Friday, 28 July 2017

Zootopia (2016)

Fig 1 - Zootopia Poster
Directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush, Zootopia (or Zootropolis depending on location) follows the story of a cunning rabbit and a sly fox who team up to investigate a missing persons case in a city populated entirely by animals. In the beginning, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) travels to Zootopia to become the city's first rabbit police officer, only to find that among her brawnier co-workers she is designated as a meter maid. After leaving her post to pursue a robber, the chief of police Bogo (Idris Elba) gives Judy forty-eight hours to track down one of many in a missing persons case, or else hand in her resignation. Judy seeks the help of conman Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a fox with plentiful street-smarts who knows all too well about the true prejudice alive in Zootopia. Judy must put aside her preconceptions of stereotypical fox behaviour in order to use Nick's underground knowledge of the city and it's residents. But when they discover that outbreaks of "savagery" are at the route of the investigation, Nick and Judy are forced to delve deeper than expected to crack the case...

Zootopia won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature at the 89th Academy Awards, beating a strong list of critically acclaimed competition in 2016. The film was nominated among the likes of My Life as a Zucchini, The Red Turtle and Moana.

Fig 2 - Zootopia - Nick and Judy
For all the glamour and brightly rendered visuals of the film, there is a deliberate finger on the pulse of society from the outset. Zootopia opens with a school play that outlines the principal narrative - that predators and prey now co-exist after generations of brutality which saw only the strongest and fastest rise to the top. Though the dietary specifics of predators are never spoken of, it is assumed that some alternative eventually came to pass. Incidentally, there is an undercurrent of racial stereotyping among certain animals; chiefly foxes, who have a reputation for being untrustworthy. Above all other species inhabiting Zootopia, foxes appear to get the most negative press and are treated as second-class citizens (or at least a cause for concern). Late into the film, media propaganda begins to divide prey from predators once more, resembling obvious parallels to racial stigma in the news. This in conjunction with the fact that most of the police unit are "predators" means there's a lot that can be divulged from the metaphors on display and gives a gritty depth to something that appears so cute on the surface.

That aside, Zootopia appears to be the most expansive Disney universe ever and, what's more, the animation is beginning to rival the likes of their subsidiary company, Pixar. Rich with colour and wildlife, the city's interconnecting districts are designed to fit the purpose of all creatures great and small. With tiny train compartments for hamsters and ludicrously tall cars for giraffes, it's a lot of fun just to be observing the city in motion. If I didn't love the attention to detail so much I'd certainly be picking holes like "What happened to all the humans, birds and sea creatures?". But I'm sure this will all be covered in what I assume to be titled Twotopia.

With stunning animation and great voice acting from leads Bateman and Goodwin, Zootopia manages to be enjoyable for audiences of all ages. It's surprisingly on-the-nose references to The Godfather and Breaking Bad show that Disney are slap-bang in the 21st Century (not to mention the endless smartphone usage) proving that they too can be diverse in targeting demographics and poke fun at modern society.


Fig. 1 Zootopia Poster (2016) From: Zootopia (2016) - Directed by: Byron Howard, Rich Moore & Jared Bush

Fig. 2 Zootopia Screenshot (2016) From: Zootopia (2016) - Directed by: Byron Howard, Rich Moore & Jared Bush

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