By Rob Stoakes

Animation historians have got a problem coming their way; what do we call this era of Disney animations when the next one begins? The Golden Age, the Bronze Age, the Renaissance, those all make sense as names, but this era? What would sum it up? The 3d era? Well, no, some consider Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh as part of it.

I’ve heard the Revival Era kicked around, but Disney never really went away. The Modern Era is fine now, but The Jungle Book was called part of the Modern Era when that came out in the 60’s.

Maybe the best thing to call it would be the “Risky Era” because of just how bizarrely bold and adventurous Disney have become. Making their three big Disney Princess films all deconstructions of the very same genre, putting all their stock in an art form that was a disaster for them a mere decade prior, Wreck-It Ralph’s entire existence… basically, I’m saying that I shouldn’t be surprised that Zootropolis (called Zootopia in the rest of the world for reasons far beyond the scope of your feeble comprehension) is basically Disney Does Racism.

I mean, when the main character says “Only bunnies call other bunnies cute,” and predators are considered by the rest of the populace as inherently dangerous and violent, it’s not difficult to see just what Disney is swinging for. Now, accusations of racism are admittedly rich coming from Disney (cough cough Dumbo Jim Crows cough) but it’s pretty impressive that they did it, and the plot is appropriately complex. There’s no real villain of the film; all of the quote unquote bad guys think that they’re doing the right thing and are just flawed, and the heroes are shown to be just as capable of ignorance and bigotry as anyone else. Zootropolis is an extremely clever film, one of the cleverest I’ve seen this year…

… but it’s not one of the best.


Ginnifer Goodwin in Zootropolis. Photo by Disney.

Compare it to Batman vs Superman. That film is by all counts rubbish, utter dreck on a narrative and technical level. Zootropolis, on the other hand, is well written and well-acted. But BvS had a strange spectacle to it that was difficult to not get whipped up into. There was a spark to it, trashy and stupid as it was. Zootropolis is mostly just ok. It’s pretty funny but not laugh out loud. It’s pretty well acted but it’s not Shakespeare. There’s nothing here that will change your religion to Disneyism. Both are films I’d call B+ films, but while BvS had A+ and F elements, Zootropolis is only a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. With two exceptions.

One is with the design of the film. A beautifully animated Disney film is as rare and shocking as the sun rising, but Zootropolis itself is a world that is fantastically realised. Some things don’t make sense (if predators and prey have now made peace, what exactly DO predators eat now?) but there are a lot of clever little details and nods that make this film at once uncomfortably relevant with all of the racism and yet somehow timeless. Though I will say that there’s one thing it gets wrong; the police saves the world from racism. That’s the funniest joke of the film right there.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VCDQRy1od30&w=560&h=315]

The world of Zootropolis is, as said before, well realised, although not nearly as well realised as its main character Judy Hopps. If there is one selling point to the film then Hopps is it. She’s well-acted by the animators and Ginnifer Goodwin, she’s at once a role model and yet deeply flawed, she’s funny and she’s just the best thing ever made in the history of humankind or non-humankind ever (note; this may be hyperbole). If you have kids or you want to know how to write a main character, then Zootropolis is a must-see. If not, though, the money you spend on your cinema ticket could be better spent on a book of the movie’s art.

Still, I now eagerly await for Disney’s next film, which will presumably be a martial arts film about a plucky chicken undoing a sex change.

Category Scoring out of 5 :star:
Story/Plot :star: :star: :star:
Acting/Vocal Performance :star: :star: 1/2
Special Effects/Cinematography :star: :star: :star: :star:
Soundtrack :star: :star:
Costume/Design :star: :star: :star: :star: 1/2
Script/Dialogue :star: :star: 1/2
RATING :star: :star: :star: 1/2

And hey, if you would like to hear me and stand-up comedians Michael Cook and Christy Cree swear a lot while talking about Batman vs Superman, maybe you should listen to our newly launched podcast Battleship Potemkast!
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