Predators and prey live in harmony, but don’t and someone is trying to drive the wedge between them even further in the 2016 Walt Disney Animation Studios film, “Zootopia.” In the outskirts of the world, prey tends to fear predators, but in Zootopia they are treated somewhat similarly. But when several predators start going “savage,” a biological component is suspected leading to more fear and division between predators and prey, and a wolf in sheep’s clothing is fanning the flames.
This was a powerful movie when it was released and its message still rings loud and clear as the world, and the United States in particular, is seeing massive changes to what is deemed acceptable. The metaphor of “don’t judge a book by its cover” has been used endless times before and since, but it’s always pertinent. The obvious metaphor here is for racism, but it can apply to sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and an entire list of issues the present themselves every day. The fox is viewed as evil because he’s a fox, but he’s just a guy trying to make it in this world. He believes no one will see for anything other than untrustworthy because of his experience with their own prejudices. Meanwhile, the lovable sheep is the actual villain. She’s turning predators “savage” to spread fear among the prey to keep herself in power. It’s a genius political move. It’s morally bankrupt and clearly evil, but history has told us many in power are both of those things.
This film takes a more in-depth look at the division with the moments Judy Hopps begins answering questions about the “savage” predators they found. She relies on what she was taught growing up which are misconceptions at best. It’s something many people have learned as they matured. They weren’t racist or sexist in the literal sense, but they held deeply entrenched beliefs that led them to assume the worst about someone without actually knowing them. Judy is not a bad person, she’s ignorant. But ignorance can be educated. Nick Wilde reacts with justifiable anger and pain at what she says, but he also forgives her because she learns her lesson. Judy is not someone who knowingly looks down on predators because they are predators, she’s someone who is leaning on misconceptions because no one has taken the time to teach her what she learned was wrong. She wants to learn and wants to do better and that’s something we should all strive to be.
Is this the best version of this story I’ve ever seen? No. But it’s a really good one that features cute animals that kids can get behind and catchy music from Shakira. It’s a solid entry in what we refer to as the Disney Revival and ranks up along “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Big Hero 6” for me near the top. I enjoyed this far more than either “Frozen” film or “Ralph Breaks the Internet.” It was fun. It was good. And we can all learn something from it.
Ranking: 4 stars
What did you think of “Zootopia?”