Review by Siobhán Rich for Mr. Will Wong
Anthropomorphic animals are hardly new territory for Disney but somehow Zootopia feels more fresh than any Animated Movie in years. Zootopia is a modern world devoid of humans and populated entirely by bipedal mammals who live together in varying degrees of harmony. A world where the mayor can be lion with a sheep for a deputy and biggest mobster in town is an arctic shrew with an army of polar bears at his command. In short, the sort of utopia only Disney can create.
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a bunny with a dream of making as a police officer in the big city far from her parents (Bonnie Hunt and Don Lake) their gems of wisdom like, “Have dreams just don’t believe in them too much.” The reality that awaits her in Zootopia is a bit of a let-down for the optimistic rabbit as her boss at the ZPD, Chief Bogo (Idris Elba), sees her presence in his precinct as a hindrance and assigns her to parking duty. While policing the streets for overdue parking meters she meets Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a con artist fox whose faith in his fellow animal died when he was still cub.
The unlikely pair team up to solve the case of a missing otter who appears to be one piece of a larger puzzle of missing predator citizens. The two solve the case and find all the missing predators only to uncover what appears to be an even bigger scandal: predators devolving to their natural more violent instincts. An unfortunate case of paw in mouth on Judy’s part turns the citizens of Zootopia against one another and worse, turns Nick against the one person he thought he could trust.
The message of inclusion and acceptance is intended as much for impressionable children as it is for the adults in their lives. Using slurs like “cute” to describe a bunny is no more acceptable than making generalizations about the predator subsection of the population being inherently violent. Directors Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush (co-director) skirt the lines of being preachy and instead tell a tale that is relatable but still fun for audiences.
In a Movie destined to be loved by children, screenwriters Jared Bush and Phil Johnston were highly-conscious of their adult audience. Cataloguing all the sight gags would take hours and multiple viewings but parents reliant on their Apple products to schedule their lives should keep an eye out for brief references to iPods, iPhones, iPads and even FaceTime.
Although no Let It Go, the Sia-penned song Try Everything, sung by Zootopia pop sensation Gazelle (Shakira) is sure to drive home the message about believing in oneself while guaranteeing not to drive parent’s crazy with frequent demands for singalongs.
Few Live Action Movies, let alone animated ones, stick to their premise with as much dedication as Zootopia. Beyond simple visual cues like three different sized doors on the train for Judy’s trip from Bunnyburrow to the big city, the movie takes a simple idea like animals not wearing clothes and turns it into a hilarious concept of nudity.
Make no mistake, the real star of the movie is Canada’s own Peter Mansbridge as one half of the television new anchor team on ZTV. Peter Moosebridge is just the sort of generous moose who would let everyone think the movie was about a bunny but true fans of the Tundratown native will immediately spot his breakout star qualities.
No world is ever perfect and no amount of wishing or singing will ever take hard work when it comes to making a dream a reality. These aren’t the trite messages we’re used to from Animated Movies but that perhaps makes them even more important. From the gorgeous, bright animation to the pitch-perfect voice casting, Zootopia is Disney’s best Movie in years and deserves all the accolades it is certain to receive.
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Canada release Zootopia on Friday, March 4, 2016.