Disney never cease to amaze me. Okay, they’re not perfect – the less that’s said about their string of flops in the early noughties, the better – but when they get it right, boy do they get it right. Zootropolis – known as Zootopia elsewhere, but changed for UK audiences – sees Disney continue their winning streak once again, following such hits as Frozen and Big Hero 6. What makes this so much more impressive than its predecessors, however, is the fact that it cleverly deals with sociopolitical themes which make it, arguably, one of the studio’s most important films to date.
The story is inspired, imagining a world where animals have evolved from their predator/prey ancestory to co-exist relativley peacefully. At the centre of this world is Zootropolis, an expansive city which is split into different territories; Sahara Square, Tundratown, Rainforest district and Savanna Central. Like the neon-lit San Fransokyo from Big Hero 6, part of Zootropolis‘ fun is exploring these various locations and meeting the various characters who inhabit them. So much detail has been put into creating the world itself, that you’ll find your eyes frantically darting around the screen, rushing to take everything in.
Judy Hopps is a small town bunny with big dreams of moving to the city where, in spite of her size, she hopes to become a ZPD police officer. Within the first ten-minutes, the big ‘Disney’ messages are already there to be found as Hopps struggles against adversity to achieve her dreams, even though everybody around her, including her own family, never thought she could. Hopps’ first official case comes when a Mr Otterman – try and guess what animal he is – goes missing, leading her to enlist the help of a con-artist fox, Nick Wilde.
This is where Zootropolis becomes really, really clever as the film’s writers, Jared Bush and Phil Johnston, take the message much further than expected – brining themes of racism and tolerance into the foreground. Having had bad experiences with foxes in the past, Hopps must put aside her pre-judgements to work with Nick who, to be fair, hasn’t done much to shake off the notion that all foxes are sly and untrustworthy. As the case reveals that some predators may be reverting back to their primal nature, an age-old hidden fear of each other’s ‘kind’, leads Hopps and Wilde’s partnership, as well as Zootropolis, to split in two.
It’s the type of storytelling that really proves how far animated film has come over the last decade. No longer are they considered just for kids, nor do they simply encourage girls to be princesses and boys to be princes; they can help young children come to terms with grief (Big Hero 6 and Up are heartbreaking), perfectly capture the feeling of growing up (Toy Story 3) and now even break down the barriers of colour and creed. In a very subversive way, Zootropolis serves to teach children not to judge people by their race, or the colour of their skin; that a whole race of people cannot and should not be judged on the actions of the few, and that fear of each other will only further breed hate. Yes, really, it does.
Obviously this is all hidden behind the usual Disney brand of laugh-out-loud humour, self-references and vivid colours, but it’s the themes that the story tackles which really elevates it to something special. Zootropolis is the complete package; it’s cute, colourful and exciting enough to keep the interest of children and adults alike. The fact that it tries to do so much more in preaching a message that children – and some adults, for that matter – could genuinely learn from, makes Zootropolis top-level Disney and an instant modern-classic.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com