Anthropomorphic animals have been a staple of Walt Disney Animation Studio films for years, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that their latest offering, “Zootopia,” isn’t afraid to go all in with its concept of a paradise where predators and prey alike live together in perfect harmony.
The mayor is a majestic lion, the beloved pop star is a gazelle, the city’s biggest con artist is a fox and most appropriately, the Department of Motor Vehicles is entirely comprised of sloths. It may all sound like “kiddie fare,” but the magic behind why “Zootopia” works so well is that it has a little something for everyone.
The story revolves around Judy Hopps (voiced by “Once Upon a Time’s” Ginnifer Goodwin), a farm girl who moves to the big city with aspirations of becoming Zootopia’s first rabbit police officer.
Through sheer perseverance, she’s eventually granted the opportunity to live out her dream, only to quickly discover that her captain doesn’t believe that she has what it takes to excel at her job. When a number of Zootopia’s predators start to go missing, Judy teams up with the sly fox Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman) to solve the case and prove her captain wrong.
Though the plot may seem mundane on paper, the finished film is anything but. The characters of Judy and Nick are arguably the greatest Disney off couple since Buzz and Woody from the “Toy Story” trilogy.
While their witty banter throughout the film is primarily played up for laughs, there are quite a few heartfelt moments between the two as that succeed in humanizing these two characters.
Anyone who’s ever had a lofty goal in life and been told to dream smaller will have no problem relating to the emotional journey that Judy goes through in the film. As for Nick, he ends up being a far more complicated character than he initially seems. On the surface, he’s the charming fast talker who can get out of any sticky predicament, but he’s hiding a lot of insecurities that eventually come to the surface as he helps Judy out on her case.
In addition to the emotional maturity present in the film’s main characters, the themes explored in “Zootopia” are surprisingly adult for an animated Disney film. The film doesn’t shy away from addressing heavy issues such as racism and prejudice, but it’s handled delicately so that older audiences can recognize that the messages are there and younger audiences can still enjoy a film with talking animals without being beat over the head with the film’s message.
It’s a fine line to walk on, but “Zootopia” never loses its identity of being a hilarious bunny cop adventure, even when it’s preaching equality and respect for others.
It’s hard to imagine anyone who can sit through this film and not be completely delighted. “Zootopia” is one of those rare films that people of all ages and walks of life (aside from the heartless cynics) can go pay to see and have a great time at the movies.