Zooptopia is an absolute gem. When Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) defies the odds and becomes the first bunny police officer in the Zootopia Police Department, she’s expecting an exciting life of crime fighting. Instead, she discovers that her placement in the force is largely political and based on equality quotas, and she’s relegated to being a parking officer. When Judy accidentally stumbles onto a lead in the department’s biggest missing mammals case, she enlists the assistance of a wiley, street savvy fox – Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) — to track them down. Their discovery has the potential to change Zootopia forever.
Zootopia loads up the subtext until it bursts and becomes the text. Zootopia is a tale that, instead of being poetically implicit about the messages that it’s trying to convey, it all but uses the premise to trumpet a particular moral lesson about race, gender, political fear mongering in the media, and general warnings about small-mindedness. Race and gender politics are emphasised to great effect with the differences in species and the inherent prejudices between “predators” and “prey.” Right now the in fashion short-hand is to associate films railing against the conservative media and political manipulation as something to the effect of pre/post era of Drumpf. Drumpf isn’t doing anything new. The depictions of this propaganda in Zootopia are restrained and framed for the younger members of the audience, but they’re no less effective. When you look at the crew of writers behind this stacked feature – Jared Bush, Phil Johnston, Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Josie Trinidad, Jim Reardon and Jennifer Lee – you can’t help but be reminded of a line from ‘Roses’ by Kanye West; “So many Aunties, we could have an Aunty Team.” And in most instances you’d be right in thinking that a committee of that size would be responsible for a script’s downfall; instead it is overflowing with an abundance of delicious ingredients.
The magic that co-directors Byron Howard (Tangled), Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph) and Jared Bush unlock with Zootopia is that this rich, interconnected world and its varying climates and scales imply that there’s a hell of a lot more going on around the characters than simply what’s happening in front of us. You just get lost in the trivial; three sizes of train doors to cater to the different creature sizes; the traits of the different animals influencing how they interact; stores like “Hoof Locker”; it’s loaded with detail to chuckle at as it streams past.
Goodwin is just bursting with country goodness and determination. You’re rooting for her against the odds as she’s dropped into a job that everyone around her, especially Idris Elba’s Chief Bogo, is determined to see her fail. Bateman has a great smarmy, yet loveable approach to fox Nick Wilde. He drips with sarcasm and a wit like a fencing sabre. There’s a great bunch of voice performances from an array of actors but its Raymond S. Persi as the Sloth Flash, and legendary voice actor Maurice LaMarche as Brando’s Godfather rip-off Mr. Big that you’ll be doing impressions of in the car on the way home.
Zootopia is incredibly fertile ground, and one hopes that it’s not the last time that we’re able to visit. Hell, I’d be happy if we got ourselves a Chinatown set in Tundratown (one of the segments of Zootopia city)…but we don’t want to scare or scar the children. Zootopia remembers the power of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and gives it a Disney digital system upgrade and brings it to the 21st Century.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman
Directed by: Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush
Written by: Jared Bush & Phil Johnston from a story written by Byron Howard & Rich Moore & Josie Trinidad & Jim Reardon & Phil Johnston & Jared Bush and Jennifer Lee
Voiced by: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate , Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, Don Lake, Tommy Chong, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk, Della Saba, Maurice LaMarche
Ginnifer Goodwin … Judy Hopps (voice)
Jason Bateman … Nick Wilde (voice)
Idris Elba … Chief Bogo (voice)
Jenny Slate … Bellwether (voice)
Nate Torrence … Clawhauser (voice)
Bonnie Hunt … Bonnie Hopps (voice)
Don Lake … Stu Hopps (voice)
Tommy Chong … Yax (voice)
J.K. Simmons … Mayor Lionheart (voice)
Octavia Spencer … Mrs. Otterton (voice)
Alan Tudyk … Duke Weaselton (voice)
Shakira Shakira … Gazelle (voice)
Raymond S. Persi … Flash (voice)
Della Saba … Young Hopps (voice)
Maurice LaMarche … Mr. Big (voice)