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Zootopia – Movie Review

In the long tradition of Disney animated features, a question is answered that overthinking fans have been asking, how did animals learn to talk and why do they wear clothes.

Release Date: March 4, 2016
Writer: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston
Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Jenny Slate, Idris Elba

The most remarkable thing about Zootopia is that it appeals to both boys and girls. No princesses. No robots in space. One would think that a world of animals that act like humans would appeal mostly to boys, but then Zootopia writers Jared Bush and Phil Johnston pulled the genius move and made the main character a girl.

Disney also has a tradition of movies that star animals acting in human roles. Robin Hood being the most notable example. Zootopia manages to explain how and why these animals speak a common language, walk on hind legs and dress in clothes. Which brings us to the world of Zootopia, the world where animals who are predators and prey are able to co-exist in one world.

The world of Zootopia is not by any means a utopia. There are problems. Zootopia addresses these problems in a brilliant way. Disney is using the story of animals acting as humans to teach children about tolerance and diversity.

Zootopia is the story of Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), who as a rabbit wants to grow up and become a police officer. The problem is the police force is completely staffed naturally by predators. Somehow predators are a natural fit for the role due to their strength, speed and cunning. Against animal common sense, Judy hears from everyone there is no place for a meek rabbit on the police force.

Thanks to Zootopia forward thinking, Judy proves that she has what it takes to be a police officer. Judy finds that gaining the respect of her predator co-workers and the public is not going to be an easy task. She has to work hard to prove she belongs on the force.

In Zootopia, there is an epidemic of predators reverting back to their natural predator-state. For example, a tiger devolving into a feral tiger and hunting its natural prey. The police are called to solve the mystery. Of course, Judy has ideas and theories about what is happening, but no one takes her seriously. In comes the sly con-fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), who comes to Judy’s help but being a fox, no one can seem to trust him.

As with any good Disney film, it is littered with fun cameos and supporting roles. Idris Elba played the police captain Bogo. J.K. Simmons is Mayor Lionheart and his assistant Mayor Bellwether is voiced perfectly by Jenny Slate. A little Easter egg in the film is that Alan Tudyk plays the same character in this film that he does in Frozen, Duke Weaselton. He’s actually a weasel in this one.

Zootopia presents the ideas of cultural diversity head on. Tigers are ferocious creatures, because they are tigers. Rabbits are farmers, because they are rabbits. Bears are dangerous because they are bears. The story my daughter learned is she can be whatever she wants, but she has to want it bad enough and work hard to get it.

Disney has finally reached the level of Pixar in the world of storytelling and most importantly…merchandising. Zootopia is great fun for the whole family and merits repeat viewings.