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Film Review: Zootopia
In 2016, Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush released Zootopia as the 55th animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics Series. Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J. K. Simmons, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, Shakira, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Alan Tudyk, Raymond S. Persi and Maurice La Marche, the film has grossed $233.9 million at the box office as of March 6. It had the biggest domestic opening weekend for a Disney animated film as well as the third biggest opening for an original film and the second best animated IMAX opening. The film also opened at #1 in Austria, Switzerland, Portugal and South Africa, coming in at #2 in China where it had the second biggest three day opening for an animated film.
Judy Hopps, an idealistic and optimistic young bunny, has left her small town home to be a police officer in the big city. However, she finds herself stuck on meter maid duty where she encounters Nick Wilde, a fast talking con artist fox who she blackmails into helping her solve a missing person case. What the two eventually uncover is a conspiracy that threatens to permanently divide all of Zootopia.
Another great film put out by Disney, Zootopia, is more proof that the company is in its second renaissance. Even by itself, the film’s story is very interesting and a wonderfully conceived idea. Though a society of anthropomorphic animals isn’t exactly new, the film presents audiences with a great plot centering on a rabbit who ends up turning heads by being the first rabbit recruit onto the Zootopia police force. What follows is incredibly entertaining where she goes beyond her boundaries, gets handed a no-win situation where she has to solve a case with no leads in two days or she loses her job and eventually uncovers a plan to force Zootopia to turn on its predator population. It’s a story with plenty of twists and turns along with genuinely funny and heartfelt moments that makes it really feel like anyone can enjoy it.
However, the story isn’t just by itself and it presents a couple great messages without sacrificing the integrity of the story. One happens to be about stereotyping and notably, every character is guilty of it in some way or another. For instance, Judy is on the receiving end with her being a rabbit and wanting to be a police officer. Not only have there been no rabbit police officers before, but all the other officers are large animals, with many being predators. Her smallness of stature is what gets her assigned meter maid duty. On the other hand, she is guilty of stereotyping as well. It begins with her carrying fox repellent and comes to a head during the press conference scene where she starts stating what she believes to be the facts of the case and comments about predators reverting to their savage ways. Her comments get Nick angry, causing him to aggressively ask whether she finds him scary and she reaches for the fox repellent. He points out her inconsistencies and it all makes for a very interesting point that prejudices can be present without being overtly apparent.
Another message the film makes is how being yourself and not listening to what other people claim you should be is the way to live life. It’s demonstrated in how Judy isn’t content to just be a meter maid and wants to prove herself as a police officer, despite how all the other officers along with Chief Bogo believe that she doesn’t have the right stuff for it.
That really ties into who Judy is as a character. Her refusal to let others define who she is practically defines her character, established early on during the prologue. When she stands up to Gideon in order to help her friends and refuses to back down despite his comments putting her dreams of being a police officer down, it shows how she’s going to operate when she finally is an officer. Her dedication is also shown during the training montage, where she is seen beating the odds and surviving through unorthodox methods, such as jumping on the heads of fellow cadets in order to scale a high wall. When she does finally become an officer, her idealism is challenged, but she comes out on the other side knowing that reality is much harsher than she initially made out to be and that she has a lot to learn, but is dedicated to doing so. Further, her realizing that she’s not free of prejudice as she initially thought, coupled with her desire to work and overcome it while taking responsibility for her mistakes makes for good character development.
At the same time, Nick is a memorable character as an unapologetic con artist who became cynical during his childhood when he was bullied and marked as untrustworthy for being a fox. Through it, he decided that he would never show that anyone got to him and actually act like how the bullies expected him to be. His troubled past and cynical nature combined with how he has to be charismatic, cunning, intelligent and charming as a con artist along with his self-centeredness makes him a rather interesting Byronic hero. Also, just as he changed Judy and became a catalyst for her character development, she winds up changing him, which also gives him good character development. Through her, Nick learns that he’s better than he thinks he is and shouldn’t let the expectations and bigotry of those around him define who he is and stop him from what he can achieve.
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