Exeposé Screen online (14 April 2016)
Imagine a land without prejudice or class divisions. A land where anyone can be anything, and life isn’t dictated by where you’re born and who your parents are. Doesn’t sound like human society, does it? And actually… it isn’t.
Welcome to Zootropolis, an animal-ruled utopia where predator and prey live in harmony. Yeah, this might be Disney’s latest attempt to make us fall in love with a bunch of floppy-eared mammals… but there is a well-timed message behind all the fluff. And not just for kids, either.
Judy Hopp (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a gutsy rabbit from Bunnyburrow who’s desperate to be a policewoman. She’s wickedly stubborn and passionate about upholding justice, but there’s a problem. Sure, it’s equal rights for everyone in Zootropolis – but rabbits just don’tbecome police officers
Judy’s gonna be the first, though. Graduating top of the class from training academy, she sets off for the city (cue train journey montage to uplifting Shakira soundtrack) and launches herself into life as a policewoman, making an unlikely alliance with dodgy fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman). And it turns out Zootropolis needs some good cops. With mammals going missing and reports of bloodthirsty attacks, it’s starting to look disturbingly like residents are going… feral.
In terms of modern-day fables, Zootropolis is a good’un. Animated creatures so human-like it’s almost unnerving? Check. Moments that make us giggle like absolute idiots? Check. (I’m looking at you, sloths.) A journey home deep in thought because that film unearthed something woefully inadequate in our own moral compass? Check. Gosh, it’s like Aesop’s back in the room.
See, Zootropolis plays with our own prejudices. We want to fight Judy’s corner when Police Chief patronises her – but she does look silly peeking over her desk beside that hench-looking rhino. I mean, who would you employ to make your streets a safer place?
But of course, prejudice goes both ways – as we discover when it emerges that only predators are going feral. There’s something chilling about the phrase “it’s in their DNA,”isn’t there? And it probably doesn’t help that we were thinking it too.
Zootropolis might be fluffy tails and razor-sharp hilarity in equal measures, but it’s also a film with a message. Whether that’s about racism, sexism, homophobia, religious prejudice or – heck – even species-ism, I’m not sure. It’s probably all of the above.
Basically, you can’t label anyone until you really get to know them. And yes, films have taught kids this before – but with mice in suits, a Godfather shrew and references to Breaking Bad and OITNB? Nah, I don’t think so. 5/5 for getting the adults involved, Zootropolis.
Featured image: Disney