After the runaway hit of Frozen back in 2013 and their collaboration with Pixar on last year’s smash Inside Out, it was going to be a big ask for Disney to top themselves in 2016. Their new film, Zootropolis is out this week, so how does it compare to what some people are considering to be the best in Disney’s line-up?
Zootropolis stars Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba and JK Simmons and is directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore. Zootropolis (also known as Zootopia in other places) follows Judy Hopps (Goodwin), the first rabbit police officer to be hired in the city of Zootropolis. She has to team up with the fox con-artist Nic Wilder (Bateman) to solve a missing mammal’s case.
The film has a great cast, with the previously mentioned Idris Elba and JK Simmons, but also has great actors and comedians in the smaller roles. Octavia Spencer, Jenny Slate and Tommy Chong are good actors, and a small role for Shakira as a singing gazelle, but the standouts are Goodwin and Bateman. The main duo have a great chemistry as Hopps and Wilder and bounce off each other well in the downtime between them.
As usual with Disney films, the animation is one of the film’s strong points. All of the characters in the film are mammals, and while they are not photo-realistic, the attention to detail is superb. You can make out the individual hairs of Hopps and Wilder (who bears an uncanny resemblance to a previous Disney fox) and each animal’s animation structure makes it a joy just to watch them move around the film’s sets.
The city of Zootropolis is nicely designed, even though we don’t get to see a lot of it. It calls to mind Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis, with high skyscrapers and bridges connecting them all together. The city is split between different climates; the arctic tundra, the desert and the rainforest. Throughout the film we travel to the different sections of the city and just like the animation, it all looks grand.
The jokes are good, but I feel that Zootropolis might be found to be boring by its younger audience. I was in a packed theatre, filled with both kids and adults, but on average the adults were laughing more than the kids. The slapstick was enough to set the kids laughing, but these were few and far between. Of course, with Disney you get your adult aimed jokes; we get a spectacular Godfather spoof with a possum who looks like a rodent version of Marlon Brando, a sly dig at Frozen‘s inescapable hit song (now I’ve reminded you of it, it’s going to be in your head for a while) and a Breaking Bad reference (complete with Walter White and Jesse Pinkman), but every time I found myself thinking, “kids won’t get this reference”.
Come to think of it, I think it might only be the anthropomorphic animals that make it kids based. Zootropolis has PG rating for “mild threat” and even at points it made me jump. Several big predators turn “savage” and start attacking other smaller animals, clawing them and leaving them with scars, and even nearly killing some. I know that Disney is seen as a kids company, but it’s great when they go dark and they definitely go further out than they have before in Zootropolis.
Just like previous Disney films, Zootropolis takes an overarching theme and litters the film with subtext. I won’t spoil the main points but the film would be a treat to analyse; feminism, transgender themes, immigration and race are all explored within the film. Disney likes to touch upon topical subjects and transposes them to an animated feature for it to be easily taken in by an audience and just like the older Disney films, Zootropolis will make you think long and hard on its themes after you leave the cinema.
In the end, Zootropolis is good. It isn’t on an Inside Out level of greatness and it might bore the younger viewers, but it does stand up on its own as a good film.
Score: 8/10 A solid Disney entry. Just be wary of taking viewers who might be too young for it.