Thursday, September 22, 2016

Zootopia Mini-Review - 5/5 Stars, One of the Greatest Animated Films of All Time

I originally wrote this for Netflix. Unfortunately, their review platform restricts how long your review can be and so I had to cut this down drastically for it to fit there. For that reason, I am copy-pasting the original here.


Zootopia may just be the greatest animated film I've ever seen, and I've seen many. And I'm including the films by Japanese juggernaut Studio Ghibli in that, too. The reasons for this are many fold. There's the obvious; The animation is simply beautiful and perfection. You can tell that a number of very talented people poured their heart and souls in this, dedicating a substantial portion of their life to giving us this master piece of artwork. To give you an idea just how much effort went into this, Judy Hopps, the lead, has around 2.5 million animated hairs. That is ground-breaking, both in technique and in technology. The attention to small details is astounding and is a recurring theme in the film. A great example that you'll see early on in this is the train. A simple stage we will only see once and only briefly. Normally it would be relatively bland of detail, because why focus on such an unimportant (in the scheme of things) setting? But they did focus on it and there are tons of small things, such as security cameras (which helps set in your mind that this world mirrors our own, which is important in some portions of the film where security footage is used).

Then there's the voice acting. Simply perfect. The choices were great, of course. The voice actors fit their characters well, working to match themselves to their animals. This is shown in very small ways, such as Judy Hopps speaking quite fast, being over energetic to fit with the idea that Rabbits are fast. It's a small detail that adds a lot to the character, and every character is like this. Every single one.

The humor is there, too. With plenty of small gags, that are brief and fleeting. Then there's the larger gags that span the whole film, even if you don't notice it. You'll wonder why a Sloth is named Flash, and you'll think it's just an ironic name. All will be revealed, though. Like I said, a recurring theme of the film is the attention to small detail. It builds a world, and it builds humor. As time goes on and your mind notices and collects these small details, the jokes and gags get funnier as they make more sense within the context of this world that you are learning about.

There's not just humor, either. When you see the Disney opening at the beginning of the film, you think it'll be a simple child's movie with not much to it. That's not true. Far from it. It deals with a myriad of topics that you would think that Disney would want to stay away from. Some of these I'll get into later, but an example of this is love. And I mean real love. Not the Disney princess falling for the underdog who isn't a prince but sure acts like one, while the real prince goes after the princess and has a horrible personality. Two opposing personalities forging their way through the world with a past that has molded them into who they are, trying to find a way to be happy and not lonely and stumbling upon each other without expecting to. It's something I cannot explain in this paragraph, so I won't try to. But this is just one example of the deeper topics the film deals with.

And that brings us to the overall theme of the movie; Racism exists and it's bad. Unfortunately, some people (such as a reviewer here on Netflix) see this and take it face value, assuming that's it. For some reason they get so caught up in themselves and their preconceived notions that they can't see past this. I'm not sure how to exactly put this, so I'll try my best.

To put it very, very simply, within the film the Prey animals are essentially meant to reflect white people. The Predators are then meant to reflect the minorities. It is mentioned several times that the Prey vastly outnumber the Predators. This is further reflected by the fact that within the film, the Mayor of Zootopia is a Lion, a predator. Who could this be meant to reflect? Our current black president, Barack Obama. I believe this is here to show that while the Predators are, for the most part, the sole animals who partake in unsavory actions (such as the real world statics showing that minorities are responsible for a lot of crime, especially violent crime).

Major spoilers ahead.

The big crime to be solved in this movie is the number of missing Predators, and then what is causing the predators to go 'savage' (commit serious crime). Keep in mind that from this point forward, when I use parentheses I am making real world allusions. Now it is found that the reason these Predators are going 'savage' is because of a plant that when it comes into contact with an animal (Prey or Predator), it causes them to go crazy, aka 'savage.' This plant is being harvested by a certain group of Prey animal, who are then refining it (and turning it into a blue substance within a lab setting, a neat nod to Breaking Bad) and using it to infect key Predators and turning them savage. These Predators aren't important people, which is important because it shows that Predators are liable to go savage, at least that's how it is being presented within the news, causing many Prey who normally would have no issues with Predators to fear them.

Do you see where this is going? To me, it's fascinating the wide range of topics this film covers and how deep they go. Layer after layer. They add up to a story that reflects our real world in a way that most real-world, live-action films fail at. The writing for this was top-notch. I personally feel like these are important topics that need to be discussed and this is a great way to introduce children to something that may very well define their generation. Topics of racism, race profiling (For example, the Fox lead being profiled as a cunning con man, even if he is, and being refused service or not having his word taken seriously when he has important information on a crime), and race violence.

Now, you may think it's pretentious for me to assume all this. And perhaps it is. I haven't talked to the writers and I honestly have not read any reviews or interviews or any media on this film. So I could be wrong, I suppose.

In the end, I'm simply going to say that this is one of the most satisfying films I've ever watched. From the humor, to the beautiful animation, to the deep plots and topics that kept me thinking all throughout. Kudos to everyone who worked on this masterpiece and I look forward to what comes next from this studio, these writers, and the directors. Thank you for your hard work and the enjoyment you gave me. I regret the fact that I skipped the movie while it was theaters and waited all the way until it was on Netflix before watching.