Zootopia (2016)

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There isn’t any reason to go into an explanation as to why animated films are brilliant – so I will not. However, I will reiterate that there is not any better experience than a fully-realized, interesting animated film that is unique, original and wonderful. Animated films are artistically ingenious at times, and can very often be quite simply better than most live-action films. However, there are so many amazing animated films, and I probably have only ever disliked two or three animated films in my entire life. Within the great and majestic pantheon of brilliant animated films, there exists a small and elite group of films that quite simply are the very best of the animated film world. I will make a sweeping and very grandiose comment here – Zootopia is probably the best animated film of the current decade.

Now in animated film, the mark of quality is either Disney or Pixar. However, in recent years, Disney has made some films that dip in quality slightly in comparison to their Pixar counterparts. Their films like Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph were great, but not entirely as brilliant as previous films. They lacked a slight amount of heart that made them stand above everything else. However, Disney has made a considerable leap into creating Zootopia (also known as Zootropolis in some regions), one of the most unique and heartwarming animated films in years. There is so much to discuss about this particular film, and why it isn’t a heralding of the Golden Age of Disney, but rather a very new and fresh perspective coming from the iconic animation studio.

First and foremost, Zootopia takes place in a world where mammals live in complete and utter harmony, where predators don’t prey on the weak, and the prey are free to become whatever they so desire. The focus of our story is Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a sweet and spunky little rabbit that dreams of being a police officer, and in a classic cinematic turn of events obviously achieves this. When it is discovered that there are mammals going missing at an alarming rate, Judy has to use her own knowledge and abilities to try and solve the case. However, she can’t do it alone, and enlists the help of a con-artist fox, the sly and maliciously charming Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman). Together, the unconventional pair put aside their differences to solve the case, and become great friends in the process (another cinematic convention – but it works here). Along the way, they encounter a variety of strange and bizarre characters, some serving as obstacles, others as assistance. Its a story that is definitely ripe for an animated film, and it could easily not have been brilliant – it is definitely not as original and innovative as many Pixar films, on a story level at least. However, what exactly makes Zootopia such a delight?

Well, one of the main reasons is that it is absolutely endearing. The cast, particularly Bateman and Goodwin, are absolutely stellar, and have great chemistry. Idris Elba and Jenny Slate give typically strong voice work, and some cameos from other performers are used very well. The only unnecessary part of this film was the fact that it attempted to have a viral musical hit with the song “Try Everything”, sung by Shakira, who also voices a pop-star Gazelle in the film. The song didn’t quite work, but that’s a minor complaint. The cast inhabits their characters perfectly, and do a great job of realizing this story through their strong and dedicated film work. Of course, the animation is absolutely beautiful and honestly is now officially on par with the innovative Pixar animation that dominates the industry.

The main reason Zootopia is brilliant is because of the content. The story is pretty simple, and you can find strong voice performances in many animated films. Many animated films have one or two jokes aimed at adults, or make some very subtle and subliminal jabs at society or politics. However, Zootopia tackles a subject that many animated films won’t, in a very interesting way – society. Now this isn’t to put anyone off – Zootopia is still a very funny and incredibly enjoyable film and there isn’t any hidden agenda. However, it clearly displays issues with society, such as class conflict and inequality, and in a way, discrimination. I won’t elaborate too much on how the film explores these themes, but it certainly does, and it does so in a way that if it doesn’t click for you, it is still a fantastic film and highly enjoyable, but if you do realize the meaning underlying it, then you will most certainly be in awe. As I said, there isn’t any liberal agenda underlying this film – only a subtle but excellent theme of social issues that run through it, and many animated films have moved me on an emotional level, but very few have moved me on a deeply intellectual level, because it truly was unique and innovative in its simplicity but also in its dedication to exploring a theme without being preachy. That is a true and wonderful achievement that deserves the praise this film is getting.

I am not sure that I am the one to convince you to go and see Zootopia – because the buzz surrounding this film does that well enough. However, it is entirely deserved, and Zootopia is honestly going to become one of the classics of animated cinema. It is smart, very funny and obviously touching. It will make one think, which is not very common in animated films, where we are held up a mirror towards ourselves and our society, and made to look. I think Zootopia is one of the best animated films I’ve seen in years. If you have children, go and see this film. If you don’t have children, go and see this film. Go and see this film at all costs – it is truly a remarkable film, and don’t get put off by the colourful exterior – within the film, there is great intelligence and wonderful entertainment unlike I’ve seen before. Truly a remarkable film.

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