D: Byron Howard & Rich Moore. W: Phil Johnston & Jared Bush. Starring the voice talents of: Ginnifer Goodwin/Jason Bateman/Idris Elba/Jenny Slate/Nate Torrance/J.K. Simmons/Octavia Spencer/Alan Tudyk/Shakira/Bonnie Hunt/Don Lake.
Disney’s latest feature quietly shines with a universal story about going after your dreams despite the obstacles. The film was released here in the UK under the title, Zootropolis, a title in fact more fitting than Zootopia. Zootropolis speaks to a multicultural creation that recognizes its melting pot complexities while Zootopia seems to speak to an unrealistic ideal. Regardless, within the film the city is referred to as Zootropolis and that’s all that will matter to its audience.
The film follows Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin of ABC’s Once Upon a Time) who becomes the first rabbit cop in the big city. A typical ‘fish out of water against all odds’ story is the main arc of the narrative. However, the Disney team is able to speak to the part of that generic narrative we love while injecting humor and charm through animation. Judy heads to the big city for her break plugging in music as she arrives to her tiny apartment and nosy neighbors. She is quickly judged by her size and non predator status and relegated to meter maid duty. Even her slog through sad radio songs taps into our favorite movie moments and gives the adults in the room a laugh, as do later direct film references that I won’t spoil here.
Embracing the contrasting size of animals and habitats the city of Zootropolis is an animators dream. With a rain forest canopy world to a city built entirely for small rodents, Judy explores the creation of a place where prey and predator co-habitat on two legs instead of four. Judy soon meets trixy sly fox Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman) and their begrudged teamwork allows Judy to help solve a case. Goodwin and Bateman are excellent here, their voices not too recognizable to overshadow their characters. The most recognizable voice is probably Idris Elba as Police Chief Bogo. Yet his husky English blends well with his routine dismissal of anything sentimental. Like Inside Out, Zootopia gives us complex leads who must navigate the grey areas of life that are not that easy. And unlike The Good Dinosaur, it does not rely on visual splendor to carry a story. Its cleverness is subtle and detail orientated.
Zootopia will surely prove to be a timely piece about acceptance of others as well as a thing we all learn back in kindergarten. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Fear will always be the easy route to change, but not the right kind of change. Its themes and script, written years ago as the production time in animation is very long, are extremely timely with the events of today. Once again Disney proves sometimes what is good for kids to learn is also right for adults to re-learn.