Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Zootopia Review

In the last few weeks I've been watching a lot of Disney movies. I decided that in honor of the release of Zootopia that I would compile a list of my top 10 favorite movies from Disney animation studios, much like I did last year with Pixar. This list will come later in the month as there are still plenty of Disney animation movies that I want to watch to make sure I have that list right. I also wanted to give Zootopia a chance to make that list, which is one reason why I decided not to post that list before Zootopia came out. If I'm being honest, giving Zootopia this shot was just a courtesy thing. Based on the advertising, it looked like it would be a fun movie. But no way would it be good enough to in the conversation with the best of the best of Disney animation, would it? Turns out I was very wrong. This is totally in contention for that list. I'm not sure if it will actually make it or not, but this is a lot better than I thought it would be. With Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, and now Zootopia, Disney is on a roll!

It's funny, a big deal was made in the marketing of this movie that this was a movie about anthropomorphic animals. Anthropomorphism is the idea of giving human attributes to anything not human. Which, if you think about it, is what Disney has done in almost every single animated movie that they've ever made. Like seriously. How many times has Disney had a talking animal in one of their movies? Or a talking object of some sort that is not supposed to talk? Exactly. I don't really know why this was such a big focus in the advertising. Granted, Zootopia takes this a bit further than they usually do by having these animals in human roles and human careers. But not even that is unique to Disney. Robin Hood is the first movie that immediately comes to mind that did the exact same thing that Zootopia did. But oh well. The movie looked like it would be absolutely hilarious, especially after I saw that DMV sloth trailer. Sure, they spoiled like the funniest scene in the movie. But they successfully got everyone's attention, so I suppose it was worth it. Better than spoiling the ending or some major plot points like a lot of trailers do.

So yes, I expected a fun, gag-filled movie that would have me rolling in laughter the entire film with perhaps a bit of Disney emotion thrown in there. And I was down for that. But holy fetching cow that is not what I got. In fact, it was pretty much the exact opposite. Yes, there were plenty of laughs in this movie, but I actually didn't laugh as much as I thought I would as the humor in this plays second fiddle to the story and the emotion. And by goodness is this a powerful, relevant film. Being that Disney actually hid what most of this movie is about, I won't dive into too many details about theme and plot because there is a lot. But I will say that this is about an adorable little bunny who has a goal to be a police officer. There's never been a police bunny in the history of Zootopia, but she is stubborn enough that she is bound and determined to make this goal a reality. Which of course she does because you've seen the trailers or the posters. But then we have this thing called adulting that she experiences. She grows up thinking that this thing called adulting would be fantastic and that everything in Zootopia would be perfect and amazing. But then reality sets in. She achieves her dream and starts adulting only to figure out that not everything is as it seems.

That's where the emotion of this movie kicks in and that's when this movie successfully does what the best Disney movies do. Appeal more to the adult crowd than to the kids while still being a fun movie that kids enjoy. Being that I've watched a lot of Disney movies recently, two classic examples of this are Beauty and the Beast and Pocahontas. These are two movies that I watched all the time as a little kid. I loved them. But then I watched them as an adult and that is when I discovered the deep, powerful emotion that those movies have. I discovered the themes that the movies include that I never really knew much about as a kid because I didn't have as much world experience. When a movie can evolve like this over time, it's really a thing of beauty. While most Disney movies are fantastic, not all of them are like this. There are plenty that I've noticed don't hold up quite as while when I watch them as an adult. Others hold up just fine, but don't necessarily dive that deep. And that's fine, I suppose. It would be unfair to expect a masterpiece out of every Disney movie. In my opinion, it's fine to make a movie that is simply good. Zootopia I was expecting the latter. I thought it would be good. But yes, it accomplishes the feat of being deep and powerful.

Part of me wants to dive super deep into this movie and analyse all the themes in a lot more depth. But I'm not going to. They were left as a surprise to me when I entered the theater and since I enjoy the element of surprise, I'm going to let you discover most of that on your own. Just know that this is a very mature Disney film. It's very comparable to Pixar's Inside Out from last year as it dives into themes that will appeal more to adults. Kids probably won't understand the psychology of a human brain like adults will. But they will have fun with the characters. That's why Inside Out was so great. Good for kids. Great for adults. In Zootopia, kids won't understand that themes of adulting like adults will because they haven't had the experience of being an adult. But the bunny and the fox are fun characters that they can love. Good for kids. Great for adults. But when I say mature, it's more than just that. Adulting isn't the only theme of the movie. There are others. The third act is especially powerful. This also gets fairly dark for a Disney movie. The second half of the movie becomes an all-out crime drama as the fox and the bunny are trying to solve a certain case and there's some pretty frightening scenes with even a few jump scares. Older kids should be fine. But young kids might not actually enjoy this. It might be too scary for them.

In the end, I went into Zootopia with fairly high expectations. Despite me thinking it was a bit silly of them to focus so much on the idea of anthropomorphic animals in the marketing because this is definitely nothing new, I did love the trailers for this movie. It looked like it would be a ton of fun. Turns out I didn't laugh as much as I thought I would, but instead I was treated to a movie that had a lot of emotion and depth to it, which is what I would actually prefer. I love the experience of watching a Disney movie that I loved as an adult and learning of the depth that I missed when I was younger. It's happened a lot in my adult years. With these newer Disney films, I love the experience of going in and enjoying it right off the bat because of the depth and emotion. If it ends up simply being a good, fun movie like Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, and Frozen, then that's just fine. I love those movies for what they are. But if they can dive deep like Big Hero 6, then that's even better. Zootopia is the latter. In fact, out of this modern crop of animated movies from Disney Animation Studios, this is probably my favorite by a hair or two, but they're all fairly close, which is why I will also give Zootopia a 9/10.

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