a world that’s more complex than she can imagine. Even after enlisting the help of a reluctant fox witness, will she be able to untangle the mystery in time? Take out the animals from Zootopia and that could be the plot of nearly any police procedural, but under the guidance of Disney animation’s fabled story trust, it becomes a rich, funny, warm, meaningful, and even heart warming story.
Directed by Byron Howard (Tangled) and Rich Moore (Wreck-it Ralph), co-directed by Jared Bush and featuring the voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, and Shakira, Disney’s Zootopia takes audiences into a world where humans never evolved and mammals, predator and prey, have learned to co-exist. The tensions created by this intersection are the back drop for the big story of the film, but layered into the movie are lessons about sexism, prejudice, power, and stereotyping.
The beauty of the movie is how none of these lessons are delivered with a heavy hand, rather they evolve naturally from the circumstances the characters find themselves in. Still when you consider all that is going on in the world today, the message is amazingly timely.
Judy Hopps (Goodwin), the erstwhile country-bunny with dreams of being a big city police officer, finds that even when she thinks she’s overcome all the odds, there are still those who only see her as a bunny and not a capable officer. Chief Bogo (Elba) gives Hopps 48 hours to solve a big mystery plaguing the city but no support, so Hopps has to enlist the reluctant help of street-wise fox Nick Wilde (Bateman) to solve the mystery and save her job.
I don’t want to say too much more and risk giving away some of the movie’s great beats and its many laugh out loud moments. But I will call out the performances of Nate Torrence whose improvisation in the sound booth led to an excellent performance as the chubby cheetah Benjamin Clawhauser and Disney animation’s good luck charm and vocal chameleon Alan Tudyk as Duke Weaselton.
Tudyk’s character is one of a trio of sly references to Frozen in the film.
- Tudyk played Duke Wesselton in Frozen, who was erroneously called Duke Weaselton.
- Chief Bogo repeats the famous line “Let it Go” when dressing down Judy Hopps.
- In the ‘Try Everything’ segment where Judy Hopps arrives in Zootopia, keep an eye open for two small elephants dressed as Anna And Elsa when the train passes through Tundratown.
The city itself is a character in the film. From silly animal inspired business names (for instance Gnu Balance, Zuber and Trader Doe’s), to the way the city incorporates different districts each with its unique architecture and characters. There are also a number of wonderful references to other films (Godfather) and TV Shows (Breaking Bad) that will keep parents entertained even if they go over the heads of the little ones.
Perhaps the highest compliment is that those I talk to keep confusing Zootopia for a Pixar film. But I think that since Tangled in 2010, it’s safe to say that Walt Disney Animation Studios has been regularly producing stories, characters, and animation on par with their comrades in art up in Emeryville.
Over at Rotten Tomatoes, the film is getting high marks with a 100% fresh rating and I have to agree. Not only is Zootopia immensely entertaining, it’s great movie making. Time will tell, but this could become as big of a sea change for Disney Animation as The Lion King was in the 1990s.
I saw it in 3D on a large screen and would recommend that format if you want the full experience. However, the movie will work in 2D format as well.