Disney’s latest animated feature, Zootopia, hits theaters this Friday, March 4. My family had the privilege of getting a sneak peek earlier this week, and we thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it. My children have not stopped talking about it and my son has asked at least 50 times when it is coming out on Blu-ray since our Monday night viewing. To say this film is an instant hit in our family is the understatement of the year. In fact, I would definitely put it in the top 5 Disney movies of all time based on content alone, which is a pretty bold statement for me. Like other Disney movies, it is abundant in lovable characters, witty humor, positive role models, and beautiful artistry. Directed by Byron Howard (Tangled, Bolt), Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph), and Jared Bush (Big Hero 6), Zootopia more than embodies all of the amazing characteristics we love in our animated films, but it’s the underlying themes of overcoming prejudice and accepting diversity that put this film in a class of its own.
As a location, Zootopia is essentially a metropolis of modern mammals who live together despite their differences and limitations. The city is subdivided into different habitat neighborhoods, like Tundra Town, Sahara Square, and Little Rodentia. These animals talk, walk, and carry on like modern-day human beings. They are even drawn in true proportion to their real-life counterparts, so a bunny standing next to a lion looks minuscule, but appears giant when standing next to a hamster; it allows for some interesting and hilarious interactions throughout the film. And just like our society, Zootopia, while touted as the place where “anything can happen”, still has its strictures. There are certain unwritten societal hierarchies and cultural boundaries that prevent things from being easily attained based on one’s species, size, or heritage—especially for the main characters.
The story is centered around an optimistic farm bunny, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), who defies naysayers, stereotypes, and physical limitations to become Zootopia’s first cotton-tailed police officer, a dream she’s been working toward her entire life. Despite her valiant efforts and sacrifices, Judy is faced with the reality that she is unwelcome in a work environment ruled by cape buffalo, tigers, polar bears, and other more intimidating creatures. While trying hard to accept her new, yet undesirable, job as the city’s meter maid, Judy takes it upon herself to indulge in “real” police work when the opportunity arises. This causes conflict with her boss, Chief Bogo (Idris Elba). In effort to save her job and prove she’s more than just a cute bunny, Judy immerses herself in a missing mammals case and enlists (or rather demands) help from local con artist Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a clever fox plagued with his own stereotypes. This unlikely pair wades through their differences and works together to solve the case. Along the way, they embrace diversity and discover that stereotypes and prejudices should never define who you are or how you view others. It shows us that even the most improbable creatures can become the best of friends when they put aside their differences and misconceptions about one another.
Zootopia is brilliantly written and extremely hilarious; the jokes and laughter are never-ending. There are a few parts that could be a little scary for younger viewers, but they didn’t seem to faze my 3-year-old princess. There was one specific part that definitely startled me and some other viewers, but I promise, I wasn’t the only grown person in the audience who screamed. My kids told me to quiet down, though. My family watched the movie in 3D IMAX and I would gladly recommend watching it in this format—not necessarily IMAX, because those theaters are not easily accessible, but definitely 3D. It was absolutely amazing! Sometimes watching 3D movies becomes challenging as a parent because tiny people and glasses usually don’t work well together, but both my children had no issues staying focused on the movie, and my daughter sat through the entire film, which is an accomplishment in itself. I wouldn’t hesitate to see it again in 3D.
This film is more than a story about funny animals co-existing in a fictitious utopia. For an animated movie, I thought the subject matter was surprisingly deep: Racial profiling, prejudice, gender inequality, stereotypes, and bullying? Wow! These are incredibly difficult topics to address in general, let alone in a film whose target audience is children. But Zootopia handled it effortlessly and delivered the information in a way that can be understood and embraced by audiences of all ages. It’s an exciting adventure filled with many lovable characters and is destined to be a classic. As a mom, I feel it’s a film I can use to help educate my children about these delicate topics. It’s a landmark in animated content that will hopefully pave the way for future projects and potentially tackle similar sensitive issues that plague our society. Disney, as usual, is on the right path—challenging us to always believe in our dreams and reminding us to always be kind to one another.