Disney has always reigned supreme in the world of animation, but it did seem to lose ground right around the time Pixar rose to power. DreamWorks Animation has also given Disney quite a run for its money
(the Shrek franchise, for example), but in recent years, Disney seems to have found its footing once again. Wreck-It Ralph made waves in 2012, but it wasn't until Frozen that it seemed like the studio had recaptured its mojo. And with 2016's highly rated and reviewed Zootopia, it really seems like the studio is back in the swing of making impressive, memorable and lovable animated features.
Zootopia centers around a young rabbit, named Judy Hopps, who has lofty dreams about becoming the first rabbit police officer. It isn't long, of course, before she does achieve these goals, and she's soon on a train ride to the wide world of Zootopia, where pretty much every mammal you could imagine is living together, mostly in harmony. Unfortunately, Chief Bogo doesn't see Hopps fit for anything but a meter maid position, but that doesn't stop her from looking into a recent missing persons case that involves over a dozen missing animals. While investigating, Judy meets the one mammal her kind fear the most -- a fox, in this case whose name is Nick Wilde -- and the two end up on an adventure together as the unlikely pair looks into the case.
As a movie-watching adult, I've noticed that, in retrospect, a lot of animated films are just as geared towards adults as they are children, and this is something that Disney and DreamWorks have been doing for many years now. I saw Zootopia in the theaters with my family and I remember feeling, while watching it, like it wasn't really a film to take a 5-year-old to. The humor in the film is apparent right out of the gate, as we see a very young Judy in a school play as she pretends to get mauled by a lion (and tosses red ribbon into the air, followed by ketchup, to represent blood and gore), but it also kind of foreshadows the intensity the film was to display as it progressed. My family and I try to be really careful about what movies to take our young son to, and I felt bad that, at one point, he cowered under my arm and said, "I think I'm scared..." Zootopia is about predators and prey living together harmoniously, but things start to go awry when it's discovered that some of them are "going savage," and returning to their vicious, instinctive ways. These moments are often very darkly lit and feature rabid animals leaping at the screen. One such scene finds our heroes walking the halls of a medical facility in the dark (it's something you'd expect from World War Z, not a Disney movie), lit only by a flashlight, and it only gets more intense when these rabid animals rush the glass in their individual pens. It's all stuff fine and dandy for older kids and adults, but I completely understood why my little guy was quite intimidated. This whole plot of predator versus prey and predators "going savage" is all leant to shining a light on prejudice in our own culture. It's not a bad message, even though it does feel a hair preachy at times, but with great characters in tow, it all adds up to a pretty deep and well-rounded animated romp. It's funny, it's clever, it's exciting, and it's Disney at its best.
Speaking of content of the film, some will want to note that there is a hint of blasphemy in the film. There are a couple uses of "Oh my G-d" and one of "By G-d," which is surprising for a Disney film, but not really for today's current culture's attitude toward God (i.e. a lack of reverence). Granted, it's some of the more "minor" blasphemy that some wouldn't label as such, but I know some readers are especially (and understandably) sensitive to those phrases. And really, swapping in "gosh" instead wouldn't have hurt the film any, so I don't know why Disney let it slip in to the final product.
Obviously, I wouldn't recommend Zootopia for the little ones, but animation fans, Disney fans, and fans of any of the voice actors should enjoy this one. Ginnifer Goodwin (who I've never been a fan of) is perfect as Judy, while the dry and sarcastic delivery of Jason Bateman as the fox, Nick, is a revelation. The rest of the cast is rounded out by recognizable voices and names, and they all do a really fantastic job. The animation is also truly breathtaking and right up there with Pixar's work. Zootopia is already one of the best movies of 2016 so far.
- John DiBiase (reviewed: 6/15/16)
Blu-Ray Special Features Review
Zootopia is available in a 3D Blu-Ray/2D Blu-Ray/DVD/Digtial combo pack, a Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital combo pack and on single disc DVD, as well as separately through the usual digital movie providers. The Blu-Ray release of Zootopia includes a nice set of bonus features. The film offers incredible visuals that need to be experienced in high definition to truly appreciate, so I wouldn't recommend seeing it any other way. The special features on the Blu-Ray disc include:
Research: A True Life Adventure (9:58) - Here we discover that the animation team started at Disney's Animal Kingdom for research on the various animals. And then the crew went to Africa to witness how animals behaved in the wild and mingled around watering holes together. They also discuss drawing influences from various big cities around the world.
The Origin of an Animal Tale (9:15) - Zootopia was actually in development for four years, and here they talk about early story ideas that got scrapped in favor of the end product.
Zoology: The Round Tables (18:23) is broken up into three parts with introductions by actress Ginnifer Goodwin. The three sections are Characters, Environments, and Animation. The first is about developing characters and thinking about how the different animals would dress (and how clothes fit them). The next two parts focus on creating the Zootopia city and all of the different weather conditions and climates, size and scale, etc. Overall, this portion of the features is very interesting.
