Review: ‘Zootopia’ Confirms Disney’s New Golden Age

Wyatt Muma ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Editor

Zootopia. Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios.

The animation industry is at an increasingly interesting crossroads. While continually producing quality family content and pushing technological envelopes, it has also delved into a business heavily reliant on branding. This could just be a side effect of the greater franchise crazy Hollywood movement, but most major animation studios seem to be more trigger happy on sequels than ever before. How delightful it is then, to see something so delightfully original and timely as Zootopia.

The film follows newly minted bunny cop Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) as she takes on a string of disappearing predators, dragging along sly fox con artist Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) on the way. The film has a heavy noir influence that permeates every frame. From the story structure to character design, the film is more similar to Maltese Falcon than Chicken Little. Judy’s unrelenting chipper personality is a nice division from the normal noir cop. Her and Nick are quite the pair, and their chemistry is hilarious and done so well. The pay-off of seeing them both learn from each other is so fantastic. Disney does romance so well that it’s nice to be reminded that they know how to make a great buddy cop comedy as well.  

Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) in Zootopia. Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios.

The greatest achievement the film reaches though is its spectacular world building. The city of Zootopia is truly the star of the film, and boy does it shine! From Tundratown to City Center, the amount of detail is truly breathtaking. No wonder this is the first Walt Disney Animation Studios film to be released in IMAX. As the film goes on, the audience starts to care just as deeply about the city as Judy Hopps herself. That’s not to discredit the wide cast of characters that end up making the ride so fun. From Finnick the fennec fox to Chief Bogo, a giant cape buffalo, there is so much great diversity in front of, and behind the screen.

Speaking of diversity, that is specifically what makes the film so great. More than just mindless family fare, Zootopia makes a statement. In today’s culture it’s easy to feel sick and scared of the leaps backward America has taken in race relations and intercultural communication. Zootopia, through its fantasy city of talking animals, encourages people to make a change and work towards a better future where “bunnies” and “foxes” can ideally work together to make the world a better place. The importance of that message in a film aimed at children cannot be overstressed. Walt Disney Animation’s new politically charged features might just be the most interesting and exciting animated films being released today.

Zootopia. Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios.

In her book “Jazz,” Toni Morrison writes, “How soon country people forget. When they fall in love with a city it is like forever… The minute they arrive at the train station or get off the ferry and glimpse the wide streets and the wasteful lamps lighting them, they know they are born for it. There, in a city, they are not so much new as themselves: their stronger, riskier selves.” Not only are people going to fall in love with the city of Zootopia, but the stronger, riskier Disney as well.
Overall Grade: A

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