Zootopia: Genius, Rich & Inviting with Amazing Character Design [Review]

by | Mar 6, 2016

Normally I don’t go in for G-rated films.  I like a little sex and bloodshed in my entertainment, not to mention cussing.  At least there was nudity, which was hilarious.  If you think that’s a spoiler, it’s not.  There were naked animals in the trailer.  But my goodness, how I enjoyed this film.  The world of Zootopia was rich and inviting and the story was well told.

zootopia-movie-posterIn a city of anthropomorphic animals, a fugitive con artist fox and a rookie bunny cop must work together to uncover a conspiracy.

maxresdefaultI heard once that animals are easier to draw because animal faces don’t provoke the same Uncanny Valley effect that human faces do.  So in theory, it  might be easier to empathize with an animated anthropomorphic character than an animated human one?  I’m not sure if that’s true but it sounds plausible.  I definitely found animals interesting – they are the perfect metaphor for people.  The very human expressions can be exaggerated to great effect with animal faces and Zootopia did that very well.

Zootopia shines in its character design.  Each character is instantly recognizable and relatable as soon as you see them – their species, costumes and body language all contribute to a very complete character.  We know what they’re thinking by just looking.  And when they speak, well, the voice acting is amazing.  It’s perfectly cast, though my favorite was Idris Elba as Chief Bogo.  Actually it wasn’t just the character design that was great – the set design was also pretty amazing.  There were all all different kinds of animals from all kinds of different climates and this made for some wonderfully bizarre set pieces.

Zootopia (1)I laughed a lot in this movie, though I was the only one, except for the Sloths at the DMV, shown on the trailer.   There were adult jokes in this but no real dirty jokes (maybe I missed them).  There were just weird oddities of adult life, (they showed my first apartment, for example).   Also there were so many references.  The action was too fast and seamless for me to catch everything, but I definitely saw a reference or two to Breaking Bad and I’m pretty sure they took a poke at Frozen.  I have to see this again to see what else they made reference to.

Zootopia scored unbelievably high in my own evaluation system.  For those of you wondering what happened to the other 5%, relax.  It can’t score perfectly, the system isn’t designed like that.  If it did, I’d have to redesign my system because I’d worry I’m biased.  Although if you really need to know, I spent the entire movie wondering what the carnivores ate.  Maybe it was Soylent Green.  (spoiler alert – they don’t tell you).  I’m sure the question was raised at some creative meeting somewhere and I’m equally sure it was decided they couldn’t really put it in the movie without losing something.

Zootopia+godfatherI should mention the Themes and Message.  Zootopia had both and was very deliberate in how these larger issues were handled.   The Diversity theme – all different species living together and trying to get along – was carefully executed and to good effect.  Best of all, it drove the plot instead of being tacked on because it was convenient.  I liked the Message a little less.   “You Can Be Anything You Want To Be” is a terrible idea.   (For example, how many of you actually became astronauts or ballerinas?)   Though I have to admit, Zootopia seems to a lot of time taking the piss out of that concept, and when it does prove true, it’s through hard work more than anything else, so I guess that’s okay.  

So should you see this film?  Yes.  Whoever you are, theater or rent, this is worth watching at least once.  Take the kids, it’s rated ‘G’.  The kids I sat with had a great time.  Personally I can’t wait to see this one again.zootopia