“I thought this city would be a perfect place where everyone got along and anyone could be anything. Turns out, life’s a little bit more complicated than a slogan on a bumper sticker. Real life is messy. We all have limitations. We all make mistakes. Which means, hey, glass half full, we all have a lot in common. And the more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each of us will be. But we have to try. So no matter what kind of person you are, I implore you: Try. Try to make the world a better place. Look inside yourself and recognize that change starts with you.”
‘Zootopia’, directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore in 2016, is an American animated movie released by Disney. The bulk of the movie takes place in a city in which animals have evolved to live side-by-side regardless of whether they are predators or prey. Judy Hopps, a newly minted police officer, comes to the city as the first rabbit on the force. Initially she is given low level duties but her natural tenacity causes her to become embroiled in a plot to turn the predators in the city savage. With the help of a street-wise, confidence trickster fox, Nick Wilde, she follows a chain of evidence that leads straight to the heart of the Mayor’s office and a conspiracy to demonise and expel the minority predator community. The most obvious thing to say about this movie is that it is full of brilliantly realised jokes – both sly cultural references, parodies of cop-show stereotypes and inventive, Richard Scarry-like depictions of how different animals adapt the city to their own needs. The funniest scene, in which Hopps and Wilde call on help from the painfully slow sloth administrators is in the trailer, but this kind of humour extends throughout the film from the employees at ‘Lemmings Brothers’ to the crime boss Mr Big, who turns out to be a shrew. Like the British movie ‘Paddington’, behind these jokes is a powerful critique on racism and anti-immigration, and a call for tolerance and the acceptance of minorities. The city of Zootopia is not just an idealised construction within the story, but also stands as a metaphorical ideal community outside the movie. The animation is computer generated and occasionally flat, but the artists manage to make the city behind the inhabitants both beautiful, wittily full of visual gags, and, importantly, a coherent place. The set-up for this movie cries out for sequels, and given the success of the film I would imagine one would be forthcoming.
Would I recommend it? Yes – a funny and inventive movie with a surprisingly advanced conspiracy plot, ‘Zootopia’ also has much to say about the state of society in the post-Brexit, pre-Trump world. It should be on the curriculum along with ‘Paddington’, so that would be my double-bill.