Zootopia, Zootropolis in the UK, is the latest animated feature by Disney studios. It imagines a world of anthropomorphic animals and focuses on a city where they all live in harmony despite all the differences in sizes and nature. The events of the movie follow a female rabbit called Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, who pursues her dream of becoming a police officer, a job that she was never seen fit for. Judy is constantly mocked and ridiculed by her boss, Chief Bogo, her colleagues and even the criminals that she tries to capture. In order to prove her worth, Judy takes on the most important case of disappearing animals, and seeks the help of a conning fox called Nick, voiced by Jason Bateman, to solve the case in the window of 48 hours or, otherwise, she’ll be forced out of the service.
Several aspects are perfectly balanced in “Zootopia”, helping it avoid mostly every mistake that we clearly witnessed in animated films in the last two years. It’s not too straightforward, and it’s not too complicated. It’s not too usual, and it’s not too strange. It’s not too obvious and it’s not too mysterious. It also manages to mix all the needed components to attract children and grown ups alike. It carries a positive message, flows through adventure, inspires with imagination, it even wraps around a solid plot and a few surprising twists, and it entertains with very well executed action sequences and extremely humorous comedy. The major sign of success for this formula is that I’m unable to determine if it was the action or the comedy that I enjoyed most.
Not every moment of Zootopia is enjoyable, when extremely invested in its message, it can drive a sense of impatience to the audience for getting quickly to the entertaining stuff. However, the movie finishes strong. The ending is generally a very important tool that most movies underestimate. Even if your film is filled with flaws, providing a quality ending sequence can be a good way to have a great deal of your mistakes forgiven. Not that “Zootopia” needed it that much in all cases.
The obvious message of the film deals with differences in race, and invites for tolerance and coexistence. That’s not the message that interested me the most though. The one I cared about more is encouraging the younger audience to challenge all stereotyping and negative classifications to achieve their dreams. Probably it stuck with me because it was in the lyrics of Shakira’s awesome song in the movie.
Balancing is extended from all technical and artistic aspects to choices of cast members. We have some big names and some who aren’t equally famous. Most voice actors just went on and used their regular speech, and it’s surprising how well it worked. I sensed that maybe Idris Elba, in supplying the voice for the character of Chief Bogo, is the only one who managed to find some middle ground between his trademark voice, the nature of his character and the animal that he is portraying.
Zootopia is constructed on the kind of concept that you would feel is a bit abused, but it’s really unlike anything we’ve seen that had talking animals in it. Anthropomorphism is taken to new dimensions with a simple idea; “Zootopia” is not a city where animals live, it’s rather a city that animals built, using collective life lessons that taught them that everybody matters, and that everybody can indeed live together in peace.
The extreme creativity in building the concept for “Zootopia” the city wasn’t met with equal creativity in building “Zootopia” the animated feature. I believe the designs and the animation were very well executed, but I don’t sense they brought anything new to the table. Maybe that’s why the film does feel a bit too familiar from the trailer and, unlike most elements of the movie, I don’t mean that as a plus.
“Zootopia” is the best Disney animated movie, either with Pixar or without it, since Toy Story 3 in 2010. It works in every classification that it attempted to belong to, but most of all as a comedy. I watched the whole film with a smile on my face and the smile developed into hysterical laughing with the scene of “Flash” the sloth, which is probably one of the smartest hilarious scenes that I’ve seen in any animated movie.
With the exception of an uninspiring visual experience and a few scenes where the message gets a bit too direct and too repetitive, “Zootopia” is a cinematic experience that I would strongly recommend for all family members.