Zootopia: A galaxy fur fur away

Zootopia’s nascent world is peaceful on the surface. But beneath it, forces such as fear and prejudices are at play.

Zootopia’s nascent world is peaceful on the surface. But beneath it, forces such as fear and prejudices are at play.

In a city of anthropomorphic animals, a fugitive con artist fox and a rookie bunny cop must work together to uncover a conspiracy.

The way of the world, we are told by a voice-over, was that the predator would prey on the others. We see a carnivore ripping apart a rabbit, which we then realise is our protagonist narrating the story. It’s a part of a modern-day play and the only animal-killing-animal that happens is on the stage, the only blood being spilled is tomato ketchup. The animal kingdom has left behind its dark, primitive days far behind 1,000 years of evolution. The tone of Zootopia is set, unexpected and snappy.

The film doesn’t take much time to make it clear that everything in it is meant to mirror the society created by humans. This nascent world is peaceful on the surface. But beneath it, forces such as fear and prejudices are at play.

Our protagonist Judy Hopp is an optimistic, idealistic Disney character (Ginnifer Goodwin) who wants to make the world a better place. She creates history by overcoming all odds and societal pressures to becoming the first bunny cop. A naïve, righteous village girl leaves her native land to go join the police forces in the city: the shiny, model city of Zootopia that amid its glass and mirror architecture has districts that maintains controlled natural habitats.

An important action sequence for example takes place in the Rainforest district. Hopp befriends a fox (Nick Wilde, a rogue character with a heart of gold, voiced by Jason Bateman), who isn’t as straight as we think when we first meet him. And then there are battles in workplace that she faces as a rabbit, especially from her immediate boss Chief Bogo (a Buffalo, voiced by Idris Elba) and we read it as a message for sexism.

Most of the times, it is fun to see our world through these anthropomorphic characters. Director Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush and the writers never allow the material to get too sentimental or saccharine sweet. It is simple, despite the familiar tropes at play, moves briskly and has a progressive intention.

The humour of course is essential in this kind of a movie. There are TheGodfather , Breaking Bad references; there is Zoogle, anti-Fox pepper sprays, a sultry pop star Gazelle (rhymes with Adele but voiced by Shakira) and there is also an overtly catholic skunk mafia boss who is served by intimidating polar bears. But the stand out set-piece is that the Department of Motor Vehicles is run by sloths. Stepping inside that office means slowing time down. It’s a riot when Jude, who has a few hours left to save his job by solving a criminal case, helplessly tries to extract information from an officer. The subtle ironical connection between sloths and super fast cars is later revealed in an expository fashion. But then, that keeps happening through the film.

In retrospect, questions pop up about the world of Zootopia . Is entire Zootopia vegetarian? Have they given up on eating fellow animals for the sake of harmony? The only things they are shown eating are carrots and blueberries. The references to the past are at a very broad level: the only thing we are told repeatedly is that predators have sobered over 1,000 years of evolution, that foxes are shifty, cunning and never to be trusted and that there is an underpinning tension between the furries and “savage” predators.

But there is little iceberg beneath these tips, little fictionalised history to this animal world. Humans are never acknowledged here. It’s a big suspension of disbelief here and we accept the artifice. Neither is this a science fiction film, nor does it have the bite of a satire. That’s the reason Zootopia doesn’t go to the wild blue yonder. But we never ask questions while watching it because it is a fun ride to be in.


Director: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush

Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba

Runtime: 68 mins

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Printable version | Aug 15, 2022 10:00:56 pm |