Scoretopia (4:59) is all about composer Michael Giacchino returning to the Disney animation world to compose Zootopia. We see Michael at the Warner Bros. studio working on the music. He also talks about the different and unique instruments used and the inspirations for the different sounds and themes, etc.
ZPD Forensic Files (3:23) - This is a fun little featurette that focuses on a select few of the Easter eggs found around Zootopia that reference various Disney films through the years (including the "Hidden Mickeys").
Try Everything Music Video by Shakira (3:21) - If the sugary pop song featured in the film isn't enough to satisfy your musical sweet tooth, you can watch the official music video for the song here which features cuts of Shakira in the recording studio singing, mixed with scenes from the movie.
Deleted Characters (3:16) - Here, the filmmakers show us a series of characters that existed in earlier versions of the movie that had been left out of the final film -- like "Gerbil Jerks" and a sheep that's dressed as a wolf.
Deleted Scenes (28:03) - Because Zootopia evolved so much over time, there's almost 30 minutes of deleted scenes included here - some just as storyboards and some that are almost completely finished. There's an intro from the directors for each one, too. The first scene is the alternate opening which is similar to what's in the final film, but it sets up the story a little differently. The next one shows a deleted plot involving shock collars, featuring Nick working a new scam. Up until this point, the scenes have been animated storyboards, but the next sequence is almost completely finished animation of an alternate scene of Judy feeling homesick and talking to her parents on the phone. Next is finished animation of Judy borrowing an elephant's computer, which is huge (and she's small). It had been cut for pacing, but I think it actually could have been left in. Next is nearly finished animation of the original "jumbo pop" scene, which this time is told from Nick's point of view. The last two scenes are told using animated storyboards and they show Judy's parents coming to visit her in her apartment with a lot of her family, and the last scene has Judy and Nick witnessing a ceremony for a little 5-year-old being given a "tame collar" (which, in one version of the story, would be how predators were kept tame).
- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 6/15/16)
Parental Guide: Brief Summary of Content
Sex/Nudity: Judy makes a crack about bunnies being good at multiplying; We see lots of "naked" animals without clothes in a naturalist colony. We see an elephant spreading its legs and a panther licking its own leg. It's meant to be silly and funny since this is a world where normally "naked" animals are wearing clothes.
Vulgarity/Language: 2 "Oh my G-d," 1 "By G-d," Judy's dad uses the words "Heck," "darn," and "cripes" a few times. He also says "sweet cheese and crackers" as an exclamation too.
Blood/Gore: During a children's play at school, after a little bunny pretends to get mauled by a lion, she uses red ribbon to symbolize blood spraying out. She then uses ketchup to spray blood in the air; A fox named Gideon slashes Judy's face with his claws. We see slightly red scrapes on her cheek where the fur is missing; We see a jaguar with his eye scratched and cuts over his eye; Judy scrapes her leg accidentally and we briefly see a red scrape
Violence: The movie opens with a scary story being told by a child of a lion stalking a bunny. As we see the lion lunge at the bunny, it cuts to what is really a children's play at school. The little bunny uses red ribbon to symbolize blood spraying out. She then uses ketchup to spray blood in the air; Gideon the fox bullies a sheep. He pushes Judy hard to the ground. She kicks him back and he slashes her face with his claws. He then grabs her face and threatens her. We see slightly red scrapes on her cheek where the fur is missing; Judy goes through grueling training where she's told she's "dead" after each trial she fails; Judy's dad shoes her a fox deterrent kit that includes a fox taser and we see it go off; Judy's neighbors argue next door and it shakes the wall; Judy chases a weasel through various towns causing all kinds of mayhem; We see a picture of polar bears with another animal in a headlock; There's a creepy sequence where Judy and Nick investigate an empty limo at night that is dimly lit and has fog filling the floor; Mr. Big has the polar bears dangle them over an ice pit in the floor; We see a jaguar with his eye scratched and cuts over his eye; We see an otter acting savage and vicious with menacing red eyes; The jaguar suddenly goes crazy and writhes on the floor before chasing them. It tries grabbing them thru a hollowed out tree. Judy slips across a bridge and dangles off the side of it. The jaguar lunges at Nick, and Judy chains it to a pole. They slip off and get tangled in vines before falling; In a flashback, we see Boy Scouts push and muzzle a little fox and then mock him; We see surveillance footage of timber wolves net the jaguar with a launcher; There's a jump scene when a savage tiger jumps against the glass of a cage it's in. We then see several savage animals in cages. The otter acts crazy and jumps against glass; Duke is briefly held over Mr. Big's ice pit; Judy shoves Doug out of a parked train; A ram busts thru a window and smacks Nick. Another runs through a doorway and hits one out a window. As the ram presses up against the subway tunnel, the train brushes by him, skinning the fur off his tummy; The train crashes and explodes in a ball of fire; Judy scrapes her leg accidentally and we briefly see a red scrape; Nick and Judy are knocked into a museum exhibit; An animal is shot with pellet that makes them "go savage." The animal then tears apart a fake deer and lunges at a prey; We see flashbacks of animals getting sniped from a distance and then going savage.
** Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's rating.