So it goes like this: Zootopia is a colorful world of highly evolved and diverse animals who live in harmony until, one day, their leaders learn they can amass more power by ruling in fear and divisiveness, convincing the populace that an evil "savage" species lives among them and must be destroyed or, at least, "sent back". Yup. Pretty heady stuff! Knowing how many years it takes to produce an animated feature I can't imagine that the creative team could have had any idea how eerily relevant this artistic endeavor is.
ZOOTOPIA is a film that pulls off introducing sophisticated themes like prejudice, class warfare, equality, biological imprint, and the power of inclusion and diversity in the same way that INSIDE-OUT explored the layers of consciousness within the human brain. Is it as successful? No, it isn't. However it is a remarkable and ambitious achievement that will be appreciated by animation aficionados...forever. It's very, very good but a couple of things prevent it from being a complete home-run for me. First, while the world of Zootopia is uniquely imaginative in style and color, the character design is pretty standard fare and resembles other cartoon-movie-stars a little too closely for my liking. The voice talent helps this quite a bit, however.
Second, there's a whole lot of plot. Lots and lots of it. Not just exposition but actual plot points. It refuses to talk down to kids and, in the process, may have made the narrative a wee too complicated for those too wee to follow. My guess is age 8-13 would be the sweet-spot for this to be an important movie in one's childhood.
Here's an example of the unique sensibility of this film: Heretofore Disney has eschewed the use of the term "God" within the dialogue of its animated films. For the first time in Disney's history cartoon characters utter the phrases, "Oh God," and "Oh my God" as contemporary slang. It's a choice, a clear choice. In fact, the movie makes quite a few choices that seem like a stalwart and steady slap to a certain neo-con element of their audience. Trust me, within 72 hours some conservative spokesperson will publicly accuse this of being left-wing propaganda designed to make our kids inclusive and tolerant. A truly excellent effort. Not one of my all-time favorites on an emotional level but excellent indeed.
(Loudinni provides movie reviews, typically 500 words or less.)