So, Disney released Zootopia (Zootropolis over here in the UK, Zoomania in Germany and Crazy Animal City in China) to much bally-hoo. Could it possibly live up to all the anticipation? Let’s see.
Background: The film is a CG film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, the studio that brought us … well … lots. It was originally designed to be similar to Disney’s 1970’s adaption of Robin Hood and, as they did with The Lion King, the filmmakers were sent out into the animal kingdom for research on walk cycles and the such like. The film was directed by Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph) and Jared Bush (Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero).
The Good: Disney have always been great from a technical standpoint, and this is no different. The character designs strike a wonderful balance between realism and quirky-cartoony, and the quality of the animation is phenomenal. Watching Judy Hopps (the rabbit lead) bound off walls is stunning, and the facial expressions shown by both her and Nick Wilde (the fox) are beautifully done. The city is stunning to look at, and the way it works for each different species is set out in such a way that it’s functional but still manages to get a few laughs. The voice cast is as good as you could hope with Ginnifer Goodwin (Judy) and Jason Bateman (Nick) in particular putting in fittingly great performances as the lead characters.
From a story-standpoint, the film is advertised a buddy-cop story, and this is pretty much spot on: Judy is the happy cop trying to live out her childhood dream, and Nick is the cynical local con-artist that is forced into helping her on a missing mammals case. Things are not as simplistic as this first sounds though. Disney has proven to be moving with the times in recent years (lesbian mums on Good Luck Charlie, anyone?) and continue that trend here without ever abandoning their child-friendly ethos. The tale moves through a heady mix of action, political intrigue and, most importantly, racism. That’s right, racial inequality is addressed throughout the film, and Disney do a great job of giving a positive message here.
The action is great, and we get some really heart-pounding scenes as a result, all of which make use of the natural abilities of the animals involved. The humour flies hard and fast, but is perfectly capable of adding a dark touch to the laughs. The opening scenes, for example, show a young Judy putting on a school performance complete with fake blood and death that is reminiscent of Wednesday and Pugsley’s school recital in 1991’s The Addams Family. Meanwhile, the final gag of the film is actually the first time I’ve ever seen a joke get a round of applause from a cinema.
The Bad: There’s not really anything I can say here. I suppose that it was a little odd that there were no reptiles, but that would be a really nit-picky thing to deduct points for.
Final View: Disney have produced one of their finest pieces here, with a great story, positive message, and some truly memorable characters. If this is the quality that we can expect from the company moving forward, the future is bright for the powerhouse of Western animation. Whether you’re an adult or a child, whether you’re a Disney fan or not, this will have something for you. It’s funny, exciting, and marvellously executed.
Final Score: 5 / 5