There’s a specific formula for Disney movies these days: take an entertaining yet deep story, add a few well respected actors having a lot of fun, some great comedic set pieces, a pinch of subtle adult humour, and a heavy dose of feels, and distribute for all ages to enjoy. It’s a tried and tested recipe, but it works every time, and Disney’s latest concoction Zootopia is no exception.
In a world where predator and prey live in harmony, the film follows Zootopia’s first bunny cop Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) as she teams up with wily fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) to investigate the mysterious disappearance of Zootopia’s citizens. An interesting premise at first, the film blows the storyline wide open, going in an unexpected (but brilliant) direction, getting much deeper than expected and completely crushing expectations (but no spoilers – go see it instead!)
The film focuses on Judy, a bunny from the country who moves to the big city to become a police officer. She’s an underdog, and as she meets Nick and their friendship develops, we are introduced to a predator/prey dynamic within the city and the film. Though predators and prey live together in peace in Zootopia, there is still very much a power struggle and prejudice between the two, creating a very interesting and clever metaphor for tolerance that will speak to kids quite well. It’s quite a deep and, at times, dark movie, with some great messages about tolerance and a lot of emotional heft as our two main characters clash, but the tone is effectively managed by our directors (Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush) to make the ideas more subtle (and less preachy – it barely enters cliché territory), therefore making it very accessible for kids.
Because Disney films must be, first and foremost, entertaining. And Zootopia definitely is. It’s a fun film full of great, lovable characters (Judy’s enthusiasm for her job is infectious), some really clever ideas (like the different sections of the city, such as Tundratown and Sahara Square), and some fantastic puns (Preyda/Prada – get it?). The fantastic, colourful animation and cinematography hold little gems of Easter eggs and puns that references other Disney films (there’s even a Frozen reference), and the film is very funny, for children and adults alike. With sloths working at the DMV (we’ve all been there) and more than one ‘multiplying like rabbits’ joke, the humour is subtle and really balances out the darker parts of the film.
And as for our characters, Zootopia’s voice actors are in fine form: Ginnifer Goodwin gives Judy the perfect amount of optimism and spring in her step (pun intended), and she is well contrasted by the cynical, yet mischievously lovable Nick Wilde, voiced by a perfectly cast Jason Bateman. Idris Elba’s strict Chief Bogo is such a deadpan joy, and Jenny Slate is brilliant as Assistant Mayor Bellwether, brilliantly showing off her sweet and sour personality. Nate Torrence, Octavia Spencer and JK Simmons also feature, giving the film both comedic relief and an emotional punch when needed.
Disney movies are kind of like mum’s brownie recipe: you loved them as a kid, you still love them now, and they’re a perfect pick-me-up on a rainy day. Zootopia is everything we needed, a fun yet deep story, some great voice work, stunning animation and a dirty joke or two, and is the perfect example of a Disney high point – but when have they ever had a low one?
With such a great cast, here’s my list of the top five films and TV shows starring the cast of Zootopia:
- Arrested Development – Jason Bateman
- Once Upon A Time – Ginnifer Goodwin
- Parks and Recreation – Jenny Slate
- The Help – Octavia Spencer
- Whiplash – JK Simmons