by JONATHAN FORNEY
On Friday, March 4 Disney released its most recent film, “Zootopia”. In its opening weekend, the film earned more than $73.7 million while breaking the North American record for opening weekend earnings. “Zootopia” is the 55 film by Disney and it surpassed juggernauts such as “Frozen.” In addition to its staggering earnings, the movie currently holds a near perfect score on Rotten Tomatoes (a 99% rating, to be precise). But that begs the question: How is it?
To put it simply, “Zootopia” is a masterpiece.
I will separate my critique of the film into two main topics: story and presentation.
First up: story. The plot of “Zootopia” unfolds in a world where animals have moved beyond their primitive ways into a fully realized and modern society. The film follows the journey of newly appointed rabbit police officer, Judy Hopps as she takes on a case to discover the whereabouts of missing predators throughout the city of Zootopia. Along the way, Hopps meets a local fox named Nick Wilde. The duo work together as a much larger conspiracy unfurls and the divisions between predator and prey come front and center.
In this fictional universe, the prey is the majority, while predators are the minority (90/10 prey to predator ratio in Zootopia). Many of the prey fear the predators, citing a biological tendency for them to go “savage” and do harm to innocent prey. Things are not that simple however. Just as the prey do not want to be seen as meek and incapable, the predators want to be seen as more than just claws and aggression. This struggle for balance in themselves as well as among their peers is the core conflict of the film. This same principle comes eerily close to our own society with racial divisions and prejudices throughout the country. The citizens want to be valued for their merits, not just judged based on their appearances. By the end of the film, viewers will have seen multiple sides of this issue played out and hopefully better be able to recognize it in their own lives.
In addition to these more real and grounded themes there are plenty of lighthearted moments in the animated film. The world of “Zootopia” is littered with animal-based puns and references. One reference from AMC’s “Breaking Bad” is a delightful fan service. On the pun side of things, there is a particularly memorable scene where a criminal is selling bootleg Disney movies on the street. Movies like “Big Hero 6” are renamed “Pig Hero 6”, “Tangled” becomes “Fangled” and so forth and so on. There is no shortage of puns and that only helps keep this film’s stock rising in my eyes.
“It was cute. The animal puns were funny and loved the detail they added to the city and characters,” sophomore english major, Robyn Clapper, said
The animation and design of “Zootopia” was also top notch. The city, which serves as the film’s primary backdrop is divided into multiple distinct climate zones or districts. There is an arctic district, a rainforest and a tiny area for smaller creatures as well as plenty of other vibrant and varying settings. From a technical perspective, the attention to detail by the animators is impeccable. Every animal with fur looks soft enough to pet, the scaly creatures look as dry as you would expect, the way the characters bounce as they move or even the specific kinds of animals run and scurry is extremely true to form. It is clear a lot of thought and time went into making the world as meticulously detailed as possible.
“The animals looked so soft. I just wanted to pet them all,” sophomore marine biology major Randi Cannon said.
The audio in the movie was also noteworthy. The sound effects were spot on. Little details could be heard at appropriate distances from the actions on screen, such as raindrops in the background or cars screeching to a halt during a car chase. On top of that the music was brilliant. Singer Shakira makes an appearance as “Gazelle”, a world famous pop star in “Zootopia”. She performs an original song for the film during a montage and in the end credits that is well worth staying for.
Overall, Disney knocked it out the park with “Zootopia”. Every element was crafted with so much care and consideration that the overall package could not be anything but stellar. On top of its excellent presentation, the story it tells is a timeless one. Moviegoers of all ages and backgrounds can find something to appreciate about this film and I cannot recommend it highly enough.