Directors: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, and Jared Bush
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate, Nate Torrence, Bonnie Hunt, J.K. Simmons, Don Lake
Written by: (also story) Jared Bush, Phil Johnston, (story) Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Josie Trinidad, Jim Reardon, Jennifer Lee and (additional story material) Dan Fogelman
Running Time: 108 mins
Release date: 25th March 2016
Zootropolis, the new animation from Disney Studios, is a huge contradiction. On the surface, it looks like it could tick every box on the Disney playbook: cute characters, plenty of colours, animals acting like humans. Yet underneath this is a very different creature, for Zootropolis is a much more mature, intelligent and somewhat adult affair, for it’s general plotting comes at you like a cross between 40’s film noir and 48Hrs, while it deals with messages that have a distinctly political feel to them, especially in the current climate where we live with immigration and the fear of stereotypes and culture differences.
Judy Hopp is a rabbit with big ambitions: to leave the gentle calmness of Bunnyburrow and move to Zootropolis where she can be a cop. Passing the graduation, her first job is parking but when a worried otter comes looking for her missing husband, she steps up to the challenge of finding him in 48 hours. With the reluctant help of a con artist fox, Nick Wilde, the mismatched pair soon undercover a plot of political corruption and the destruction of the civilized world they live in.
This is a very clever film indeed. Creatively it is impressive, filled with jaw-dropping animation and attention to detail like you have never seen before. A scene in which Judy first arrives at Zootropolis, where every known creature frequents a bust train station, will have your eyes darting around the screen to try and take in every animal, every sharp gag, every brilliantly conceived idea. This is not a film for those who just like to look. Inspect the background and there is something delightful hidden.
These moments are the ones where the gags live. A sign when Judy leaves the safety of Bunnyburrow has a population counter that is constantly going up. A chase through a small rodent world has tunnels stretching across the skyline like those found in hamster cages. Even a dodgy DVD seller is promoting an array of retitled Disney classics (Pig Hero 6, Wreck-It-Rhino) while managing to sell future Disney productions (Moana and Gigantic).
Then there’s the plot itself, a confident and mature tale of high-level corruption that manages to convey strong messages about never judging books by its cover and trusting those who you think are untrustworthy. Expertly spun in a web of intrigue, as Hopp and Wilde uncover deeper and darker clues leading to the reasoning behind the mysterious disappearances. It even has a sequence that manages to capture the opening of The Godfather, right down to Talia Shire’s hair and wedding dress!
Don’t be alarmed. These issues may sound heavy and somewhat contrived but there’s still plenty to enjoy. It has chases, excitement, and big laughs, courtesy of a sloth called Flash, who works at the DMA (Department of Mammal Vehicle). This is where the animators can be incredibly proud, as Flash, after being told a joke by Wilde, has the most detailed moments ever seen in a face, eyes almost bulging out of its head.
The team have also done a terrific job of chosoing the right voices. Ginnifer Goodwin, (she of Once Upon A Time) gives Judy Hopp plenty of sass while still keeping a sense of cuteness to the bunny. Jason Bateman is perfectly sarcastic in his delivery as the cynical fox, while Ibris Elba has the right gruff boom in his voice for the Police Chief Bogo, a bullish buffalo.
Zootropolis is the kind of film that, looking at the adverts and posters, most adults would stay away from. Yet this plays more towards those self-same adults than the children desperate for another Frozen. This is a film that feels the force Pixar has bought to the studio, taking conventions we are so familiar with and turning them on their head to speak loud and clear about the world we currently live in. Maybe Donald Trump should watch this before labelling the people he feels so threatened by.