Published Mar 04, 2016It doesn't take a genius to figure out what Disney is trying to do with Zootopia, but, frankly, that's part of the reason why the studio's 55th animated feature happens to be one of the most memorable and effective movies to come out so far this year — animated or otherwise.
The premise is simple: After centuries of warring with one another, animals have evolved into intelligent, anthropomorphic creatures, and now live in harmony together in Zootopia, a bustling metropolis. But lest the name fool you, no, it's no utopia; their world is marred by the same prejudices as our own.
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), one of hundreds of offspring from a pair of carrot farmers living just outside the city, may be small, but what she lacks in stature she makes up for with exuberance and optimism. So when she aces her police exam and becomes the first of her kind to make the force, she jumps at the opportunity to move to the big city and make a difference. The problem is that, due in large part to her size, Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) doesn't see her as being of much use, so she's thrown on meter maid duty.
That's where she meets Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a smart-alecky fox running some streetwise scams to get by. Although his bogus business proves, at first, to be her big bust, the unlikely twosome soon discover a much larger conspiracy, one that could tear their town, and civilization as they know it, apart. It's difficult to discuss it without spoilers, but what they uncover should resonate with anyone even faintly aware of the ways North American society is designed to help some groups of people and suppress others.
And yet, even if one were to ignore the allegory here about how racialized (and racist) North American society is, Zootopia is still one hell of a movie; few Disney pictures before it have this much energy and relevance, and directors/screenwriters Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush should be commended for making a film as vibrant as the world itself. Zootopia doesn't dance around the fact that our world is flawed, tackling these issues in a frank and honest way that ensures its anti-oppression message sticks.