A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Produced By: Clark Spencer
Written By: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons
Running Time: 108 Minutes
When a children’s animation can speak to so many varying demographics within an audience, you know you achieved something rather special.
The world of animation is one where you can let your imagination run wild first and foremost, yet the luxury it provides to surreptitiously weave in the occasional adult joke that will fly over the heads of younger viewers is something that can heighten the experience significantly.
The latest outing from Disney’s solitary animation studios is a surprising affair, and it’s surprising from the offset. Zootopia, on paper at least, appears to be a joyous, inspiring and bubbly feature that will instil hope and encouragement for children, and it can ultimately be considered that come it’s conclusion. It’s the unexpected maturer edge that takes older audiences slightly back, but in a very good way.
Opening with stylised bloodshed and proceeding to have the protagonist beaten by a resident bully in what would otherwise conclude with a predictable form of a deus ex machina, it’s clear that Zootopia wants to send a very strong message to audiences of many demographics, and if it means pulling no punches for a greater impact, it’s exactly what what it does – that is highly praiseworthy.
It’s clear how much fun the animators have had designing the characters within the world of Zootopia. Possessing eerily human qualities in an overtly human-like world, the numerous animals patrolling the streets, working behind DMV counters, selling popsicles on the sidewalk as well as various other everyday occupations and activities all have unique human characteristics and an idiosyncratic buildup that stem exceptionally well from their natural qualities.
For example, Ginnifer Goodwin’s Judy Hops, an innocent, minuscule rabbit finds herself severely out of place as she becomes a police officer, a position typically reserved for animals such as Rhinos, Bison and Elephants.
Hops’ ambitious nature is the catalyst for the story as she breaks away from the life she is expected to lead and follows her dreams in the big city of Zootopia, a place where all your aspirations can come true.
Sooner rather than later, she sees the error in her naivety as truths of the real world bring her back down to earth. Nevertheless, she persists and shows enormous courage, resulting in a wild and exciting adventure alongside a sly fox, Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman).
Hops’ storyline could be seen as a parable for refugees seeking a better life.
The idea of an enormous and welcoming city that can provide opportunity, safety and a new life seems uncontrollably enticing for Hops as she says farewell to her parents and 250-odd siblings on their carrot farm, and if one was to replace the rabbits with human beings escaping a war torn community, there is a valid connection there (after you cut down on the number of siblings of course).
With some brilliant voice acting to bring these wonderfully conceived characters to life and add another dimension to their caricatures, Zootopia is a real breath of fresh air. In many ways it’s nothing out of the ordinary for Disney and contemporary animations alike, yet at the same time it’s something totally out of left field.
The aforementioned maturer edge to the comedy benefits the film significantly as it is something you could never foresee. Examples include references to Breaking Bad and The Godfather, as well as characters attending a nudist centre run by a seemingly stoned Yak, appropriately voiced by Tommy Chong.
Younger audiences won’t understand these references (we hope), however the execution of the characters and situations is so spot on that they are able to find them all humorous in their own way.
There is something for everybody in Zootopia, which, although sounding like a tagline for the city of the same name, is intended to reference the film itself. Younger audiences will adore it whilst older viewers will appreciate the plethora of touches and subtleties aimed towards them.
It’s inspiring and exciting, but most importantly, it’s an intelligently crafted story that encompasses so much about our world and the various forms of life that interact on a daily basis. The characterisations are the work of animation mastery, while the jokes are consistent in both quality and quantity.
Lastly, if a certain scene involving sloths doesn’t have you in stitches, see a counsellor, because it is one of the funniest scenes in recent memory.