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Zootopia (2016); One of the Most Important Animated Films of Our Time

June 30, 2016

zootopiaFor some people, movies are an escape. Whether it’s been a long day or even a long life, sometimes you just want to kick back and shut off your brain. For others, myself namely, movies hold a social responsibility to teach viewers. It is the most easily digestible, astute form of media that can convey new ideas, emotions, and cultures to anyone who watches. What I find to be most exalting and spectacular about movies is that when in the right hands it can possess both the ability act as an erasure of monotony or stress while still enlightening us. Zootopia is a perfect example of that ability.

Not only does Zootopia possess insanely gorgeous animation that is clean, textured, and coated in bright vivaciousness, but it carriers a large burden on its back; the desire to show the world simple solutions to our selfishness and fears. Screenwriters Phil Johnston and Jared Bush team up with animators, six other writers, and two other directors to create a world that is stunning food for the imagination. A world where anthropomorphic animals must learn to surpass prejudice thinking and critical self-doubt. Zootopia stages an array of adorable animals to play the parts of catalyst for change, most notable Judy Hops (Ginnifer Goodwin), a tiny bunny with big dreams of being a police officer— an unheard of achievement for a bunny.


The sheer number of land animals we get the pleasure to encounter is merited to the genius use of landscape and creativity. Zootopia, the metropolitan city of the story, is separated into 12 ecosystems. Easily accessible to any citizen, these ecosystems provide stable homes for polar bears needing colder climates, camels needing heat, and everything in between. This allows the animation department to let their ingenuity run rampant creating a landscape of rivalry systems that substantially complement one another. The integration of these different animals’ lives is hilariously ingenious. There’s an Acacia juicing store with tubes tall enough for giraffes. There are miniature lanes on the road for the rodents that commute from their tiny, rodent city in to Zootopia. Banks are run by simple, singular minded suit-wearing lemmings that follow and copy each other’s every move. Zooptopia is filled with diversity and wonder, but as Judy learns a big city houses bigger problems.

When 12 Zootopian citizens go “savage”, that is reverting back to their animal instincts and out of the civilized clothes wearing society they are used to, it’s up to the Zootopian police force to solve the case. Soon, Judy learns there is a larger conspiracy preventing the case from being cracked. Despite her upbeat gumption she finds herself butting head with her superior, Chief Bogo (Idris Elba). Along the way Judy must face her own inbred prejudices about predator animals, more specifically towards Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a sly fox she finds herself in cahoots with. Meanwhile, Nick must battle his own emotional demons that tempt him to lead a life as society has branded him.

Kids and adults alike will enjoy Zootopia because of its cut and dry silly humor. Regardless of its humorous nature, Zootopia’s gaping social reality check looming throughout the film is unmistakable. It’s not hidden or shrouded in allegory that may get lost on its viewers. Instead, it is refreshingly poured into your consciousness with direct intent. One of the first scenes of the film shows how the negative thought serves as a hindrance when a young Judy gets constantly reminded by her parents and neighbors that she’s only a bunny who shouldn’t aspire to be anything else except a farmer like her folks. Her parents even explain the importance of settling in life. Judy’s farther reveals to her that “if you never try you never have to be disappointed”.

Sloth Laugh - Zootopia - Imgur

Many shenanigans take place sending Judy, Nick, and the citizens of Zootopia on a wild journey of self-evaluation across the city. We meet an array of funny characters and witness some silly mishaps. Nevertheless, it’s the message that the film leaves viewers with that I responded to the most. Zootopia reminded me that change starts from within. It seeks to have every conscious body that views this film take responsibility for their actions as well as their thoughts in order to confront prejudice, small-minded behaviors. My hope for the future is that all films will highlight elements like this in some fashion, but I’m glad that at least one animation film in our time attempts to open our eyes to the truth.


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