It’s rare that I actually would write about an animated feature film, much less like it. But I would watch them. Especially Pixar’s and Disney’s.
But Zootopia is very likely the best animated movie I have ever watched in my entire life. It’s true. And its about a bunch of animals walking and talking like humans, dressing like humans and living together in a city.
I grew up on Disney, just like any other kid who had any access to a TV. But not just any Disney movies – my all time favourite when I was a kid was this little show called The Fox and The Hound. If you have never watched it, you are not the first. It’s one of the lesser known feature film. But it really helped shaped a lot of the things that I would later come to depend on – friendship. If you haven’t watched it before, go and either read the book or catch the movie – probably you can download it somewhere since it’s so old.
But Disney sort of lost its way after a while, going to movies like Beauty and the Beast, Lion King, Tarzan, Pocahontas etc. I know those were considered ‘classics’ but they were poor storylines with very little motivation in the plot. Even Pixar’s Brave was a terrible story, and Frozen was also lacking in proper story narrative. Rapunzel was probably the best of the bunch but I always wondered – you have the evil stepmother who stole Rapunzel away as a baby right? She brought her to the tower, but the next shot, she is this 16, 17 year old girl who is absolutely beautiful, articulate, smart etc. I mean, that stepmother really brought her up amazingly well. Who fed her during her 1 – 3 years? Who had to take her shit out and clean after her pee (I assume back then diapers weren’t invented). Like seriously, that evil stepmother isn’t so evil! I would say it’s the fault of the real parents who left the window open and did not even bother to really look for a tall tower in the middle of the forest and think that their daughter would be there.
Anyway – Zootopia’s storyline is far and away, better than any Disney or Pixar (Toy Story comes close), and even better than the recent Inside Out or Up. Because it deals with biasness and prejudice. It resounds so well in our culture and society because this is what many of us deal with. In fact Zootopia is like Malaysia in many ways. We are harmoniously living together, a hodgepodge of great culture, religion, race, beliefs and philosophies but hampered with a few of those in power who seek to destroy this harmony for their own gain, by instilling fear and drawing lines between people.
When I watch Zootopia, I see us – balancing in that fine line of tolerance and peaceful co-existence. It’s a story that pitches the predators against prey, and how the prey seek to sideline the ‘predators’ species. It’s a wonderful twist to an old and weary theme – that of racial inequality, (in this case, species inequality), gender biasness and racial stereotypes. All these are there in this little animated feature about a bunny and a fox. Disney guys are geniuses.
And it also helps that the animation is tremendous. The main character, Judy Hopps, I know it’s a bunny – but the way she is animated, it makes you believe that she’s totally real. The facial expressions are as real as it gets and the ‘break up’ scene between her and her partner in crime, Nick Wilde the fox, is classic…and so is the make up scene under the bridge. It’s all platonic though – I am sure they will struggle to put ‘love’ into a movie like this as this is interspecies and probably impossible. Ahem.
And the pop culture references? Tons. It’s incredibly funny for a cartoon, and it’s not the cringeworthy jokes in Shrek or other animated features – these are really, really good jokes, and great script writing to boot. The conversations and wordplay between the two main characters (a bunny and a fox) were absolutely perfect.
In fact – that word would describe it – perfect. This is actually a perfect movie, be it animated or otherwise. It had everything in it: laughter, triumph, tragedy, break up, make up and above all, a grand story to tell in a simple and easy fashion.
There is a documentary on the making of Zootopia, that is worth the visit – simply to see how the process of developing a story like this is, as well as how brave measures had to be taken to craft the perfect story – including throwing out tons of good work to reshape the story all over again. This takes courage, and it takes a lot of work – and its hats off to those 550 men and women who made Zootopia happen.