Reviews and Previews

Zootropolis

Standard, 3rd May 2016, teo, 1 Comment

By this point I’m pretty sure Disney can make a thought-provoking and inspiring film in their sleep; yet I was still surprised that this bright and colourful animation still gave us adults and kids, a lot to think about our society.

Early April, even with my busy schedule at the time I managed to squeeze in time for two big films: The hyped Batman vs Superman and the hare-hopping detective tale called Zootropolis (aka Zootopia). I went in not really knowing what to expect. Despite going for the talk at the Apple Store and even after watching several trailers; I don’t think I ever anticipated the direction or the general premise of the film. I was a bit taken back with the light nods to tumblr-esque political correctness then the heavier commentary on racism and the current racial tensions in the states, due to racial profiling and the corruption within the police force; while still being packaged as a very family friendly and “Disney”. My final thoughts as I left the cinema were: “Wow! What a very clever film!”

Story

Life’s a little bit messy. We all make mistakes. No matter what type of animal you are, change starts with you.- Judy Hopps

Zootropolis (released as Zootopia in America) is a buddy cop 3D animated feature-length film by Walt Disney Animation Studios. Zootropolis follows the story of a young bunny, Judy Hopps from the rural town of Bunnybrow; who finally fulfils her childhood dream of becoming a cop. Graduating at the top of her class and as the first bunny ever to become an officer; She is selected to start her career in the infamous Zootropolis, under a programme that encourages change and integration between prey and predators. When her potential as a cop is doubted by her boss Chief Bogo- she is very early on assigned to parking meter duties, but Judy’s heart for justice and quest for adventure, entangles her in a missing persons case with a hustling fox by the name of Nick Wilde. Together the two must find a missing otter, and uncover the truth behind the disappearances of so many predators.

Zootropolis is a clever little film that is both poignant, thought-provoking and hilarious. It is timely in its commentary of prejudice and exclusion and encourages acceptance, faith over fear and the inclusion of others. With the current events in America, in regards to police brutality, Zootropolis does a swell job in getting the little bunny from the backwaters of Bunnybrow to become a cop and a cheating and conniving fox to help her on her mission.

There are so many things that the story of Zootropolis does well, and it deserves every bit of praise from critics. You walk in expecting a very simple buddy cop animated comedy, but leave having learnt something significant. Zootropolis is definitely a tale that subvert stereotypes, brings attention to them and later flips them on their head. If you have already seen the film you can tell this by a certain assistant mayor who plays a rather large role in the film. Zootropolis is quite an uplifting and enjoyable film that brings the message of change and acceptance to the forefront.

There are so many fantastic nuggets of wisdom laced in this film, such as a scene after a mistake Judy makes, Judy’s boss Chief Bogo reassures her.

Judy Hopps: I came here to make the world a better place, but I think I broke it.

Chief Bogo: The world has always been broken. That’s why we need good cops.

The film is insightful and for the hour or so of viewing gives you time to actually think on these matters, if you hadn’t done so before. This quote in and of itself I personally feel is a grand message to those who are in the police force, to choose doing good over doing wrong, to remind them why they are police officers.

Judy Hopps is not your typical Disney character, because of who she is you’d think all the odds should be stacked against her, but she overcomes this and you can’t help but continually root for her. She is a loveable character who doesn’t end up needing a prince charming, she is not damsel in distress and she doesn’t do what she does for the sake of family. She loves her job, she believes in it and she loves Zootropolis and the animals of Zootropolis and sincerely wants to protect it.

Nick Wilde, Judy’s partner in justice is incredibly loveable. He is witty and has quite a charm to him. it was nice to see his character type take a bit of a back seat in this tale, because often it is the Nick Wilde’s who are the main characters. But the two share the right amount of screen time, that presents them as equals while still letting the audience know that it is in fact Judy who is our main protagonist.

Also does it make sense to ship a Bunny and a Fox? Zootropolis is not a romance and has not even a single hint of it, but there was just something really touching and sweet about the relationship between Judy and Nick. Outside of the fact, that they were both used as characters to help the other out of their prejudgment and bad experiences with predators and prey. Man, they make such a great team! I am normally against Disney making sequels, I just don’t believe in Disney making sequels but this is the first Disney feature-length animation in 10-15 years, that if they ever were to make a sequel for, I will gladly watch. I am interested in Nick and Judy, I am invested in them enough to want to know more of their crime busting tales. A sequel for Zootropolis can actually work, there is enough material for it to make it work.

