Zootopia could have been a simple tale about a bunny and a fox and how they can end up being friends, and it would have ended up being a fun time for the family. But inside its little beating rabbit heart, the film isn’t just a funny movie kids will love – it’s a multi-layered movie brimming with joy and thoughtfulness – and is definitely something worth watching.
The film tells the tail of Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), an idealistic rabbit who dreams becoming a police officer. But the force only hires the biggest, toughest animals, and even after Judy gets past prejudice to graduate from the police academy, she’s only trusted with the most menial of jobs. Determined to prove herself, she uncovers a dastardly plan, and without support from her superiors, she’s forced to team up with a fox – Nick Wilde (a very smooth-sounding Jason Bateman) – to crack the case.
Force age-old enemies – a rabbit and a fox – to team up and you’ll already have the basis for a story. But the Zootopia creators aren’t just phoning it in, it’s a blast to see our two leads interact, especially when they’re supported by a great voice cast that includes Alan Tudyk and Idris Elba. There’s a great tail that’s told, and it’s brought to life by a menagerie of great characters that leans heavily on what we expect such animals to be (wily fox, slow sloth, cute bunny etc) yet is more than happy to subvert our expectations constantly.
Add to that an amazingly lush world that the characters live in. Don’t blink when you’re watching Zootopia – you might need more than a single watch just to get all the sight gags in. And the city itself (which really reminded me of New York – or Zoo York, if you may) is split into multiple zones for animals to live comfortably – Sahara Square, Tundratown or the Rainforest District, for example – and each zone comes to life with little details that really make it clear that there was a lot of love put into this by the animators. And even while you’re laughing at the tiny gags in the background, maybe you don’t want to guffaw too hard – there are tons of jokes too, puns, satire and all.
But what makes Zootopia not just another animal movie is how it takes a pointed shot at the issues of today. Zootopia’s utopia is a world of “evolved” animals, where they’ve gone beyond the predator-prey relationship into one of equalilty, but yet there’s still the undercurrent of bias – an obvious take at racism and sexism in the world today.
For even in their modern utopia, with inclusion initiatives set up to fight discrimination, the animals in Zootopia aren’t perfect, there’s a simple lesson for us humans to learn from these animated creatures. But it also cuts another way – that in the end we can all afford to be more considerate to each other, and even if we’re the victim. The road to hell, after all, is paved with good intentions.
At it’s weakest, Zootopia can be predictable. But the adventure moves forward at a fast clip, and add to that laughs, hijinks and a whole tonne of heart, this movie will stick around in your head for a while after its over. Fun for the whole family with some extra food for thought, all wrapped up in cute animal characters … we have a winner, folks.
From the days of Mickey Mouse we’ve had anthropomorphic characters rule the roost at Disney, and now Zootopia brings us back to a world fully populated by walking, talking animals not seen on Disney Animation since the likes of Chicken Little in 2005. With Zootopia, and Moana later this year, it looks like Disney Animation will have a winning year. Frozen was just the tip of the iceberg, and Big Hero 6 was an absolute blast – and here, with Zootopia, you’ll have a whale of a time. And the kids will love it!
Zootopia opens in Singapore on Feb 25.