Zootopia (also known as Zootropolis in the UK) is the new animated feature film from the Walt Disney Animation Studios. With talking animals… Humm… Disney has pretty much done everything there was to do with animals, right? Obviously not, as proven by this gem, which is not only an hilarious and gorgeous movie, but also - and more surprisingly - one of the deepest and richest animated films in recent history. Read our full and spoiler-free review below.
Zootopia is mainly about a bunny called Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin). She's determined to become the first bunny to become a police officer in the big city. And she does, but because she's a bunny, she's not taken seriously by her co-workers and is put on traffic duty. She finally finds her way to one huge case (the disparition of 14 Zootopia predators), but only has 48 hours to solve the mystery. To do so, she's asking for the help of a con artist; a fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman).
The film succeeds in establishing a colourful, charming and inventive world inhabited by animals (mammals only, to be precise): the Zootopia city is visually stunning, with each district of the city having its own style and climate; the snowy Tundratown, a tropical forest, Sahara Square, Little Rodentia and so on… The visual ideas are everywhere you look and it will take a lot of viewings to spot all the small jokes hidden in the sets.
And this vision of a city perfect for each and every animal that lives in it also serves the story: the idea behind Zootopia is that everyone can live together; that includes the predators and the preys. In that aspect, the original name of the movie makes more sense, since the goal here is some sort of Utopia.
From kids to adults, everyone will find something to like in the story: the big mystery lead Judy and Nick from strange places to other strange places, and the investigation is a delight to follow. The jokes are hilarious, the Judy-Nick duo is lovable; you are rooting for them through the whole movie. The secondary characters are all interesting/fun in their own way. The twists are clever and pretty unexpected, but all make perfect sense. It's all good fun.
While adults may enjoy those parts, there is even more for them below the surface; Zootopia says more about our own human society than you would expect. The predators and preys are really a metaphor for something else, and it finds a strong echo in the current events of the world.
Zootopia is very rich thematically: it talks about trying to become what you want, fear, being rejected because you're different… But it's never preachy or in-your-face; because it's all part of a wild and adventurous police case starring a courageous bunny cop and a cunning fox, the message is really there if you're looking for it; it never hurts the story, only making it better and more profound. The film is first and foremost about having fun, the thrill of action scenes and the moving moments.
As you would expect coming from Disney, the animation and effects are spectacular. The way Judy Hopps is animated, particularly, is wonderful. You constantly see that she's still a bunny, even though she acts as an anthropomorphic police officer. How her nose wiggles is even a subtle clue on what she's feeling.
So there you have it. Zootopia is yet another winner for the WDAS. A funny, inventive and deeper than it seems movie with great characters. In my opinion, Zootopia is a nearly flawless movie. I highly recommend it. Kudos to director Byron Howard, Rich Moore and everyone who worked on this animated gem.
Zootopia will be out in US cinemas 4 March; Zootropolis opens 25 March in the UK.