Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush.
Featuring the voice talents of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Nate Torrence, Jenny Slate, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Octavia Spencer, Tommy Chong, Alan Tudyk, Maurice LaMarche, J.K. Simmons, and Shakira.
In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a rookie bunny cop and a cynical con artist fox must work together to uncover a conspiracy.
I keep falling in love with animated anthropomorphic bunnies. Lola Bunny in Space Jam, the rabbit in the Cadbury’s advert, and now Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) from Zootropolis. It’s a pure, romantic love. Nothing sexual (yet). The weird thing is, I never got the appeal of Hugh Hefner’s ‘Playboy Bunnies’. The whole costume-on-a-human stuff comes off a bit creepy. They’ve gotta be a full animated, anthropomorphic bunny or I’m out.
Zootropolis is really good. It’s a film about a world where animals have evolved beyond the predator/prey divide to create a society like our own. They have all our modern luxuries, just with a few tweaks. Burberry becomes Bearberry. iPhones have a carrot symbol on the back. Trains have different sized doors for the variety of commuting animals. Zootropolis’ world is covered with these ingenious quirks. It’s the most admirably relentless display of invention and wordplay you’ll find outside of Aardman. The world building is by far the film’s best feature.
Which is why the name change is so confusing. Zootopia, as it’s called in the States, is a solid pun. Zoo rhymes with ‘U’, thus Utopia becomes Zootopia. That’s the joke. Calling it Zootropolis in the UK and elsewhere is as befuddling as dropping the ‘Brothers’ part of The Brothers Grimsby (which also happened for British distribution) – the joke doesn’t work.
Considering my feelings for Judy Hopps, I’d just call it Zoophilia.
Speaking of Hopps, she’s the oryctolagus cuniculus protagonist (that’s Latin, not another Zoophilia thing), told from a very young age that she can never achieve her dream – to be a police officer in the bustling capital city of the animal kingdom, Zootropolis. This just makes Hopps’ resolve stronger.
It plays into the film’s larger message, that everyone should keep within the confines of their societal stereotypes. Bunnies should be carrot farmers, lemmings should be accountants, sloths should issue driving licenses (the film’s best visual joke), and, most species-ist of all, foxes should be sly, manipulative predators.
Despite revelling in Zootropolis’ mutli-specie-ism, Hopp has just as much prejudice as anyone else. Which is why the film pairs her up with Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a street-hustling fox. Assumptions collide.
It’s a remarkably complex dynamic for a children’s film, with Zootropolis arguably handling the theme better than the schmaltzy Crash, which won Best Picture in 2006. Usually, the good guys are good and the bad guys are bad; but here, Judy fights prejudices while harbouring some herself. It’s an astoundingly mature approach to the difficulties of multiculturalism.
The jokes are plentiful – both in popular culture (a Breaking Bad gag in a Disney film?) and observational (the aforementioned sloths) – the concept marvellously developed and emotional character beats that land hard. I saw the film in a press screening full of families. Some of the younger children bawled loudly at the tense bits. They bawled even louder when I shouted at them to stop.
But most impressive is the animation. When the lens mimicked a shallow depth of field (having the background out of focus), characters looked solid to the touch. I’ve known it for a while, but this is the first time I actually realised it – 2D animation now occupies the same space as shooting on black and white; you have to justify it as a creative choice or budget limitation to be taken seriously.
It’s weird to be living through a Golden Disney Age as an adult. Their last creative high came when I was a kid, with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. Those are the films my friends and I joke about and reference now, with some still swooning over adult Simba (see, I’m not alone in the animated anthropomorphic animals thing). It provides a fleeting shared connection with our separate childhoods. In 20-or-so years’ time, today’s kids will be doing the same with Tangled, Frozen and Zootropolis.
But not with Hopp. She’s mine.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★