Zootropolis (Zootopia in the US, and I have no idea why the film was renamed for the UK) is possibly Disney’s most observational film yet, and also its most subtle.
It manages to wrap up our world and place it into the hands of bunnies, foxes, tigers and sheep, and present a film full of colour and wonder that also manages to highlight real-world problems. It’s complexity makes it a film that not only young children will enjoy, but one that will make older children and even adults stop to think about how we view people, and how we assume things about people based on appearance.
A terrific case in point is Judy Hopps’ default assumption about Nick Wilde – Hopps is a rabbit, Wilde is a fox, and Hopps is therefore suspicious of Wilde the very first time she sees him. Her suspicions are superficially validated, but she soon comes to realise that there is more to Wilde – and by extension, more to foxes – than she first thinks.
The film is about overcoming prejudices – whilst Judy is busy overcoming her reservations about Nick, she also breaks downs barriers put there because of her own species – no one – not even other bunnies – thinks she can make it as a cop. She is marginalised by her colleagues and shunted to parking duty.
A wider narrative is that of the relationship between predators and prey. In the city of Zootopia, these two groups have both moved on from the ‘Stone Age’ (as one character puts it) to live in harmony, yet lurking just below the surface is a fear of predators that one character exploits to further her own agenda. It highlights how fragile society can be, and how easy it is to spread division through fear and manipulation. It also serves to show how quickly peple can be stereotyped.
These messages are likely to go right over the heads of small children, but there is enough going on to keep them firmly amused. As mentioned before, the film is bright and colourful, with Disney bringing their A game – the film is beautifully constructed and has plenty of jokes and set pieces to keep all age groups entertained. Older viewers might appreciate the sneaky reference to bunnies multiplying, and the presence of sloths working for the DMV.
It’s not therefore hard to argue that Zootropolis is one off Disney’s cleverist, most thoughtful and also entertaining films to date. It has a good message, delivered in a fun way. 9/10