You know a movie is good when rush out to share your love for it on social media. You know a movie is great when you leave the theatre, just to sprint over to Amazon to pre-order the BluRay. And you know a movie is stellar when these two items show appear on your doorstep three days later:
Zootopia is the 55th animated offering from Walt Disney Studios…a highly anticipated one, popularized by the unforgettable sloth teaser trailer which debuted during the Super Bowl. The story is centered in the fictional title city, a sprawling urban setting where animals coexist peacefully. Prey and predator alike all have their niche: hippos are businessmen, buffalos are policemen, and elephants scoop ice cream.
Zootopia quickly distinguishes itself as an equal to Big Hero 6, Wreck It Ralph, and Frozen. As the movie began, I had a difficult time not comparing it to these three animated titans, as the script writing for each stuck with me long after the ending credits. Zootopia is not as funny as Wreck It Ralph, nor as heartfelt as Big Hero 6, and definitely not impactful as Frozen, but there is something about it that has just stayed with me since I saw it 5 days ago.
We follow the optimistically ambitious Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) on her path to becoming a police officer…a feat no rabbit has ever achieved. She is diminutive and fragile up against the likes of tigers and bears, but she manages to finish first in her class at the police academy and is promoted to the City Center of Zootopia. Her unmitigated enthusiasm will have you subconsciously smiling whenever she’s on screen.
Upon her arrival, Judy quickly learns that the allure of the big city is not what it seems. She’s
thrown into a run-down apartment, ignored by her colleagues, and relegated to parking ticket duty on her first day of work. She meets grifter/con man Nick Wilde (a perfectly cast Jason Bateman) who encourages her to return home and cynically dashes her dreams of helping others in Zootopia. I don’t know if the writers/animators had Jason Bateman in mind the entire time they were planning the movie, but this pairing was as inspired as Sarah Silverman’s casting in Wreck It Ralph.
Undaunted, Judy pushes on, stumbling upon a missing person’s case in a surprising turn of events. Her no-nonsense boss, Chief Bogo (Idris Elba), wants her out of his hair, and coerces her into a deal: solve the case in 48 hours, or resign. It’s up to Judy to put things right again and establish herself as a legitimate police officer.
The rest of the movie is full of spirit and determination, and I would be remiss if I spoiled any of the fun for you. Judy and Nick attempt to find their missing person, which snowballs into a case larger than either of them could have anticipated. Political agendas are mysterious, animal nature is questioned, and Zootopia quickly solidifies itself as more than just another animated animal film.
The voice cast alongside Goodwin and Bateman is stellar: JK Simmons, Jenny Slate, Alan Tudyk, Octavia Spencer, and even a cameo from Shakira (playing a sexy singing gazelle). You’ll find yourself giggling at the wealth of pop culture references and inside jokes, many of which will fly over children’s heads:
- A wonderfully played out scenario from The Godfather
- A major reference to Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, and Breaking Bad
- Judy’s phone of choice? Something akin to an iPhone, but note the carrot icon on the back instead of the apple
- A character uses Jib Jab-like software to make a video online
- Big throwback to Emmett Otter’s Jugband Christmas
A three-year old sitting next to me at the film fell asleep with about 15 minutes to go, if this tells you anything. I was riveted the entire time…the characters just look so…gorgeous. It’s amazing to see how far animated movies have come since The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. The characters not only look great, but they’re all so appealing…from hero to villain to sidekick to cameo. I don’t think there was a character in this film that I didn’t like.
I am eager to see what Disney will include from Zootopia in their parks, if anything at all, When Wreck It Ralph came out, there was barely a whisper, much to my dismay. With Star Wars re-branding most parks and rides, I think it will be hard for Zootopia to make a dent. Still, it would be great fun for Disney to stage an exciting chase scene down Hollywood Boulevard between Judy and Nick. Or, perhaps a first-person shooter ride (much like Toy Story Midway Mania)? At the very least, the smart move would be to place Pawpsicles alongside Mickey bars.
I want to see this movie again, and again, and again. There’s a wonderful message behind it as well, plus the score by Michael Giacchino (Lost, Up, Star Trek) is a trip. Will you figure out whodunnit? Hop on board and enjoy the ride!