Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Zootopia: Disney Hits Us in the Feels Yet Again

I always knew my friends were the cutest in town, but I didn't fully understand how cute they could really be until we watched Zootopia on Friday.  As soon as the credits began rolling, one of them clutched their chest and announced that they felt so warm and fuzzy inside.  They each talked about different moments when they almost (or did) cry, and then gushed about the characters' various charms and jokes for the entire car ride back.  The thing is, they were totally right to react this way.

Zootopia is about a bunny named Judy Hopps who wants to become a police officer, but because of her size and species she's not taken very seriously.  She stakes her career on investigating a case of a missing otter, one of many predators that have mysteriously disappeared, and ropes in a fox named Nick Wilde to help her.  Judy has a ton of spunk, not letting the physical challenges of her small stature or the frowning opposition from everyone stop her from pursuing her dream.  Nick, on the other hand, basically wants to be left alone.  He's surrendered himself to the fox stereotype of slickness and slyness, and he's always ready with a quip against Judy.  However, she's not one easily put down.

(Source: movies.disney.com)

These two characters have an undeniable chemistry together that somewhat reminded me of Flynn and Rapunzel from Tangled.  Her bubbly, irrepressible optimism and his sarcastic realism create a fun contrast that makes for entertaining conflict and awesome banter - my greatest weakness.  Their budding friendship opens up a deep conversation about predator and prey relations in a society that has supposedly evolved past such barriers (*cough* the racial themes abound *cough*).  Theirs seems to remain an exclusively platonic relationship, although with Disney you can never be sure (I kid, I kid - mostly).

I can't stress this enough, but the movie is really, really funny.  Just look at the trailer and you'll grasp only a tiny portion of it.  My friend said they milked the movie for all it's worth, and I think she's right.  Every possibility of humor you can get from a world of anthropomorphic animals, you can be sure they addressed it at least once.  But it wasn't just the humor that they addressed. The story didn't wrap up quite so quickly or neatly like I expected, so I congratulate the writers for pushing the plot further and digging deeper into the bias theme than I had thought they would.

Zootopia has a wide scope: it's a feelsy and hilarious family flick and it's a beautiful animation, but it's also a sophisticated demonstration of unconscious social bias.  I admire Disney for tackling such a tricky issue, one that as a woman of color I could relate to in a world that often fails to recognize its own diversity.  Zootopia doesn't beat you over the head with its big moral lesson, thanks to the movie couching itself in lighthearted comedy and telling its story through the eyes of two relatable characters who both have to work through others' and their own prejudices.  While watching this movie you will laugh, you might cry, and you will hopefully think more critically about how you perceive others.  Thank you, Disney, for doing such a great job once again!

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