Just when you start to think Disney can’t top themselves, they knock it out of the park again. Around 2010, Disney sat down and charted a new course for their animated films (That’s Disney proper, not its subsidiary, Pixar) with their eyes set on diverse characters, top-notch animation, and stories that audiences of all ages would love. And you can see that new course with box office and critical successes Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and Big Hero 6. Now, I’d say that course is officially cemented with Zootopia.
Zootopia is so visually spectacular in its animation and production design—from the detailed fur of each animal to the look and feel of the tundra, rainforest, desert, countryside, and metropolis that the animals reside in—that it outshines even the best animated films right now (including Pixar’s Inside Out). But more importantly, it’s Disney’s dedication to telling socially-relevant and unique stories that makes Zootopia so great.
The movie follows Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a bunny from the country who wants to be a cop in the big city. Because Judy is the first prey animal to become a cop (through an “inclusion initiative”), she faces a ton of prejudice from her boss and her coworkers, who don’t take her skill or ambition seriously. Even her parents tell her to settle for just being ordinary and not follow her dreams (which is terrible but hilarious).
But Judy isn’t the only one who suffers from prejudice. In fact, she has to confront her own prejudice about foxes when she meets Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a fox who cons other animals in order to survive in a world that looks down on him simply for being a fox. Nick talks down to Judy, calling her “cute” and “sweetheart.” And Judy carries fox spray and always assumes Nick is up to no good. But when they team up to solve a missing persons case after several predator animals go “savage,” they learn that everything they assumed about the other is wrong. And an adorable buddy-cop romp ensues!
With this story, Zootopia simultaneously tackles subjects like gender and race equality, prejudice and stereotypes, friendship, bullying, and avoiding leaders who sow fear among the masses to keep themselves in power. And not once does it feel like a wagging finger. Also, no animal group is 100% associated with stereotypes that could link them to a specific ethnicity or gender, protecting Disney from a media shitstorm while also strengthening the story’s message about not stereotyping.
Seriously. Grab everyone you know, and take them to see Zootopia. It’s a ton of fun (I mean, there are jokes about rabbit reproduction, the DMV, and The Godfather, so that should be enough right there), it’s beautifully animated, it has adorable animals, and it makes you walk away wondering how you can change your own views. Major props, Disney, and keep up the excellent work!