The first major animation movie of 2016 has arrived, with Disney releasing the spunky world of Zootopia. Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a bunny with a lifelong dream of becoming a police officer. Growing up on a rural farm, she is constantly told this is no job for a rabbit, and that she should settle for smaller, more achievable dreams.
After 15 years of determination she makes it into the academy, only for her boss, Bogo (Idris Elba), to prescribe her meter-maid duty for her first day. It’s there she meets Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) a sly fox, who hustles Judy and tricks different mammals into several different money-making scams.
After more mundane police duties, Bogo gives Judy her big shot: to find a local otter’s missing husband. Judy blackmails Nick with his questionable business connections to navigate Zootopia’s underbelly, and the two form an unlikely partnership on their mysterious case.
This fun animation is at its most powerful when dealing in symbolism. This is best demonstrated when Judy becomes the first bunny to join the police academy. Often being called cute, small, or deemed unable to handle the “big cases” – even asked on one occasion if all bunnies are as bad at driving as she is – Judy becomes more determined and fearless in the face of her bullies.
While this feels a little heavy-handed for the first 20 minutes or so, it is neatly caressed into a strong female character arc. Nick (who seems to be Fantastic Mr. Fox 2.0) appears to represent the minorities of society and spends a lot of the movie avoiding prejudices.
These side glances to our own imperfect world are handled very sensitively by the three directors (Bryan Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush) and I’m sure young children these days will understand the metaphors.
Zootopia has enough quirk and zest to stand beside other classic Disney films like Inside Out or Toy Story, and the Sloths of Zootopia have to be one of Disney’s greatest ever character creations (you’ve got to check them out!).
The city of Zootopia (subtlety hinted as being New York City) is explored in depth with the film taking the time to flesh out the universe it sets itself. With passing references to classics such as The Godfather and Chinatown, there’s more than enough here to keep adults from fidgeting and for kids to enjoy.
Though it’s great to watch – with feisty characters and an atmospheric mystery story – at its core, Zootopia is a sharp examination of today’s racial profiling and gender equality in society. It’s not often you can say that about a kids movie! Also – those Sloths!