A rookie cop (that happens to be a bunny) and a con artist (that happens to be a fox) make unlikely partners in an investigation which goes to the heart of Zootopia, a sprawling metropolis inhabited by anthropomorphic animals of every shape, size and colour. Disney’s latest film is part crime procedural and part life lesson about how to get along in this melting pot of a world. Zootopia is reviewed after the jump.
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) has always wanted to be a cop. Bunny’s aren’t supposed to be cops, they’re supposed to be simple farmers, but Judy doesn’t care about what society thinks she’s supposed to be. Her perseverance pays off, and after graduating police academy, she is stationed in downtown Zootopia, the tough center of the vibrant city which is home to every animal imaginable.
Police chief (Idris Elba) doesn’t care much for his newest (and smallest) recruit and immediately assigns her to parking duties, while the rest of the cops get put on the case of the 14 missing animals. She may only be on parking duty, but that doesn’t mean she can’t keep an eye out for other types of crime. Being observant leads her to follow fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Batman), who in turn unintentionally helps her uncover what she believes to be a major clue in the missing animal case. Without any support from the force, Judy convinces Nick to help her crack the case, and the two unlikely allies team up for an investigation that goes to unexpected places.
There’s a lot to take in and to talk about with Zootopia. Sure, this family film is bright and fun, and filled with animals, but there’s a lot more substance here than you might expect – both on a story level and on a visual level. Story-wise, this film is pure crime procedural. Nick and Judy follow clues all over Zootopia, encountering various animals from different walks of life. The pair get into dangerous situations and there are genuinely tense moments – you fear for their safety. To balance out the intensity, the film is absolutely stuffed full of great physical, slapstick, and verbal humour – a scene involving slow-talking sloths caused my mother to laugh so hard, I thought she was going to pass out.
Zootopia itself is a rich setting, incredibly layered and visually interesting. The train ride into the city is one of the best parts of the film, as we whiz through different suburbs, each designed like a different environment – rain forest, snowy mountains, dry desert, and more, all the way to the bustling city at its center. The attention to detail is admirable and the city appears to teem with life and colour. I almost wish we could have spent more time exploring the suburbs of Zootopia – it would sure make for a fun video game.
It’s not only the city that looks good, it’s the animals themselves. Each animal has a unique look and facial expressions, which help distinguish the animal’s individuality. Disney also spent significant time and money to customise its own software which creates the most realistic fur possible. They focused on texture and how light interacts with each strand. Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde each had around 2.5 million individual strands of fur [read more here] on their animated bodies. The attention to detail in the look, along with inspired voice casting (especially that of Idris Elba and Jason Bateman), resulted in world populated by memorable personalities.
The film isn’t shy with its messages about inclusion, racism, privilege, and not judging a book (or a character) by its cover. While some of the messages/lessons land a little clunkier and heavier than others (such as, “only bunnies can all other bunnies cute” ), the film should be given credit for giving kids (who, let’s remember, are the ones this film is aimed at) something of substance to think about. The film might not change lives, but if it gets a conversation started about one of these social issues, isn’t that a win?
Zootopia is brimming with life. It’s a fun, visually stunning cinematic experience which offers both laughs and a few life lessons.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, & Jared Bush (co-director)
Writer(s): Jared Bush & Phil Johnston (screenplay)
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Jenny Slate
Runtime: 108 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: March 17, 2016