Hot Take: My 8-year-old self would love Zootopia. The thing is, so would my 16-year-old self… probably as much as my adult self did. Disney’s latest is one of the best films to ever come from the studio. Ever.
Historically, Disney has made an effort to include children and adults in their animated features. Often, it is done within the humor as there are jokes designed to make the kids laugh and then others with references that only adults will get and kids will laugh along with because their parents are laughing. Zootopia makes an effort to include children and adults in a much different way. There are no inappropriate jokes designed to go over the heads of the younger audience. Rather, Zootopia gives you a multi-layered plot with a very kid-friendly “you can be anything” message but, at the same time, explores a deeper, more adult dialogue on racial and gender equality and the danger of fear and hysteria in civilized society.
Expect a lot from Zootopia. The eye catching animation and solid script will deliver for kids and adults. The layered message both inspires and acts as a modern fable on tolerance and understanding cultural differences. There’s a catchy pop song from Shakira that will likely lock itself into your head for hours after the film ends. We’ll even be talking Zootopia next January as it’s a shoe-in nominee for Best Animated Feature and might even score a Best Original Song nomination as well.
Zootopia isn’t perfect (it’s close). The middle gets rather heavy and maybe even a little heavy handed in it’s politics and ideals. What is different about this film than other Disney films is in it’s casting. But while there’s a discussion of racism, the races in Zootopia are predator and prey and the various animal species. The film never goes out of it’s way to give any particular animal a human racial identity which is a good thing. This is a misstep that Disney has made in the past by casting along racial lines for certain animals (think the hyenas in The Lion King).
Also, as far as the humor goes, Zootopia is very amusing and even laugh out loud funny at times. It does accomplish being funny for both kids and adults feat as well and, in this case, does it without stooping to low brow adultish humor.
It’s only March but Zootopia is the best film of 2016 so far. That’s not best animated film… that’s best film.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- The Animation
From Bunny Borough to the city of Zootopia, the animators have given life to the anthropomorphic creatures of Zootopia. The details are stunning right down to the fur on the character’s bodies. Last year’s “other” Pixar film, The Good Dinosaur was the most visually impressive animation I’ve seen but Zootopia gives it a serious run for it’s money.
- The Balance
Most animated films lean one way or the other. Sometimes the humor and tone is a little too juvenile and occasionally, you’ll get the animated film that’s a little too serious and adultish. This happens within the animated film (especially with Disney films) where the story becomes way too grown up for the target audience. There is a dark period of Zootopia but it never loses it’s more positive message behind for long.
- The Sloths
Unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve probably already experienced the Sloth scene when the main characters go to the DMV to run a plate. While the newness has worn off since this scene is heavily marketed, it is still very funny in it’s slightly extended version. You’ll… find… it… very… funny… when… you… see… it… again.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Why Is Jason Bateman Typecast as a Jerk?
Somewhere in Hollywood, there’s a decision tree that says “Is this character a wisecracking jerk?” and when you go to “Yes” the next question is “Is Jason Bateman available?”