Release date: 25th March 2016/Watch the trailer here
Zootropolis (or Zootopia, as it’s known in the U.S.) is the latest film from Disney Animation, and it is every bit as charming, funny, engaging and heartwarming as Big Hero 6 and Wreck-It Ralph before it. So immersive and intelligent is the story, it’s hard to believe that Zootropolis isn’t a Pixar offering, as it sits comfortably on a par with all of the animation studio’s very best.
It follows the story of Judy Hopps, a rabbit voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, who longs to escape her rural life to become the first-ever cotton-tailed police officer and move to the city of Zootropolis, where predators and prey live together in harmony and anyone can be whatever they want. In the big city, Judy teams up with a con artist fox by the name of Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) in order to solve a missing mammal mystery and to prove to Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) that she’s more than just a cute, dumb bunny assigned to parking duty.
The real triumph of Zootropolis is the detailed world that it has created. The city of Zootropolis is divided into districts for its inhabitants – Arctic tundra, Saharan desert, tropical rainforests, a miniature town for its very smallest inhabitants, and so on. All of this is realised in such a vibrant way that it’s easy to believe that Zootropolis could really, easily exist. As with so many Disney animations, the key to this believability is the impeccable attention to detail – for example, the logo on the back of Judy’s smart phone is a carrot with a bite taken out of it (visible as she uses ‘MuzzleTime’ to talk to her parents): just one of numerous sight gags that involve putting an animal spin on the familiar (Urban Snoutfitters clothing, Lemming Bros. bank, Lucky Chomps cereal).
The real humour – for adults, at least – lies in these subtle gags, but there are plenty of more obvious laughs for the children and the grown-ups alike. The film’s funniest sequence – which you may recognise from this trailer – involves an aptly-named sloth, Flash (Raymond S. Persi) and numerous jokes involving the infamously laid-back nature of the creatures.
Zootropolis also carries a great message for kids involving chasing your dreams and not letting anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. Judy is the perfect Disney heroine, a peppy and independent character who achieves her dreams despite her parents urging her to give them up in favour of becoming a carrot farmer (the expected career of rabbits). However, at its core lies a far deeper and more relevant message that ventures into rare territory for Disney. The political metaphors will most likely go over the youngest audience members’ heads, but in a universe where animals have evolved past their predator-and-prey biology, the stereotypes still remain, forming the heart of the noir-ish mystery that Judy and Nick must solve and creating a touching and meaningful allegory for racism in the process.
This message, of tolerance and discarding stereotypes and prejudices, is clearly and expertly delivered at a time when it couldn’t be more relevant, giving the straightforward whodunnit plot of Zootropolis a depth and a meaningfulness that not only makes it one of the best animated films you’re likely to see this year, but one of the best films of 2016 full-stop.