Zootropolis is an absolute delight from first to last. With the kind of thought-provoking depth as seen in Inside Out, albeit not quite as emotionally stirring, it is packed full of charm, a riveting adventure and a number of valuable lessons for humankind by way of the animal kingdom. It is a triumphant, big-hearted return for Disney after the colossal commercial success of Frozen. Front and centre is the intrepid, resolute and fearless rabbit, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin). Determined from a young age to become the first of her kind to make the police force, she becomes the city’s newest recruit alongside her more fearsome colleagues.
What Judy lacks in stature she makes up for with plucky resolve but her brutish buffalo boss, Chief Bogo (Idris Elba), assigns her to parking duty. Hustled into participating in a popsicle – or rather ‘pawpsicle’ – scam by sly fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), Judy uses a nifty carrot-shaped dictaphone to turn the tables on her scheming adversary. His street-savvy quick-wittedness comes in handy as they form an unlikely partnership, needing to solve a spate of mysterious disappearances in order for the ambitious young Judy to prove herself and save her job. Where Zootropolis really excels is in an acute attention to detail: an ever-increasing population counter for the quickly reproducing rabbit community; different sized doors for animals on the train; suspiciously recognisable gadgets that have a Carrot logo (rather than an Apple); a shady weasel voiced by Alan Tudyk selling knock-off Frozen and Wreck-It Ralph DVDs.
These are but a few examples of many that demonstrate what a delightfully tongue-in-cheek and engaging experience watching Zootropolis is on top of all the thrills and spills. One line about “letting go” of one’s dreams nearly brought the house down and the writing really is impeccable through and through, voiced by a uniformly wonderful cast. As with all the very best animations, Jared Bush and Phil Johnston’s script weaves captivating but accessible storytelling to keep children enraptured whilst at the same time throwing a generous dose of in-jokes, puns and higher-minded ideas to satisfy older audience members. As the story progresses, predators and prey are pitted against one another and the film’s messages on inclusivity, prejudice, female empowerment, injustice, political correctness and racial sensitivity – whether another animal can call a bunny “cute” or not – are handled with such care that they all ring true.
Playing on any American film to feature a police academy, the training montage sequence is superb, an Italian crime boss proves that size doesn’t always matter. Meanwhile, sloths working at the DMV allude to the painful speed of bureaucratic process and a naturalist resort for animals that want to do yoga in the nude – where elsewhere everyone is fully clothed – is a tremendous inversion of expectations that will have you in stitches. Inspiring, uplifting and a crowd-pleaser with genuine substance, Zootropolis is a real cracker that teaches kids young and old to go after your dreams and believe in yourself. What could be better than that?