Disney knows how to do it, they just do, so accept that as a fact, head for the theatre and enjoy Zootropolis. Or Zootopia, depending on where you live. Zootopia is the film’s original name, but it was renamed for release in the UK and other regions. Directed by Byron Howard (Tangled) and Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph, The Simpsons), expectations are high, and whether you call it Zootropolis or Zootopia, it is a really fun feel-good animation adventure, with sparkle, wit, and many moments of awww (watch for the sloths)… not to mention a lively investigation of the nature/nurture debate.
Can the lion and the lamb dwell in harmony? How about the bunny and the fox? Zootropolis is set in an unspecified future, a world inhabited by anthropomorphic animals (but not humans), who have learned how to set aside their differences and live in peace, with equal opportunity for all. And yet, there’s never been a bunny cop. Hmmm…
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) is full of fervor, daring and a desire for justice, as well as a good measure of trickster DNA. She’s grown up on slogans telling her she can do anything, and she intends to do just that, despite her parents’ extremely sensible suggestion that she settle and join her 275 siblings in the family carrot business.
There’s a very cute cuddly GI Jane-like sequence as Judy struggles through police academy training, until she graduates – you guessed it – head of her class! Lots of popular culture references and film/television in-jokes, see how many you can spot! Maurice LaMarche (The Brain) does Corleone so well, can a 3D computer animated Godfather be far ahead? The film does not purport to be original or first at anything, but rather, very wisely builds on successful tropes – rookie cop, unlikely partners, buddy caper, and noir crime mystery to name a few; and Zootropolis not only does it all exceedingly well, but makes it feel sassy, fun, and upbeat with a nice edge.
One might even venture to say that Walt Disney Animation Studios are smarter than many (most?) other organizations, having realized that a strong female lead makes a project successful. Possibly we should relay this message to business, government, science and other fields.
Zootropolis has been wonderfully visualized, in every detail. There’s a gorgeous panoramic view of all the different areas – as Judy Hopps makes her way to the city center by train. As the film progresses, the extent of thought and planning comes out in cunning details, especially the differences in scale. When Judy chases a robber into a rodent neighborhood. It really feels like a thoroughly conceived world, and I can easily imagine future films that explore it further, as well as following the intrepid Judy’s adventures.
In theatres just in time for Purim.