Disney gets real in latest animated feature, ‘Zootopia’

Joeseph Cardenas/Staff Writer

Over the weekend Walt Disney Animation rolled out its 55th animated feature film, “Zootopia”, and took the world by furry storm. Moreso, it took everyone by surprise with its deeper message: a social commentary on racial politics and the societal damages of stereotyping, and how it can be used to help people climb their way to the top. As impossible as it sounds – A cute movie about talking animals teaching kids real world faults and degradation? What? – this very fact becomes blatant within the first several minutes of the movie.

” Zootopia”, in its basic form, is about a world where animals have surpassed their “savage” nature and now co-exist in different communities, small towns of sorts. The largest, “big city” type place is the aforementioned Zootopia, where every animal exists like a big melting pot reminiscent to New York City. Different districts and sections create the city map, such as Tundra Town and the Rainforest District, and it sets up to provide any animal from big to small an opportunity to be equals.

The question is, are they all really equals? In a society where predators and prey are together? Judy Hopps, the new cop in Zootopia, suffers the brunt of much of the social conflict in town as the first rabbit officer on the force, which is treated like a joke to most everyone around. Nevertheless, Judy lands her first missing persons case: Mr. Otterton, part of a series of missing predatory mammals cases. Crossing paths with the hustling fox Nick Wilde, the two uncover a shaky conspiracy involving predators “going savage” mysteriously, calling into question their biological animal natures and causing a rift in Zootopia’s equilibrium. Is it just predator nature, or is there something bigger at play?

And this is where we get into the heart of “Zootopia”‘s commentary; is it fair to say that an entire species of animals deserve to be treated differently simply because of who they are? It almost takes you off guard from how real it gets, and that’s what makes it even more perfect.

It’s actually the perfect timing for this movie. “#OscarsSoWhite”, Beyonce’s recent release “Formation”, “Black Lives Matter”. The biggest thing they have in common are the backlash from people who don’t understand why these movements are important for their respective communities. We as a majority are so quick to preach that all lives matter without understanding what the real stigma is – that it’s easy to preach it when your life isn’t being vilified by society.

So, Disney paints this very real picture, and breaks it down in a way that makes sense. “Zootopia” is a lesson on social issues that came out of left field, but doesn’t take itself seriously whatsoever. In true Disney form, it’s talking animals being cute and entertaining people with lame animal jokes, it just doesn’t shy away from its heroes being ignorant and flawed, and it’s so much bigger than an anthropomorphic metropolis.

“Zootopia” currently holds a 98% on Rotten Tomatoes, the highest score for any Disney animated feature of recent years, and has beaten “Frozen” for Disney Animation’s biggest opening weekend. It’s a fantastic film, and even better message to be telling kids when they’re still young enough to absorb these important discussions. This is definitely a Disney classic destined to pass the test of time.

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