Zootopia, created by Walt Disney Animation Studios, was masterfully executed, bringing the animal kingdom alive in yet another already beloved animated film. Guided by Byron Howard (Tangled) and his talented team, the creativity and intricately detailed efforts to shape this evolved, animal-run metropolis has garnered praise from kids and adults alike. io9 states that “in this movie, a single giraffe has more individual hairs on it – 9 million – than every single character in either Frozen, Big Hero 6, or Wreck-It Ralph,” and each of those hairs were independently manipulated by the film’s animators. The scale of Zootopia’s hard work can be seen throughout the entire film, magic and artistry glazing each scene, proving that imagination is limitless for these creators.
As a fantasy world made up of evolved anthropomorphic animals, the diversified city of Zootopia is described as a place where both predator and prey can live together harmoniously and even amicably. At first glance, it appears to be a paradise where all other preconceived notions have been let go of, yet as the film continues, it is revealed that ancient biases cling on, even to those with the truest of intentions. It is a clear reflection on our current society’s public effort to advocate change (#OscarsSoWhite), while shedding light on the personal, internal struggle of abolishing prejudicial opinions. “Change is both an individual and communal act,” Erik Barnes (Ranker) notes. On the surface, we co-exist with those who are different from us, whether that be in race, culture, religion, or gender, yet there are impactful hostilities occurring simultaneously, and this is what Zootopia addresses.
The war against stereotypes is a crucial theme in the film, a matter the two stars of the movie, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), the bunny, and Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), the fox, struggle with. As a bunny, Judy is a vocal spokeswoman in her fight for equality, most prominently in the workplace. After all her hard work, she rejoicingly becomes the first bunny cop only to be undermined, discredited and insulted. “I’m not just some token bunny,” she says. Her struggle depicts the unyielding pressures of being different, but Judy is a “try-er” and she perseveres.
Nick, her partner-in-crime, implements a different tactic after encountering anti-fox discrimination personally. After being attacked as a child due to his species, Nick embraces the stereotype that all foxes are cunning, sly, and manipulative. He grows up to be a con-artist, because that is what is expected of him. This creates a dialogue about how detrimental predetermined discrimination can be, the type of environment we may be fostering for our children, and how limiting our prejudices can be on the undeserving.
[Zootopia’s] theme, as timely as it is, is also timeless. (Ginnifer Goodwin, Zap2It)
Judy’s family, the Hopps, work through their own bias against foxes during the film. Their bias is one based on fear for their own safety but Howard’s tactful storytelling puts into perspective how prejudice for an entire race, or species, cannot be put on the shoulders of individuals.
We see this point made on a larger scale when predators begin “going savage” and prey begin to panic. The divide, though superficially diminished for a time, becomes transparent: predator vs. prey (us vs. them). The sight of prey protesting against predators brings an eerie chill when it is juxtaposed with the discrimination many in North America are currently facing, such as Indiana’s denial of funds to Syrian refugees or Ted Cruz’s recent call for “law enforcement to patrol and secure Muslim neighbourhoods before they become radicalized.” In Zootopia, there is a call for action too, against “any aggressive predator that looks savage,” mimicking the instant racial profiling people of colour have continuously battled to this day.
The point of Zootopia isn’t to guilt people into being tolerant or to say that if you make a prejudicial remark, then you’re a villainous racist. It’s that we all have been fed misinformation and likely subconsciously cling to incorrect notions about other cultures, races, religions, or, in this case, species. (Erik Barnes, Ranker)
We need a new call to action, one of inclusivity and the embracing of diversity rather than divergence, and this film gives us exactly that.
Zootopia is chockfull of adorable animals and fun adventures, jam packed with witty references to pop culture, such as Breaking Bad and The Godfather, and bursting with awesome performances from Idris Elba, Shakira and J.K. Simmons. It is an advocate against bullying and a blunt voice addressing social issues, all masked in beautiful animation. It is a smashing hit, a quality film, one that will reach all, no matter the age.
Watch trailer here.