Disney has been at the forefront of quality animated film-making. While the company has not reached the pinnacle that Pixar has maintained in the previous years, attempts like Frozen and Tangled are clear signs that Disney is capable of high quality animation. The companies newest release, Zootopia, is Disney’s latest and one that we were able to see via a press screening.
Zootopia tells the story of Judy Hopps, a bunny in the world of animals, with big dreams of becoming a Zootopia cop. This is an unheard of for a prey, and a feat never been accomplished by a bunny. Of course, Hopps excels, and in doing so, leaves her life of carrot farming with her family to travel to the big city. Unfortunately, her aspirations over estimate her police work in Zootopia as she is left to simple meter maid duties. Upon making new friends, she unravels a hefty, dark and mysterious case involving disappearing animals.
Right off the bat, it comes with ease to say that Zootopia is a high quality animated film. Animations like animal details, city constructs, and even various little things are done superbly. Everything is crisp, moving fluidly and action sequences, while not a lot of them, are incredibly slick to watch. This is Disney animation at its best, even better than Frozen, in terms of things being done, and the scale they are being done in.
Zootopia is a basic story, told with execution, a conviction, that makes it worth investing in. The tried and true tropes of many genres are at play here. We have the typical Police Chief that is too hard on the main character. We have the sly, misdirected bad guy that is actually a good guy. We also have the classic main character retires, doubts self, and returns to form after stumbling upon something simplistic. While these cliches are eye rolling, they don’t bog down what is really at play here, Zootopia’s heart and intentions.
Zootopia is an incredibly deep film. No, I don’t mean with the superb animations, but with what is being said. People, especially day to day, make generalizations based on race, sex, or financial standing. Zootopia, somehow, some way, nits and weaves a story around these ideas, while heavy hitting, blends so well with the simplistic society that Zootopia builds. Predators and preys are divided, but not directly, not to the point that it is obvious. The story line pushes the point that predators in society cannot function without reverting back to their inherit savagery and because of this, should never be trusted. This idea really channels the values of today, and contemporary issues like immigration and stereotypes. Zootopia is secretly channeling a powerful message within its beautiful imagery.
Beyond the imagery is some resounding world building. Zootopia feels like a living, breathing world, built out by different, smaller cities that make up this large city. Within this city, we see animals interacting like humans do, but doing so in their own fashion. You see hamsters using small traveling ports, Giraffes using their own large elevator and Hippo’s arriving to work through a bathing pool. These small ticks are incredibly interesting, and again, add to this larger world at play.
Voice acting works well here. Ginnifer Goodwin as Hopps and Jason Bateman as Nick Wilde work so well here. The two have resounding chemistry that makes for a dynamic on screen duo that is both cute, quirky and always fun. Wilde’s character is a bit of a low lifer, a scum that enjoys ripping others off for money. Fortunately for him, his character quickly evolves into a troubled predator who just wanted attention and affection like everyone else. Hopps quickly comes off as a goodie two shoes, too perfect to do anything wrong. Thankfully, her character has a character arc that keeps her personal story interesting.
Zootopia is one of the best Disney films in a while. The dynamic animation mixed with the deep messages propel Zootopia to levels Frozen cannot reach. Yes, Zootopia is a more complete, better written and much better animated film than that of Frozen. The characters work well within the confides of the story, even working past the eye rolling cliches. That being said, cute moments that channel deep thoughts really make this film what it is: an excellent adventure for the entire family.