Directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore
Written by Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush, Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee, Joshie Trinidad, and Jim Reardon
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K. Simmons, Tommy Chong, Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate, and Shakira
“Zootopia” is exactly the kind of movie that the title implies, a film about a utopian society. As many of you may know – but for the sake of those who do not – utopian societies are often used as allegories to comment the social and political flaws of contemporary society. The interesting thing about utopia is that the word is an oxymoron. The concept of utopia is one of a perfect society. However, the word utopia is derived from Greek and means no place. Therefore, a utopian society is one that cannot exist. What does the concept utopia have to do with “Zootopia?” Well, everything. “Zootopia” is set in a world in which predators and prey live in harmony, and the social structure that this society creates is used as an allegory for prejudice. Not racism per se, but general prejudice. Except for the third act when the prejudice is directed at one group, throughout the movie the prejudice is not directed at one specific species. If “Zootopia” were about racism, then you would have seen prejudice directed at one species throughout the entirety of the movie.
The prejudice allegory is blatantly obvious, though not heavy handed. In the third act “Zootopia” could have easily turned into a Black Lives Matter, police brutality, or xenophobia allegory, but it does not. What happens is that the movie stays with its tone of attacking general prejudice. The biggest change in the third act is how elements such as fear and the media can influence prejudice. Although the relationship between these two factors and prejudice is underserved in the overall scope of the movie, it is essentially a throwaway. If “Zootopia” had placed the focus of the third act on how those factors influence prejudice, then I believe that “Zootopia” would have been a much stronger movie.
Aside from the allegory, “Zootopia” is also a blend of many different genres: buddy cop, political thriller, and crime drama. The blending of these genres is a unique, surprising, and frankly, refreshing thing for a Disney animated feature to have. Usually, movies produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios are cartoon musicals – not that there is anything wrong with that, I happen to love musicals. When it comes to Disney animation, that is the first thing that comes to the minds of most people. With “Zootopia” Disney circumvents their traditional formula for something that is more akin to a movie produced by Disney’s Pixar brand.
With beautiful animation, strong wit, and allegory “Zootopia” successfully circumvents the standard formula used by Walt Disney Animation Studios, while not the first film from Disney Animation to do this, “Zootopia” is by far the best.