By DAKOTA NIEMANN and JUN YUN
Zootopia, although marketed as a children’s movie, has received critical acclaim for its voice acting, animation, screenplay and most importantly its thoughtful message on the merits of tolerance and trust.
The film follows Judy Hopps, a rabbit whose lifelong dream is to enter the police force of Zootopia, a major metropolis comprised of distinct ecosystems and diverse communities of animals. She aims to improve the safety of Zootopia, but in order to do so, she must overcome her superiors’ doubt and shed her predisposed social inferiority, which arises from her status as a rabbit — a relatively undersized species traditionally unaffiliated with high-stakes occupations like law enforcement.
When Judy is granted an opportunity to investigate case involving missing “Zootopian” predators, she develops an odd yet strangely effective partnership with sly local fox Nick Wilde. Both Judy and Nick faced early discrimination: for being too small and underachieving in Judy’s case, and for being too predatory and vicious, a stereotype attached to foxes like Nick.
Zootopian society’s stereotype-based bias against Judy and Nick directly reflects today’s society. Social stereotypes, even those perceived as outdated, have persisted to current times. Nick and Judy’s shared childhood struggles with social labels allow them to share a deeper understanding of each other’s circumstances. Their partnership reinforces the dogma that sympathy is vital to restoring trust among conflicting values and species and initiating recovery between the oppressor and the oppressed.
Directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore synthesize the qualities that have made Disney famous: family humor, intricate animation, a brisk storyline and a timely message. The harm of prejudice is evident through Judy’s political rhetoric; at one point, her accidentally-xenophobic speech furthers the rift between the predators and the prey of Zootopia. In addition, Zootopia’s themes mirror the racism prevalent in American society at the time of the film’s release.
It is refreshing to observe a significant and relevant theme, within the informality of a comedy-adventure animation. Zootopia demonstrates that a well-orchestrated film, regardless of its target demographic, can foster a thoughtful and jolting sociopolitical examination.