Mmmm! Damn, Disney! This is some serious gourmet shit!
Madagascar was the first thing that went into my brain when I saw the trailer (I think it was a teaser) for Zootopia. I was not interested in seeing this movie. But then there was that funny trailer with the sloths at the DMV. And then the reviews started coming out and the consensus seemed to be that the movie was not just good, but actually kind of great. Well, let me add my voice to that critical chorus…Zootopia is awesome. It’s funny, entertaining, beautifully animated (it has gorgeous cityscape compositions) and stuffed with important messages for kids and adults alike. Boy, was I pleasantly surprised by this movie!
Zootopia digs deep. This is ostensibly a children’s movie that actually deals with issues like bullying, gender and racial stereotyping, drugs and police profiling and it does so in a way that is mature and empathetic instead of preachy and sanctimonious. If that wasn’t impressive enough, the movie also works as a buddy cop adventure with an intriguing mystery and likable characters with great chemistry. A few minor quibbles aside, Zootopia does just about everything right. This is a movie not just for kids and families but also for serious moviegoers as well. It’s not frivolous by any stretch and it’s just as essential a piece of animation as Disney-Pixar’s marvelous Inside Out from last year.
The writing and directing team behind the film (of which there are several individuals) does an impressive job of easing the viewer into the world of Zootopia. It’s great, fully realized world-building where we smoothly understand as a viewer all of the different dynamics and species (as well as their metaphors and signifiers) that take on a greater poignancy because they connect to what is going on at this moment in our culture, specifically in the United States. Some sequences in this movie are infuriating and sad, so much so that I was reminded of a movie like Selma at times. I was very emotionally invested. This is all the more impressive because some scenes are as simple as an elephant denying the sale of ice cream to a fox simply because he’s a fox.
I adore this movie from a thematic standpoint. It has so much to say about fear, individuals trying to find the strength to reassert their goodness, politics, class and moving forward as a society. I’m so glad the filmmakers took a chance with Zootopia when it could have easily just been something mindless or diverting. This movie has the power to change the way future generations think, feel and behave. It’s courageous in a way that most mainstream entertainment is not.
Zootopia is an edgy and important film with strong voice work from its cast and creativity to spare. The fact that the animals are animated so darn cute doesn’t hurt either. Go see this one, even if you were on the fence before. If there’s a movie that trumps Zootopia to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars next year then we’re in for a treat because it’s hard to imagine something much better from the genre. This movie is like the Grand Canyon of animated features. I admire it so much. It’s a dense, great movie that I think will even improve with familiarity and one I can’t wait to see again.