Review: ‘Zootopia’ is a Surprisingly Topical Outing From Disney Animation

By March 1, 2016
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I’ve been seeing footage and scenes from Disney Animation’s Zootopia, the latest and perhaps most ambitious outing from the studio yet, for months now. In fact, ever since the animation panel at last year’s D23 Expo I started hearing more and more about the film, as the studio seemed to push the film with increasing intensity the closer we got to its theatrical release this week.

I’ll be honest, the footage I had seen was fun, and the animation seemed to possibly be the studio’s most triumphant foray into the CGI world yet, but the message itself had seemed clear, and the underlying depth seemed thin. So I walked into Zootopia last week expecting a fun swim in the shallow pool, only to be surprised by how unabashedly the film took a cannonball into the deep end.

Set in a world inhabited only by mammals, who have evolved beyond their primitive predator vs. prey nature, Zootopia follows Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a bunny from the country who dreams of moving into the big city and becoming Zootopia’s first bunny cop. When she arrives though, instead of being given crime cases and investigations, Judy is tasked as a meter maid, left hopping around the city’s streets, ruining pedestrians’ days. Not exactly what she had in mind.

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That is, until she’s finally given the opportunity she’s been waiting for when her police chief, Officer Bogo (Idris Elba) gives her 48 hours to solve the case behind a missing otter. To do this, Judy must partner with one of the last animals to see her missing otter before he vanished, a sly fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), who’s crafted a solid living out of his con man antics. The investigation that ensues between the two is a fun, and sometimes topical adventure that should not only entertain its target demographic, but the adults taking their kids in as well.

As far as the voice cast goes, there isn’t much to say other than Zootopia very much lives up to its studio’s previous standards, with both Goodwin and Bateman giving added depth and character to their roles here, while also being surrounded by several strong supporting appearances from actors like Alan Tudyk (a recurring name in these Disney films now), Jenny Slate, J.K. Simmons, and more.

Perhaps the most striking thing about Zootopia though is how gorgeous and detailed the animation is. As Judy and Nick journey through each of Zootopia’s districts (these include TundraTown, Sahara Square, and my personal favorite, Rainforest District), the way that the animators managed to separate each of the environments is not only applaudable, but also the way that the film manages to consistently populate each frame of the film with some kind of life, whether it be grass blowing in the wind, or mice walking behind Judy.

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That plays in to just what makes Zootopia work as a whole though, is the palpable energy that was placed into its story, characters, and environments through practically every frame of the film. It’s fun and it’s well-intentioned, just like every one of the studio’s past few films, though it hits harder than films like Bolt or some of the films from the early 2000s.

Through and through, Zootopia feels like one of the studio’s most well-thought and lived in films to date. After recent hits like Big Hero 6, Frozen, Wreck-it-Ralph, and more, the film continues to prove that Disney Animation is operating at the best it has in years, if not ever. Zootopia takes a number of the familiar elements of its past Disney classics, and seems to modernize them in unique and refreshing ways.

This isn’t a stereotypical talking animals movie, but instead takes its concept and world very seriously, which is a respectable quality by itself. The fact that it has something to actually say just makes it an even better way to spend two hours of your time. Whether you go in to just keep your kids entertained or not.

Zootopia is set to hit theaters on March 4th.

Make sure to keep checking back for more updates — right here on GeekNation.

Alex Welch

Alex Welch

Alex dreams of meeting a girl with a yellow umbrella, and spends too much time* staring at a movie screen. His vocabulary consists mostly of movie quotes and 80s song lyrics. *Debatable