The latest Disney heroine is not a princess.
She’s one of over 250 children, hailing from a humble farming community.
Like other Disney ladies, she has big dreams and big determination. Like most Disney ladies, she has outlandish amounts of hair.
Her name is Judy Hopps. She is a bunny. She is a cop. Don’t call her cute.
Zootopia, which opens on March 4, 2016, introduces a big fantasy scenario: Animals evolved beyond their predator/prey relationship into a thriving society. They built an astonishing modern world without the aid of opposable thumbs. They have smart phones, are bi-pedal, and speak the same language. Rhinos can chat with mice and foxes can scam elephants. There are no humans, monkeys, or primates in this almost-perfect paradise. We’d just screw it up somehow with pestilence and such.
But Zootopia isn’t a Utopia, which is why there is a police force. Can Officer Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, crack a perplexing series of crimes that threaten the safety and harmony of Zootopia? Being a Disney heroine means she needs and reluctantly accepts help from a clever, dashing bad boy type. Of course, it’s a slyer-than-sly fox named Nick Wilde, voiced by Jason Bateman.
Zootopia is packed with astonishing detail. It’s the type of movie to watch more than once because so much is going on in the background. It’s clever, cute, and keeps adults engaged with winks at pop culture and the human experience. Of course sloths work at the DMV. Of course rabbits have a veggie farm. Of course, the mayor is a lion. But you’ll never guess who runs the town mafia or why wolves make rotten guards. Owwww-oooooooooooo!
The moments between the plot-development scenes were my favorites. They could have made a film with twenty different vignettes of life in the city and it would have been delightful. The plot is purely a mechanism to trick out the worthy message that nobody—in any society—should be judged by the circumstances of their biology. Being a human with opposable thumbs, a smart phone, and torturous visits to the DMV, it’s easy to equate Zootopia’s world with our own. The message has never been more timely, or obvious.
My major gripe with the movie is that the explanation behind the crimes made zero sense and was wrapped up a bit too tidily. This was where the movie went off the rails a bit for me, but I reminded myself that it is aimed squarely at kids who probably don’t watch re-runs of Columbo on Netflix.
Is Zootopia worthy of a trek to a theater? It’s the best animated film to come out in months and if your family is clamoring for a movie outing, it would be a great choice. However, it’s not a must-see, don’t miss type of film like Inside Out or Frozen. It’s pleasantly funny and artful. I’m sure it will return in sequels, as the characters easily lend themselves to further adventures. Zootopia will be mandatory to own on disc or streaming. Repeated viewings wouldn’t get stale because of the tremendous attention to detail and knowing nods to other Disney movies.