The Walt Disney Animation Studio has just celebrated ten years under the management of John Lasseter and Ed Catmull of Pixar. In that time, these creative leaders have encouraged their team to try new ideas and the results have been admirably diverse. That’s why Zootopia doesn’t look or feel like any other Disney cartoon feature. Its directors have described it as a cross between L.A. Confidential and a Richard Scarry book. However you describe it, it’s singular and highly entertaining.
The heroine is a bright, sunny-natured bunny rabbit named Judy Hopps whose dream is to make the world a better place. Refusing to be discouraged, she leaves her parents’ carrot farm to become a police officer in the multifaceted metropolis of Zootopia. There she finds that, despite her stellar efforts at the police academy, she’s relegated to the role of meter maid—until she encounters a sly fox named Nick Wilde, who opens her eyes to the criminal element of Zootopia.
Clearly, this is not your “typical” Disney movie. (There’s even a joke or two at the expense of Frozen.) The story is much more dense and complex, and the emotional journey is challenging for Judy and the roguish Nick. Young children may be confused or even scared by some of the darker elements of the story, which is why it’s properly rated PG and not G.
Zootopia has a lot on its mind. Credited screenwriters Jared Bush and Phil Johnston and directors Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph) and Byron Howard (Tangled) aren’t making an out-and-out message movie, but they do want their viewers to think while they’re being entertained. Kids will readily recognize the story points about bullying, stereotyping, and acceptance.
At the same time, Zootopia is beautifully designed and brimming with genuinely funny gags. And it’s anchored by two irresistibly likable, relatable characters, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman. They lead us on a wholly unpredictable adventure set in the animal world but reflective of our own existence. As I say, this isn’t like any Disney movie you’ve seen before… but that’s precisely why Zootopia is so disarming.