Zootropolis, Disney’s latest animated feature (known as Zootopia in the US and some other territories) is set in a world in which animals have learned to live together in peace – predator and prey no longer have any enmity. This is best exemplified by the city of Zootopia, a huge metropolis divided into regions to support all animal life.
It is in Zootopia that Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), a rabbit from a small outlying settlement, wishes to pursue her long-held dream of becoming a police officer. But she quickly realises that although the different species may no longer be eating one another, prejudice still exists, and her fellow mammals are still capable of cruelty. There has never been a bunny police officer, and Judy is determined to be the first, despite protestations from her superiors. When Judy reaches Zootopia, Chief Bogo (Idris Elba), the head of the ZPD (Zootopia Police Department) is less than enthused by her presence. Judy struggles to be taken seriously and is denied meaningful case work though, inevitably, winds up embroiled in a case involving disappearing mammals, to which a fox by the name of Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) seems to be tangentially connected.
The film blends its family-friendly messages of inclusion and equality into an inventive storyline and imaginative setting in a way that only the most hard-hearted of viewers could fail to connect with. Zootopia is a visual treat, brimming with detail, and feels like a fleshed-out setting for the action. It’s also filled with charming characters, from the main cast to the numerous supporting roles, and has good fun with the traits of its animals, particularly in a great sequence mid-way through involving sloths. Ginnifer Goodwin gives Judy the requisite balance of determination and vulnerability, and Bateman is coolly funny as Nick. They are a winning double act and, once they are united, help to pick up the pace from the film’s slightly generic and overly sugary first act.
Ultimately, what separates Zootropolis from other family animations with similarly tried-and-tested themes is its sincerity and charming world. The voice cast are all on enjoyable form, and the storyline, once it kicks into gear, is not simply a vehicle for the message of the film, but an enjoyable caper in its own right, full of motion and invention. I must’ve been enjoying it because by the time the fil m’s intensely cheesy theme song, performed by Shakira in the form of an animated gazelle, began to play for a second time over the closing credits, I was practically singing along.