‘Zootopia,’ a furry yet inclusive tale
By DIEGO CAGARA
The Easter Bunny may bring colorful eggs to children but a different kind of bunny appears in Disney’s “Zootopia” – and this one strives to not be solely seen as cute or innocent.
Since she was growing up in Bunnyburrow, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) has dreamed of becoming a cop, something her carrot-farmer parents found problematic since rabbits are believed to not be capable of such a physically demanding career. However, her determination and passion for achieving her dream career, along with her intelligence, help keep this fur-filled animated film hopping.
In a world where civilized and anthropomorphic animals live in harmony regardless of whether they are prey or predator, they dress, talk, work, act and even park their cars like we humans do. The film focuses on Hopps becoming a cop in Zootopia, an animal-heavy metropolis akin to New York City. It is split into numerous districts like Tundratown, Rainforest District and Sahara Square, where different species get to live in their natural habitats, like in the real world, but still coexist peacefully—for the most part. Hopps is initially awestruck and excited about working at Zootopia but immediately realizes that her peers, especially her boss, Chief Bogo (Idris Elba), also believe that she, a small rabbit, does not belong there.
The film often contains funny puns throughout such as when Chief Bogo addresses “the elephant in the room,” only for the audience to see the police wishing an actual elephant policeman a surprise happy birthday. Stores and products in Zootopia like DNKY (parodying DKNY), a Carrot smartphone (Apple), Preyda (Prada) and Hoof Locker (Foot Locker) help provide a background comedic effect and add to the overall metropolitan feel.
The film does turn somewhat dark and serious sometimes as Hopps, fed up with just ticketing parking offenders, is tasked with finding a missing otter with Nicholas Wilde (Jason Bateman), a sly red fox and con artist with whom she initially clashes. Their adventure to locate the otter inadvertently leads them to discover numerous other caged animals who had been recently reported missing, all of which now behave erratically and “uncivilized.”
They realize that there is a mastermind plot behind these missing animals: to make all predator animals be seen as “savage,” hence dividing Zootopia and make prey animals believe they are dangerous and thus marginalize the predators. During a press conference, Hopps, under pressure, incorrectly assumes that the “savage” animals have deteriorated to their primitive ways. This severs her friendship with Wilde who feels offended and also divides Zootopia as prey animals distance themselves from predator animals and the film neatly links this to racism. There is a heartbreaking scene where a mother rabbit moved her child away from a nearby tiger on a train.
“Zootopia” provides great social commentary and teaches poignant life lessons about fighting ignorance, racism and inequality as well as the importance of persistence and proving one’s worth despite being bullied or frowned upon. Such messages may have become repetitive in contemporary culture but the injection of anthropomorphic animals makes it feel new again, showing viewers just how critical these issues are. While filled with hysterical one-liners and crime-based adventure, how it tackled racism and prejudice brilliantly champions the idea of inclusivity.
Goodwin’s voice emits optimism and positivity as Hopps while Bateman’s successfully projects the slick con fox’s rhetoric. Colombian singer Shakira portrays pop star Gazelle and her song “Try Everything” continues to spread the overall sanguine theme throughout the film.
Zootopia, with all its districts, looks like an interactive theme park and the animation looks iridescent and effervescent to complement the many species that grace the screen, enriching its Pixar-level storytelling. As Zootopia’s inclusive amenities accommodate all from tall giraffes to small lemmings, the city itself is just an astonishing sight.
“Zootopia” is a refreshingly original film since recent animated films like Pixar’s “The Good Dinosaur” and 20th Century Fox’s “Home” have not received as much acclaim as past ones, with the sole exception of “Inside Out,” making critics wonder if animated movies have become stale or dependent on sequels. But the emotional and inclusive themes in “Zootopia” are entertaining yet revitalizing.