“Everyone comes to Zootopia, thinking they could be anything they want. But you can’t. You can only be what you are. Sly fox. Dumb bunny,” says Nick Wilde. Judy Hopps responds, “I am not a dumb bunny.” Nick replies, “And that is not wet cement.”
Walt Disney Animation Studios has been on a roll for the last several years, creating animated films worthy enough to rival those of Pixar (which is also under the Disney family). Byron Howard directed Oscar nominees Bolt and Tangled for Disney, while Rich Moore directed the Oscar-nominated Wreck-It Ralph for Disney. Howard and Moore would collaborate on a new animated film for Disney involving talking, anthropomorphic animals. I saw a teaser trailer last year for the film, Zootopia, and became intrigued by the concept despite not knowing what the film’s actual plot was about. I finally got a chance recently to see Zootopia on the big screen, and it was an outstanding experience (it’s certainly an early contender for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature).
2016’s Zootopia follows the first bunny cop in the city of Zootopia as she teams up with a con artist fox to investigate a conspiracy involving the disappearance of predator mammals. Howard and Moore gathered a terrific voice cast that includes Ginnifer Goodwin (as Judy Hopps), Jason Bateman (as Nick Wilde), Idris Elba (as Chief Bogo), Jenny Slate (as Dawn Bellwether), Nate Torrence (as Officer Benjamin Clawhauser), Bonnie Hunt (as Bonnie Hopps), Don Lake (as Stu Hopps), Tommy Chong (as Yax), J.K. Simmons (as Mayor Leodore Lionheart), Octavia Spencer (as Mrs. Otterton), Alan Tudyk (as Duke Weaselton), Shakira (as Gazelle), Raymond S. Persi (as Flash), Maurice LaMarche (as Mr. Big), John DiMaggio (as Jerry Jumbeaux Jr.), Tommy “Tiny” Lister (as Finnick), and Kristen Bell (as Priscilla). Goodwin and Bateman exhibit excellent chemistry as reluctant partners who become entangled in a mysterious conspiracy. Elba shines as the police chief who is trying to stack the odds against Judy in order to force her to quit (he also gets one of the film’s funniest scenes involving the Gazelle app), and Slate is unassuming and quite surprising as the assistant mayor of Zootopia. Torrence is a scene-stealer as the fat cop who works as a dispatcher.
The screenplay by Jared Bush and Phil Johnston explores the themes of prejudice, stereotypes, and xenophobia and how harmful they can be when perpetuated in society. They deftly balance the drama of the story with the humor of some of the characters, and kudos to Disney for not having a regular Disney princess (this film’s female lead is focused on her dream career as a police officer). Dan Goetz’s production design creates an incredibly diverse metropolis in Zootopia as well as the rural areas surrounding it. The computer animation is top-notch (the production team made a breakthrough advancement in the animation of realistic-looking fur), as is the incredible cinematography (the day scenes are quite bright and the evening scenes are quite sinister-looking). Michael Giacchino contributes a terrific score that reflects the action, comedy, and drama. Howard and Moore’s Zootopia is a thought-provoking animated tale of tolerance vs. prejudice for kids and adults to enjoy without feeling preachy.