Well, Zootopia has been in theatres since the 18th here in Italy, and being the usual party animal that I am, I finally went to see it with my posse of friends. I’m lying, of course – nobody I know in real life is interested in anthropomorphic animals, so I took advantage of a two-hour break from university and attended a midday showing in a cinema with just six other people. Oddly, mostly males around college age. So if you want a furry’s opinion on it, here we go.
Let’s get the pressing issue out of the way. Is Zootopia a good movie? Yes.
Is Zootopia a great movie? I feel fairly confident in saying that, to me, yes.
Is Zootopia a masterpiece? It gets close at times. I have a few gripes that I’ll talk about– no spoilers at all, of course. You can read safely.
Now let’s talk.
There’s not much to say about animation and visuals, it’s Disney we’re talking about. Excellent designs abound, every single scene has a crowd of animals, each doing its own thing, the city always feels incredibly alive. A train ride in the first ten minutes provides some incredible imagery, sometimes verging on sci-fi/punk ideas as the artists flex their biceps and show us the details of what keeps Zootopia a habitable space for every species. Audio design is particularly strong, and I absolutely recommend a place with a good sound system, but I wasn’t that impressed by the movie’s score.
It’s a family movie, so don’t think it’s aimed “at the fandom” as some people hope. As much as it has its adult moments (and how), you need some suspension of disbelief to enjoy it, especially concerning the inner workings of a police force. The aww-power is strong, with a certain chubby cheetah quickly becoming the character in a Disney movie I wanted to hug the most in the last few years. The introduction also tugs at people’s hearts through wide eyes and large heads, and it’s incredibly effective. The animation colossus has done an incredible job with visual design, and I’m pretty sure that those of you with kids are going to have to buy a lot of toys this spring. And yet…
If it feels like I’m being vague, it’s because of the two real strengths of this movie: its structure and its balls. The story frames itself within a narrative we’ve all already heard a million times before – country character (Judy Hopps) is dissatisfied with her life, wishes to be more than she is, moves away in search of fortunes, meets a lovable rogue type (Nick Wilde) whose respect she has to earn, blah blah blah. Classic buddy adventure format. You come in the theater with the expectation of seeing a well-realized movie of that kind, and you do.
But the movie knows that. In a sense, it ditches a clearly defined three-act structure – or better, rolls with it and shines. There is a clearly defined point where the movie turns on its head and goes from pretty good to “it’s been two days and I’m still thinking about it” territory, and it uses parallelism and reincorporation in ways that honestly taught me a thing or two. It’s also quite brave; I’m not talking just about the theme, which is in fact developed along some strongly (and scarily) implied real world references, but the action too doesn’t pull any punches. And expect a few horror tropes to sneak in – Zootopia isn’t afraid of getting its paws dirty when it needs to, and it does get close to the line sometimes (but, alas, no spoilers).
It’s not a perfect movie. It left me with a strong feeling that they left a lot of scenes – a lot – on the cutting floor, leaving a certain character underdeveloped and lacking the denouement they deserve, and to be completely frank, there’s one person from all the commercials that feels like they’ve been shoehorned in by studio executives for how much they affect the plot. I’m really curious to watch an extended version, because it might be able to fix all my issues with it. It’s an unusually long movie as well – but as I said, the plot is unusual, and would have never worked had it been shortened down.
So, yeah. Hopes confirmed, Zootopia is great. And I REALLY want to talk about it – I want to avoid spoilers here, but there are two scenes in particular that when juxtaposed I find really hard not to read as an anti-Disney mindset statement, and I have a theory about it that pretty much only furries would lend an ear to. Get your buddy cops hat on, wear some nice shades, and enjoy. Nick is cool, and I can already imagine a tidal wave of fanart from how he turns out at the end of the movie. It’s managed to surpass my expectations, and I had already set them relatively high. It made me feel like a kid again.
I kinda missed that.