As I entered the theatre to see Zootopia, I did not have many expectations for the movie, except for my inner child to get in a few badly-needed laughs. Little did I know that Zootopia is much more than just a movie; it conveys a message that society desperately needs to hear.
The movie follows Judy Hopps, a rabbit born in a rural town, who aspires to be a police officer in the great city of Zootopia. There’s never been a rabbit police officer in Zootopian history, because rabbits are considered to be too small. Because, well, biology.
Yet, Hopps overcomes the odds, graduating at the top of her class, eventually getting assigned to her dream location, Zootopia.
Upon arrival, however, she faces nothing but prejudice and stereotypes. Chief Bogo, the African buffalo head of the Zootopia Police Department, sees Judy as nothing more than a meter maid, unworthy of any special operations or investigations typical of Zootopia’s police officers. After volunteering in front of a distressed Mrs. Otterton, an otter whose husband is among the various citizens that end up mysteriously disappearing, Hopps faces an ultimatum put forward by an angry Chief Bogo: solve the case of the missing otter in 48 hours – a case none of the other officers have been able to solve – or resign from the police force.
Refusing to be taken for granted, Hopps seeks to solve a case that is much more than meets the eye, with the begrudging assistance of con artist fox Nick Wilde. Smart, funny and relatable, Wilde is easily the movie’s star character.
At its core, the movie explores topics such as bullying, stereotypes and racism in the most creative ways possible. It tackles the poisonous idea that you can’t escape the boundaries set by your biological makeup, and that you are inevitably defined by it. Rabbits can only be carrot farmers, foxes can never be trusted and all predators are inherently dangerous.
Zootopia encourages viewers to never settle or be held back by what others think, and that when people tell you can that you never be more, you can always be more.
The movie also reveals that we can all fall into the same trap, too. It was Hopps, the protagonist, who labeled all predators as dangerous, without realizing how much her words offended Wilde, the person who helped her solve the case and keep her job.
In one of the most heart wrenching moments of the movie, Wilde recalls a point in his childhood when he wanted nothing more than to be a Junior Ranger Scout. At the first meeting, however, the other members, all prey, muzzled him, beat him and ridiculed him, attacking him for thinking that he could become a Ranger Scout as a predator.
Wilde walks away from that encounter, defeated, and thinks to himself that if the world will only see a fox as shifty and untrustworthy, there’s no point in trying to be anything else.
Zootopia reaches out and makes the viewer realize how easily these prejudices can poison our society, and how we need to be the change that we want to see in this world.
Presented with beautiful animation and a creative, well thought-out society of animals that have evolved past their “savage” ways to build a magnificent civilization, Disney deserves a standing ovation for having the creativity to release a movie like Zootopia in a society where xenophobia appears to have reached an all-time high.
You should go see this movie for its refreshing humor and the important message it conveys. The Easter eggs – Disney’s sneaky bonus references to its other movies – were a dime a dozen, with allusions to Frozen, Tangled, Tarzan and The Godfather. With some claiming that Zootopia is Disney’s most Easter egg-packed film, I dare you to find all of them upon your first viewing.
Notable voice actors:
Ginnifer Goodwin [voice – Judy Hopps] (Snow White from Once Upon a Time, Vivian Cash from Walk the Line)
Jason Bateman [voice – Nick Wilde] (Nick Bluth from Arrested Development, Horrible Bosses)
Idris Elba [voice – Chief Bogo] (Heimdall from Thor, Janek from Promethus, Stacker Pentacost from Pacific Rim)
J.K. Simmons [voice – Mayor Lionheart] (Fletcher from Whiplash, J. Jonah Jameson from Spider-Man, The Closer)
Jenny Slate [voice – Bellwether] (Tammy from Bob’s Burgers)
Shakira [voice – Gazelle]