Like the Good Dinosaur, I’d planned to skip Zootopia in the theater and buy the movie when it was released for home viewing. Zootopia looked vaguely interesting, but really, hasn’t Disney already done the talking animal thing so many times already? The concept, or at least the concept conveyed by the marketing, did not interest me. As I wound up taking my five year old daughter to see the movie this past weekend, I am happy to share that I was wrong about Zootopia. Both my daughter and I had a great time watching it!
Here’s the thing. Younger kids may not be ready for Zootopia. What the previews did not really communicate was that there are scary parts to this film. And by this I mean there were several times my daughter closed her eyes and threw her arms around me to hide while watching the movie. Basically, a bunny cop and her civilian fox partner solve a crime that threatens the basic integrity of their civilization. There are a couple of rather dark moments that demonstrate this disintegration.
Countering these scary segments are plenty of humor. The show incorporate a great deal of humor targeted at adults like references to the Godfather while keeping the little ones very engaged with classic physical comedy to offset the scarier moments. And, well, the morale of the story is that we are all far more similar than different. Strongly implied is the message to beware those who use fear to divide based on differences.
Of course, it is a Disney animated film. All plot twists and surprises aside, of course there is a Happily Ever After ending. By the time the movie moved to credits, my daughter was standing in front of her seat dancing and negotiating for how quickly we could come see the movie again. I look forward to buying this one when it comes out & watching it again.
Below is the Story of Zootopia – as I remember it watching the movie once.
The movie starts with a young bunny and school friends staging a show about how predators and prey used to be wild and savage back in the barely remembered uncivilized past. With the context quickly established, the movie jumps right in with the little bunny – Judy, declaring she wants to be a police officer. No bunny has ever been an officer before, a point hammered home with a child fox bully who steals from the children right after the show. Judy hops in and gets clawed for her trouble. As she also gets the tickets back, her life lesson is that she can do anything….and she is determined to be a cop.
Fast forward to Police Academy and Judy unexpectedly succeeds. After graduating as both the valedictorian of her class and the first bunny to graduate, she gets placed in the big city of Zootopia, working in the main cop shop. As a prey animal, her placement is considered a bad joke at work. Her boss, Chief Bogo, does not want her on the force and assigns her to meter maid duty while the rest of the officers get high priority missing mammal cases. Determined to make lemonade, Officer Judy Hopps writes 200 parking tickets before noon and helps a Fox buy a popsicle for his kid at an elephant ice cream shop.
This is a post-Frozen Disney animated film, so there has to be a twist. Actually, there are a couple, which keeps the plot moving nicely. The first is that the Fox really is a sly fox. His kid is an adult partner in crime. They use the ill gotten popsicle to make money. The Fox, Nic, gets away with it when Judy catches him. Later, she manages to catch a thief after a foot chase that tapes her into Rodent World, where she saves a little rodent lady from a giant doughnut. No, I really can’t explain….this is one you have to see to get.
Back at HQ, Judy is getting reprimanded in Chief Bogo’s office when an Otter walks in, looking for help to find her missing husband. Judy bargains her way into getting 48 hours to solve the case or she resigns from the force. She realizes that Nic the Fox may have valuable information and blackmails him into helping her with the case. Together, Nic and Judy start working the case. This involves several missteps and a highly entertaining encounter with Mr. Big, the purported main crime boss in a scene that seems an homage to the Godfather, as well as an extended visit with the Sloths at the DMV to run a license plate number.
The unlikely partners discover that the missing mammal has gone savage. Further investigation, including a terrifying run for their lives, reveals that several predators have gone savage. The Mayor, a lion who appointed Judy to the HQ as a political gesture, is deeply involved in the plot to hide these savage animals. Judy and Nic find the hidden lab, barely escaping (through the toilet, no less) the evil lair. They return in force to see the Mayor arrested. Judy is hailed as a hero and asked to speak to the press.
Nic gives Judy a tip on handling the press and she asks him to join her as a partner, giving him an application to the police force. However, she reveals some of her own prejudices while talking to the press, fueling the predator v prey fire. Nic is deeply hut and walks away after calling her on this.
Meanwhile, the Assistant Mayor, a sheep, steps up while the Lion is in jail. Judy gets an attack of conscience and quits the force to return home to farm carrots with her family (including over 275 siblings). In the city of Zootopia, seemingly random predators continue going savage, with the unknown cause driving conflict. While selling carrots at a roadside stand, an encounter with the bully fox who scratched Judy in childhood clarifies the true cause of the animals going savage.
Judy returns to the city, apologizes to Nic and together they ferret out the lab making the serum that turns animals savage. A chase, intended to protect the lab & evidence contained there, ends in a fiery explosion. Attempting to take the one remaining piece of evidence in, Judy and Nic take shelter in a natural history museum. There, the new Mayor, Bellweather the Sheep, meets them. Judy and Nic correctly identify her as the villain of the peace, inciting the conflict through carefully selected administration (via spray gun!) of the serum made from the Night Howler flowers.
A nice nod to the opening play of Judy’s childhood ends in the arrest of Mayor Bellweather and subsequent restoration of order and inclusion in Zootopia. Nic joins the force and becomes Judy’s formal partner. And the last vignette is another piece of ironic humor, as the speeding drag-racer they are sent to apprehend turns out to be………Flash, the slow moving sloth from the DMV.