We’ve done it. Humans have finally wiped each other out and the animals have taken over. They’ve evolved beyond primal instincts and now live together in the most climatically impossible city Disney has yet to patent. Racism takes on a whole other meaning when a city segregates its residents into communities based on height – purely for the safety of the voles and the clear conscience of the elephants.
The residents of Zootopia are the shining pillars of harmony among the animal kingdom. Or, at least they’re supposed to be. Country rabbit, Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), follows her dreams of joining the police force all the way to this intimidatingly large and diverse city. She is the first bunny to ever make the force and is completely oblivious to her disadvantage in a room full of rhinos, elephants, and hippos. Unfortunately for Judy, her first mission as Zootopia’s newest cop reflects this disadvantage as she’s assigned to central parking police. Never one to let the chief buffalo stampede over her fluffy tail, however, Judy volunteers to track down a missing otter that the rest of the force is struggling to find. Her only resource is Nick Wild, (Jason Bateman), a tricky civilian fox that’s within Judy’s reach of blackmail. Together this smaller-than-convenient duo explores Zootopia, uncovering clues and proving that cute doesn’t necessarily mean docile.
Zootopia is a very quotable movie (sometimes stealing successful lines from past Disney movies and weaving them in for round two). How could it not be, when the mayor of the city is a Lion (voiced by J.K. Simmons) and his fluster of an assistant is a fluffy sheep (voiced by Jenny Slate)? There is so much material to work with, purely thanks to our love of animal clichés: wolves and their howling, bunnies with superior breeding skills, sloths that crawl through life at a frustratingly slow pace, etc. It’s an impossibility that Zootopia exists, and even more so that a tiger and a rabbit could share a seat on the subway… And yet, here we are. And in the moment our biggest issue is that the rabbit cop suddenly pulled over and cut off the little mouse driving in the small-car lane.
One thing about focusing so intently on racial differences is that our usual fuss over gender imbalance is more or less forgotten. Judy may be the first bunny to ever join the force, but she is certainly not the first lady. Nobody seems to care if a cop is a female elephant or a male one, so long as she can successfully intimidate the weasel robbing the bank. Zootopia isn’t about gender bias, only…dietary bias. The dividing line in this civilized, ‘harmonious’ community is between predator and prey. It’s really not that big of a surprise after you start to wonder what the panther buys for groceries when the shop clerk is a deer. Does he stroll out with a pack of venison saying, “Thanks for the change,” to the potential cousin of his soon-to-be dinner?
While the plot is relatively predictable, the animals sure are cute, and Zootopia’s humour does a steady job of making the adults laugh as hard (if not harder) than the kids. If it’s not cute it’s hilariously parodying the structure of our ridiculously structured lives. To us, naked animals are just, well, animals. But to the residents of Zootopia they’re nude, indecent, unbathed hippies. Zootopia is a great movie to break up the winter by jumping into a city of mixed tundra, rainforest, and arctic (all within a 15 minute train ride). It’s funny, cute, and quotable but not too original on the plot line, making it a 6.5/10.