Bunny Judy Hopps wants to be a police agent and travels to the city Zootopia to chase her dreams. It is not as easy as she perhaps hoped for. Zootopia is a very agreeable feelgood animation that the whole family will enjoy. It is optimistic and brightly colored, and features an energetic bunny and a sly fox. Success is assured for movies like this.
And Disney animation is becoming quite the competition for the once unassailable Pixar studios. Pixar used to be the final word when it came to 3D animation, but if you look closely at recent animation history, Pixar’s success occurred in a decade when Disney’s output was really bad. While Pixar booked success with Toy Story, Monsters’ Inc., Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, Disney was making stuff nobody even saw, like Home on the Ranch, Brother Bear and Chicken Little. And they were part of a “Disney Classics” series.
But in the last few years, the tables seem to have turned. Pixar is slowing down and making sequels of questionable quality, like Cars 2, Monsters University and the upcoming Finding Dory, while Disney entered a new renaissance with Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen and Big Hero 6. It is safe to say that Zootopia is at least equal in quality to those movies and continues Disney’s recent winning streak.
Zootopia is in some ways very inventive, but in other ways totally not. It is inventive in the details, meaning that we see a city in which all kinds of animals are living together and we are shown how this is working out. Animals use their unique capabilities and deal with their unique weaknesses and it paints a wonderful picture filled with humor and surprise. Although, it made me wonder whether fishes and insects would also be part of this world, and I didn’t see any birds either. All in all, this makes Zootopia a very rich visual experience.
It is uninventive in the plot. Judy Hopps is one of those underdog characters who is told that she cannot become whom she wants to become, and then fights against prejudice to prove everyone wrong. Yawn, we have seen this before a thousand times. If you would brainstorm for ten minutes, you could guess the whole story already. Zootopia also has a lot of prejudice-related plot points, and generally the film is very intelligent about it, in both obvious and more subtle ways. Zootopia actually touches on a lot of stuff, like racism, fear through media, friendship and drugs.
In general, the film reminded me of the lesser known but amazing film Ernest & Celestine (2012) about a mouse girl with a forbidden friendship with a bear, and both mouse and bear society were prejudiced against this.
It is fun. Besides the visual jokes of animals living together, we have some really nice characters here. Especially Judy and her partner Nicholas the Fox. They have good chemistry and a nicely developing friendship. The films falls a bit in that Dreamworks tendency of frantic action and an avalanche of facial expressions, but it’s cute (“don’t call me cute”). A saccharine pop song by Shakira tops the whole thing off, but has hardly any relevance for the movie.
Zootopia is a great time and worth seeing. Expect a very predictable plot though, but stay for the funny characters and visual jokes.