Well, I think it is safe to predict now that Zootopia will end up in the top ten of the highest grossing movies of the year, being one of the few animated movies which passes the billion mark. I don’t think that this is as much as a hurdle as it used to be, thanks to inflation, higher ticket prices in general, 3-D and a bigger market worldwide, but it is still something to pay attention to. The question is why Zootopia of all animated movies is so successful, even though it is not a sequel and has a premise which made a lot of people raise their eyebrows when it was first announced.
Let’s cut to the chase here: The basic story of Zootopia is nothing to write home about (I actually had the villain pinned five minutes in – god, I really miss the good, old Disney villains with their over-the-top demeanour, they were so much more fun), and sometimes the movie is downright preachy when it comes to its message. It also doesn’t have a particularly memorable soundtrack which might elevate the movie. But it nevertheless works because of three reasons: The message itself comes to exactly the right time, especially if you life in the US, the animators got really creative with the design of the city itself and above all, the main character is particularly well written.
I have written about a couple of Disney’s female characters since I have started this blog. I have defended them, trying to remove the Disney Princesses from the ghastly marketing which conceals their personalities and I was never in the camp which says that the way Disney portrays female characters is particularly damaging. But I admit, it is rare that Disney offers us a characters as layered and relatable as Judy Hopps.
A lot of what makes Judy special is everything she is not. She is not a child or a teenager about to growing up, she is for all intense and purposes and adult. She is not in love or finds a love interest during her personal journey. She doesn’t have a particularly lofty goal, she just wants to succeed in the career she has chosen. And she doesn’t have special parents, abilities or some sort of destiny to fulfil. She is, for all intense and purposes, a normal young woman who happens to be a rabbit.
Haven’t we all been there? Enthusiastically starting a new period in our life only to be disappointed when reality sets in? Struggling to make our own way, while still trying to hold onto our own ideals and personality? But also shifting our perspective concerning certain aspects?
One of the more brilliant elements of the movie is that Judy is not free from prejudices either. None of us are. We are shaped by our experiences and sometimes the lack of them. Judy’s interaction with Nick Wilde shows her constant struggle between wanting to give someone the benefit of the doubt while still being fast to jump to conclusions because of her own bias. Judy lacks the “moral superiority” you often find in characters in movies intend to send a message. While the movie itself might sometimes preach a little bit, Judy usually doesn’t. She is allowed to make mistakes, she is allowed to fall into exactly the trap she actually wanted to avoid, and she is allowed to feel down and ready to give up once in a while. The important thing is that she keeps trying, that she will always stand up eventually and fight for making the world a better place. And that is true heroism, the kind of heroism you encounter every day.
Quote: “No one tells me what I can and can’t be!”
This is one of those movies I recommend to everyone. There is a good chance that you’ll find something in it for you. Animation fans will appreciate the detailed design of Zootopia. Others might like the concept of an animated Crime story. And there is a really good chance that one at the very least is able to relate to the characters and situation the movie offers. One thing though: If possible, watch it in English. A lot of the jokes are based in the English language and simple get lost in translation.