Honestly I was expecting a good but perhaps exasperating time with Zootropolis, but actually… this was a really intelligent and err, human story.
Judy Hopps has dreams of being a Police Officer in the big city, despite everyone (including her parents) thinking it is ridiculous; no bunny could ever be a Police Officer! But believing in herself gets her a position in Zootropolis. But the big city and its citizens are uncompromising… threatening to consume her dreams…
Ginnifer Goodwin (Once Upon a Time) brings a elastic and multi-layered performance as Judy Hopps, a bunny rabbit who is enthusiastic but woefully oblivious to the harshness of reality. Jason Bateman plays Nick Wilde, a fox and regular conman who winds up teaming up with her, and there’s a slew of other memorable characters. If Disney was looking to set up an on going series, maybe even a television show, with Zootropolis, they have achieved it.
What concerned me the most going into Zootropolis was the potential for an over-abundance of animal puns mixed with real human job roles. Sure, they do exist here; the trailer shows us the Sloths working in the office scene, but even using that example proves the film’s surprises: the comedy, despite how deliberate it can be, is really funny! There’s a great sense of scale too; Zootropolis is home to all mammals, big, tall, small and fat, all living together harmoniously. How can a train allow gerbils and Elephants to disembark and climb aboard without one standing on the other? Or how a juice bar can service giraffes as well as other mammals?
As irrelevant as these questions are, this film answers them with some very charming design work!
But perhaps Zootropolis’s biggest strength is how surprisingly mature and human minded its story and characterisation really is. This isn’t a hodgepodge of action set pieces, throw away dialogue and cliche jokes… this is a narrative about prejudices, this is an analogue about the human condition and how we have progressed as a species yet still cling to old strife unfairly and unnecessary. This film is talking about racial and gender based inequality, and the old-fashioned and backward thinking we either intentionally evoke or blindly stumble into. What a time we live in for this film to be released!
Zootropolis (or Zootopia, as I continually misspell for UK audiences!) may have an all animal cast and euphemisms for humanity’s worst personal struggles, but it is a human story, down to the ground. This is Disney’s animation studio’s answer to Pixar’s Inside Out, a bold and challenging experience wrapped in a children’s cartoon.
So yeah! I can see why the critics are giving it acclaim, what a surprising and engaging premise. I do wonder how much very young children will appreciate it though… But I did say that about Inside Out and was seemingly proven wrong.
Outside of the incredible subtext, the mechanical plot running at the forefront of Zootropolis felt a little… unnecessary. I’d almost be happier with just watching these characters interact without a quasi-sci-fi thriller notion giving it more drive, even more exploration of the city and more animal puns would have been welcome! Such is the charming character animation and design, and the wit and humour along with it!
Overall, Zootropolis is up their with Disney’s recent works like Wreck-it Ralph. It is executed wonderfully, designed and animated well with memorable jokes and characters that flood the screen. Its challenging subtext of race and acceptance triples its acclaim in my opinion, although the plot feels a little second rate.
Definitely give Zootropolis a go, don’t underestimate it.