At this point in time, I don’t think there are many people left who are too cool to admit that Disney movies are freaking great now. Films like Tangled and Frozen finally have female protagonists with some much needed agency. Frozen even subverted the idea of ‘an act of true love’ from romantic to something women could do for themselves. They are unrecognisable compared to the movies I was watching when I was a kid, the ones where the vast majority of heroes were boys.
In Zootropolis (or Zootopia, as I believe it’s called in some countries), Disney march on, continuing the good work. I actually think Zootropolis is a pretty massive step up from even the works of the past few years.
The movie is basically about anthropomorphised animals. They have evolved into something human-like. The most important aspect of this evolution is that animals never, ever hunt each other. Predator and prey are meaningless categories now. Supposedly.
(more on that later)
Zootropolis is Judy Hopps’ story. Judy is a bunny rabbit who dreams of being a police officer. When she tells her parents they are… less than supportive. Terrified, actually. No bunny has ever been a police officer before. When Judy’s parents tell her this she is unfazed: I guess I’ll be the first one then, she replies.
And she is. Obviously it goes without saying that I fell in love with this girl right away.
Becoming a police officer doesn’t come easy for Judy. Because of her being a bunny (and a girl), nobody believes she is up to the task. People around her try and push her back into the category they have placed her in but Judy refuses to be pushed. We see her deal with disrespectful colleagues and her boss putting her on parking duty because he doesn’t believe she can be a real cop. But Judy doesn’t give up. She knows that she is just as good as the boys and is willing to fight for her seat at the table.
It’s all very #feminism. And it makes me so god damn happy. I hope all parents take their young daughters to see this movie.
Overall Zootropolis is a very political film. It is the anti-Trump. Soon after Judy starts work, animals in the city start to ‘go savage’ and attack the citizens of Zootropolis. All of the animals to go savage are predators. Even though most predators aren’t savage, this fact causes the prey majority to see all of them as potentially so. Judy herself worsens the situation by insinuating during a press conference that the savage behaviour could be related to ‘something biological.’ After this, the community of Zootropolis disintegrates. A small minority of dangerous predators’ actions are attributed to the entire predator community.
It sounds familiar, right?
They take it even further by studying the effects that the discriminatory ideas about predators have on the predators themselves. Take for example a fox who, simply by being a fox is designated by the rest of the world as sneaky. Say the fox doesn’t want to be that, and instead joins the scouts. Say the scouts reject him and beat him up. Maybe after a while he starts to feel like sneaky is his only option, if that’s how everyone sees him anyway.
This movie is about the politics of fear that keep us forever stuck.
But not hopeless.
What I loved so much in this movie is that Judy wasn’t innocent in all of it. She contributed to the problem. It wasn’t until her thoughtless words wrought havoc on the city that she was forced to examine her own perceptions and prejudices. It wasn’t until then she realised that her preconceptions weren’t true, that if her time in Zootropolis had taught her anything, it’s that life is always more complicated than that.
And that realisation was the start of everything getting better.
What made this movie so wonderful is that it presented us with a community that was deeply flawed but not irredeemable. It had a lot of work to do and people who were willing to do it, to fight for the rights of everybody. It makes me so happy to think of kids seeing this film and perhaps realising that fear and prejudice are options rather than a realities. Like Judy says: change starts with you.
Also, I really haven’t focussed on how funny this movie is. I giggled the whole way through.
BONUS MOMENTS OF LOVE
- When Judy moves into her shitty apartment. She has rude neighbours she can always hear through her walls and barely enough room to swing a cat (a move that would be, I’m sure, frowned upon in Zootropolis). Her response? I LOVE IT. I love her.
- Cheesy girl power ballads. I downloaded the music as soon as I got home.
- All the Frozen references. My favourite was Alan Tudyk showing up as an entirely different sort of Duke Weaselton.