Animation

Every time, I comment on the animation for a Disney or Pixar film I find myself having less to say because I am always saying the same thing. So from now on I want to make more use with the animation section of my reviews and look at 3 key features that were done especially well. Some films have fantastic facial animation, with others there are some great physics that will come into play while some are more playful in their body language and movements. As Zootropolis is a film set in an anthropomorphic society, you see some really interesting movements, a greater emphasis on acting with emotion and their relationship to their environment. There are two or three scenes which I believe to have been done really well; The first scene is when our newbie police officer Judy Hopps is arriving to Zootropolis and we get glimpses into the different environments and habitats of the city. The second is the scene above, for some reason the ambience, the body language between Judy and Nick is really something else and the third scene is when Judy and Nick manage to find the driver who was a key witness to their missing persons case.

What I adore about Judy’s character animation is that there is always a little hop to her step and a bit of bounce to her movement. When she is alert, excited, startled or frightened her ears raise up and when she is calm, relaxed even sad her ears will flop down Nick is quite shifty in the way he moves, which is right for the “sly fox”. When the two first meet, they tend to feel quite tense around one another,  the distance that they keep, whether they are facing one another when speaking, their movements and facial expressions are so thought out and natural

The next topic I would like to look at would be the physics in the animation, things that are supposed to jiggle, jiggle, an elephant walking has this weight and heaviness to their walk that indicates the largest of the character. Mice scurry in their walk, and tigers and lions wag their tails or have it sway. Everything is always moving. When it rains, it pours and when it is sunny, you get some really lovely lighting effects that make sense and let you know clearly what time of day it is. In the scene I posted above, the shuttle things like the mist in the limo is wonderfully done, as in something so subtle really sets the mood of the scene and adds to the tension.

Design

I don’t know what it was this time about the design that was a lot more captivating. All the animals are anthropomorphic and they never cross a line of feeling too human or too animal. Everything is just right and I quite like that. They aren’t animals who act like humans taking up a human world, where they will turn back to being just animals once the humans aren’t around. but it takes their concept of what if humans didn’t exist and animals evolved so faithfully.

In regards to the palette of the film, colours are bright and very vibrant.  It is a nice film to look at. And there is something about the use of texture in the film that really makes it stand out. Just looking at the animals, you just want to grab and touch them and they are true to what animals should look like. The character designs still feel human enough that we can relate to. There are plenty of films that have animals as the leads that just never make a connection with the audience. It was nice seeing them take certain features and really pushing them in the character design to really emphasise their species and their personality.

But I really have to tip my hat off to whoever was in charge of the colours in the film. They really draw you in and represent the diversity and the message of Zootropolis.

Sound

The score for the film can feel very jungle themed at first and there are a lot of drums! We also get a nice little song from Shakira called, “Try Everything”.When I first heard the song, prior to watching the film, I really was not so much a huge fan, it has grown on me enough that I can say it is an alright song that suits the theme of the film. There are also blends of action music that suit the film noir genre particularly if you have a listen to “Hopps Goes (After) The Weasel”, an instrumental during Judy’s chase scene of a thief. As the film progresses, so does the music evolve and shift to more music that fit in with the emotion or setting of a scene. I also wish they had done a bit more with the music and experimented and fused together different genres, as they did with Shakira’s “Try Everything”.

Final thoughts

I really enjoyed Zootropolis and I had so much respect for Disney after viewing. Racism matters to me and it looks very different to what it looked like 100, 200 and definitely 300 years ago, and they took something so complicated and very touchy, and packaged it in a way that even the most simple of people can understand and sympathise with.

A simple film noir themed animation did what a lot of films and articles fail to do and it was done with such skill and handled with a lot of love and care. Judy, Nick and the animals of Zootropolis weren’t just another set of mouthpieces blaring out the social catchphrases and chants of today, but I genuinely cared for them, their stories and relationships with one another.

Shipping Judy and Nick aside, I mean their on-screen relationship really was a goldmine. While Zootropolis doesn’t make it on my top 5 list of best Disney films ever, it is a credible film I would highly recommend to anyone reading this. There’s so much humour and cultural relevance that speak volumes of just how much we have progressed as a society and just how much we haven’t. Whether it was Disney’s intention or not, I am still very grateful that this film was also a conversation and an acknowledgement of our reality.

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1 Comment

  • Reply The INKtrovert 4th May 2016 at 6:03 PM

    I loved this film too – laughed out loud on too many occasions!

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