I’m kind of rushing to get this one out on time, so pardon any typo and grammar errors on this one. Disney knows their talking animal tales. From the mouse that started it all to their take on Robin Hood anthropomorphic animals are an important part of the Disney brand. Too bad they keep getting lost in the live-action remakes. No, I’m not counting the Lion King remake.
Zootopia (known as Zootropolis in a few countries) just looked like a really fun movie in a sea of films that seems to skew darker and darker. While it had a dark moment or two overall it’s a fascinating way to discuss prejudice and racism. I really wanted to see it. And a lot of the websites and webseries I partake of really wanted to talk about the ending, so the villain reveal was kind of ruined for me before I got to see it. I HATE when that happens to something I’m really looking forward to, which is why I’m upset the big moments of Avengers Endgame have already been ruined for me even if I’m not up on the specifics just yet. I expect that to be ruined too before I even get to Infinity War (my last Finally Watched was Age Of Ultron) because the internet hates me. I won’t ruin it for you but it is something worth talking about, so that’ll be a dance for me.
Note that I’m going with the Freeform airing of the movie so I don’t know if I missed anything.
RELEASE DATE: 2016
RELEASED BY: Walt Disney Pictures (& Animation)
RUNTIME: 1 hours, 48 minutes (not quite 3 hours on TV)
(Lewis is not credited in the movie but IMDB claims she had the original idea)
GROSS INCOME: $1,023,784,195 (worldwide) out of an estimated budget of $150,000,000
The Plot: The Disney fan wiki (warning: they spoil the whole movie but their trivia is fascinating) has a good enough synopsis so I’m just going to use theirs: “The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, damp Rainforest District, and calm little Bunnyburrow, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together — a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But when optimistic Officer Judy Hopps (Goodwin) arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (Bateman), to solve the mystery.
Why did I want to see it?: It just looked like a really fun movie, and given what I 2016 was like (you longtimers tell the newbies…I’m getting tired of bringing it up) I needed it. Too bad I didn’t get to see it until 2019. I’ve always liked the concept of an anthropomorphic world as a sci-fi fan although I’m not sure I’d want to live in one. I wanted to see what they were going to do with it.
What did I think?: There are one or two clunky moments but outside of the DMV sloth scene (I ended up skipping that) the story is very solid and so are the jokes. You get the obligatory pun parodies for businesses and media but they don’t really hurt anything and you can ignore them if you want and lose nothing. There’s a theme about prejudice and bigotry that is worked well into the story. It doesn’t need to use the “did you get the message did you DID YOU GET THE #@#$$% MESSAGE I’M SHOVING DOWN YOUR THROAT” sledgehammer that we’re starting to get. It’s subtle which is good for a family movie because kids are not receptive to messages being pounded into their brains if they’re bored. It highlights not only the dangers of prejudice but of what can happen when someone (our villain) preys on those prejudices for personal power. (That’s kind of funny given it’s the former prey animals being drawn into the villain’s bias against former predators.) However, this is only the theme of the story, not the entirety of the story, which is how you deliver a message that can also entertain your audience.
The story is also one of growth and proving you can be whatever you want. Judy wants to be a police officer, and we see even as a child she believed in standing up for others when she takes on a bully to retrieve tickets he stole. (We also later see the bully grew up and apologized, even working with Judy’s parents now, and you know I love a good redemption tale.) Judy is looked down upon as a police officer because she’s a small bunny rabbit, usually considered a tame animal even in this universe, and she has to prove she’s just as good as the larger animals. This ties in with the predator/prey gap as she is trying to overcome prejudices against her while also trying to deal with prejudices she grew up with. Her parents even give her a bunch of anti-fox stuff because they’re worried about foxes above all the other predators in the city. I didn’t know the fox was the biggest enemy of the rabbit but according to Watership Down everything short of oxygen is an enemy to rabbits. I love how she doesn’t give up until the obligatory crisis of faith but still goes right back into action when she gets a clue to how all this is happening.
Nick has his own redemption arc. Bullied by former prey as a child because foxes have an additional prejudice against them, he gave in and acted like everyone thinks he does. This led him down the path of a con artist who only cares for himself, and it’s seeing him grow and seek to prove himself through Judy’s example that makes him worth rooting for as much as his tricks are fun to watch. He’s a great character and Bateman adds just the right amount of charm to him that he isn’t bad, just a victim of prejudice. The movie looks at numerous forms of prejudice. Both Nick and Judy are victims of it but Judy chose to fight back while Nick gave in. Neither are shamed or treated as foolish for their choices but like the characters themselves their paths converge and play off each other perfectly.
Speaking of acting I just need to say right now that I loved J.K. Simmons as Mayor Lionheart. It’s just another great performance from the best J. Jonah Jameson in fiction. Idris Elba as the police chief Bogo was also good and Nate Torrence’s Clawhauser was probably my favorite supporting cast member. Also props to Slate and the put-upon deputy mayor Bellweather. Maurice LaMarche did a good “Godfather” impersonation and the whole Mr. Big bit comes out of that film series but I think the trailer ruined a bit of the fun for me there, and unfortunately the gag is revealed in pretty much every trailer I remember so I’m sorry if I ruined the bit for any of you. Judy’s parents (Bonnie Hunt and Don Lake) were also a delight and Shakira’s cameo as singer Gazelle (she even sings the song in the trailer, used in the closing credits in character) was also a nice addition.
Yes, we get the obligatory crisis of faith and misunderstanding leading to a temporary break-up which is so cliched but it worked for the story and was actually important to the character arcs and villain plan reveal so I can’t get too mad at it. Like I said, the sloth scene was the only one I really ignored. I got the joke well enough in the trailer so I knew what was coming and just hit the fast forward.
The animation is also incredible. Nick’s design is so obviously based on Disney’s Robin Hood that I didn’t need the wiki to tell me it was on purpose. (The Jungle Book was also an inspiration despite being 100% human free.) The design of the main city and the various environments that make up the city proper is well suited to all the animals we see in the city, right down to an area just for rodents (Little Rodentia), one for polar animals, and one for the rainforest. Other areas were created but weren’t used in the movie, so at least they weren’t trying to show off how creative they are and just focused on what they need for the story.
Was it worth the wait?: Very much so. I see why so many people loved this movie and I think I’m going to add it to my Amazon wishlist. Maybe someday I’ll get to own it and even do a Video Review on it, where I can talk a bit more about the spoilers. This was a great movie that used it’s theme well but focused on the story and the character journeys. This is one to watch with your kids but if you can only see it on your own that’s good too.