Zootropolis, or Zootopia as it is titled in America, an animated film in which animals take on anthropomorphic characteristics. The premise seems simplistic, and about as basic and unoriginal a filmic concept there could be. That it seems Disney animation studios are risking their current streak of success on something so ‘safe’ and seemingly ordinary by design prompted some to wonder whether Zootropolis would be the weakest film released by the studio in over a decade?
Zoo/tropolis/topia/city/town/province/Upon-Trent centres on Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) a rabbit with ambitions of being the first of her species to become a police officer. Despite making the force she is not respected by her colleagues, and is treated with disdain by her superior Chief Bogo (Idris Elba). However when a number of Zoovillages residents turn savage and vanish Judy must solve the case with the help of a street smart fox, Nick Wild (Jason Bateman), and restore natural order to the city.
Following upon the success of Tangled, Wreck-it-Ralph, Frozen and Big Hero 6, Zoohampton has quite the pedigree of expertise behind it. Seven different people have a story credit on Zoozealand, including Frozen co-director Jennifer Lee, Wreck-it-Ralph director Rich Moore (who also co-directs here), and Wall-e co-writer Jim Reardon amongst many other very talented individuals. Often such a roster of creativity would threaten to unbalance the film but Zooshire is a brilliantly equated film. Deftly sweeping between comedy and drama, and packing an emotional punch on numerous sombre occasions in the film. I mentioned earlier that Zooleftsandovertheroundabout seems quite a simplistic concept to a passing eye but the filmmakers utilise their world to comment upon racial, gender, and social prejudices that are cleverly manipulated for both comic and dramatic effect. At first I thought Zoo Fu Panda was an entertaining well written film with a positive thematic tone. However in the final third we are entreated with a deeper message that looks at the more entrenched fears of the characters and how our difference and upbringing can define upon us a subconscious bigotry. That we should never let our fear allow us define others as we see fit. Are they a threat, or am I just scared? This turned an already delightful feature into one that was both timely considering the current political landscape, and emotionally resonant. The casting of Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman is perfect and both deliver great performances managing to show their prowess for the comic requirements of the film, and also deliver at the integral dramatic exchanges throughout. Judy’s short monologue to Nick underneath the bridge (So I don’t spoil with anything more specific) felt sincere and powerfully expressive thanks to a combination of Goodwin’s performance and the animation of the character’s physicality.
It’s no surprise that the animation is beautifully detailed, you would expect no less. However Zoo York City is also brilliantly directed and paced perfectly. A difficult task combining the frenetic frivolity of the films action and comic sequences with a gentler tempo that manages to maintain the earnestness of the films more sensitive moments.
I had a delightful time seeing Zootropolis, the name change baffles me slightly but did allow me to display my awful sense of humour on numerous occasions. I hope if you’re reading this you have seen Zootropolis, or you plan on doing so, as I think it’s a wonderful experience for people of all ages and creeds. Except if you work for the DMV maybe? Though I think they would still have a hard time disliking Flash ‘the hundred yard dash’.
***** stars out of *****
Words conglomerated by Alexander Halsall