Zootropolis (or Zootopia) is the animated smash from 2016 which takes a look at an imaginary world where humans don’t exist, and animals live together in harmony (mostly) to run the world themselves.
Disney’s stunningly colourful and well explored world follows the story of Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a enthusiastic and ambitious bunny who is the first of her kind to enter the animal police force, and lives her dream of being on the beat in the streets of Zootropolis. Demoted on her first day to doling out parking tickets, she meets sly fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) along the way, and after tackling their differences, enlists his help to solve the biggest crime in the capital.
The first thing to say is that this is far more than anthropomorphised animals and bright colours to entertain your little ones for an hour – this film has something to say. Going beyond other animated features which often slip in some jokes for the adults to keep them amused as well as the children, the core of Zootropolis is a statement about the harm that prejudice and discrimination can cause.
Zootropolis manages to explore several different layers of prejudice through it’s excellently woven storyline, full of unexpected turns – we first see Judy face negativity at her attempts to become a police officer due to her upbringing, size and, well, bunny-like nature, and her being put through to Zone 1 but then given the most menial of tasks brings to mind the idea of her being the ‘token’ bunny, employed to be a public face of the Zootropolis police’s diversity policy.
Other threads see a continuing conflict between Judy and Nick as companions, due to one tending to eat the other if we look impartially at the food chain, and the major crime they’re trying to solve, which pits predators against prey. There’s also scenes of mass hysteria provoked by media coverage and manipulation from the press, and this even leads to violence on the streets – a stark reflection of the modern day.
The film manages to tackle these social issues with delicacy, bringing the lightness you’d expect from this kind of piece, but also delivering on emotional and impactful moments – seeing young fox Nick with a muzzle on his mouth feels particularly uncomfortable. It actually almost feels like the plot is that bit too complex for much younger viewers, although it could help to communicate messages about equality and discrimination.
Turning to the lighter side of Zootropolis, the first thing you notice about the film is the beauty of the animation and the detail in the world they’ve created – there’s different zones and climates to accommodate for the varying species, an adorable mini city for rodents that brings Gulliver’s Travels to mind, and the sloths working for the DMV made us laugh out loud.
The characters are lovely, well rounded and smartly matched to the voiceover cast – Judy’s endless optimism and charm can’t help but rub off on you, and seeing Nick develop from an apparent conman into something else entirely is really endearing.
There’s also good supporting characters, including Idris Elba as the gruff police chief, Nate Torrence as the extravagant police receptionist Clawhauser, and mafia boss Mr Big is pretty entertaining too.
Zootropolis is a truly brilliant watch – it’s funny, creative, beautifully made with intricate details, and deftly manages to deliver thought provoking messages through a story line seemingly pulled from news reports we see every day.
We’ve given Zootropolis 4 whole stars – we’d go so far as to say it’s one of the best animated films we’ve seen, and definitely shouldn’t be written off as just something for the kids.
If you’d like to own Zootropolis on DVD for yourself, you can purchase it here.
And if we’ve really intrigued you, here’s the trailer to wet your appetite. Enjoy!
(Images from here, here and here)