Ever since John Lasseter from Pixar came aboard Walt Disney Animation as a Creative Officer, the animation studio has been experiencing a Second Renaissance of sorts as this, the 6th film in a row that has been met with critical and commercial success may be the biggest yet.
Currently standing at 99% on Rotten Tomatoes and with families flocking to see it, this may be the biggest non-Frozen hit the studio has had in ages.
It’s a really, really great film that is funny, warm, ingenious and, most important of all, has a superb message about acceptance and diversity in the modern world.
Ginnifer Goodwin is Judy Hopps, a passionate, headstrong rabbit from the country who, against the wishes of her anxious parents, becomes the first rabbit police-officer in the mighty city of Zootropolis (That’s Zootopia in America).
She’s the Leslie Knope of the animal kingdom, a determined worker who loves her job yet faces continual ridicule from her peers and the public for simply having a dream that is deemed too big for her. She’s relegated to ticker Officer, which she aces, where she comes across Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a sly con artist Fox who’s decided that he’s going to be exactly what society says he is, by way of grifting.
However, Judy is soon thrust into her first case, that of a missing mammal and with the help of Nick, she must solve the mystery within 48 hours or lose her dream job. What is essentially a detective story that takes elements of classic noirs, such as Chinatown, is buoyed by artistic excellence in just about every field.
The message is diverse and culturally relevant as the lead duo constantly contend with pressure to be one thing or another whilst being simultaneously demonized for it. It’s a stark reflection on modern life as it hits every glorious key, taking its stabs at prejudice and displaying every fault within our society.
It’s incredibly refreshing to have a lead female character who chases her dreams rather than a man and with no whiff of a love story anywhere in its runtime, the relationships are set by family or friendship, particularly that of our lead characters.
Much like The Force Awakens, this is a male/female friendship that works best because they respect and admire each other, despite bickering, it feels far more realistic because they can get straight to business and become friends along the way.
This is the sort of film that children will love and parents won’t just love because it has sly in-jokes for them, but rather because it provides social education for the young that is in gradually increasing supply these days. Zootropolis builds story and themes first before making bright colours and funny animals talk putting real, genuine heart behind the visual artistry.
The animation is stunning. As Zootropolis is divided into areas for different animals we get a varied array of imagery, such as Tundra Town or the Rainforest District, which make the A to B to C nature of the plotting visually eloquent as we get set pieces in a variety of beautiful looking places.
The plot is great, it has no jerks or pitfalls and smoothly goes from one scene to the next and when it takes a pause for breath, it’s a breath that builds character and makes the film deeper.
The voice cast is great and is all perfectly suited to their roles, the central duo is a natural fit and Idris Elba, Jenny Slate and J.K. Simmons all lend their vocal talents to great roles.
Whilst it has it’s deeper layers, the film is still very funny. As the excellent marketing displays, Zootropoliss funniest scene involves Sloths at the DMV, but, despite that, the jokes are continually rolling and never come at the expense of anyone. A scene involving a Godfather parody was the stand-out and a Breaking Bad reference was done in such a way that it didn’t change the movie in order to fit it in for the adults.
The music was another particularly lovely score from Michael Giacchino, capturing the mood perfectly, mixing together jungle tones and moody noir vibes into a cohesive and wonderful score.
There is always a worry when animals are anthropomorphized in films that they will be very one-note, yet Zootropolis addresses this by having it be about something, in particular, the savagery of the animal kingdom and ties it into the themes of the Film.
Overall I’d say this is the best film they’ve done since The Princess and the Frog, which I happen to think is an underrated gem. It’s an insanely smart, very funny, eloquently made and beautifully looking film that proves that Disney hasn’t ever been better than they are now.
If a movie about anthropomorphic animals was great, then I can’t wait for Moana.
P.S. There is a great gag about bootleg DVDS that is just animal versions of Disney films.