The other day I had the opportunity to see a Women in Animation screening of Walt Disney Animation Studio's "Zootopia", followed by a panel of amazingly talented women who worked on it.
Without much known to me about this film, I was really excited to finally see it. I feel like the marketing of Zootopia was a different strategy than past Disney films, where instead of them telling us everything in their trailers, I went into a theater without really knowing much at all about the plot of the movie.
Story: I was so happy with the plot of this film. It was essentially a buddy cop movie done right. The banter between the characters was smart and sharp. The twists and turns were actually unexpected at times. I feel like this is one of the most solid stories of any animation within the last few years for me. There was definitely a political/message undertone to this film, but there was no monologuing (thank goodness). For me, to have a film SHOW you the message, instead of a character telling you how to feel, means everything was a success. Yes there were a few things that I felt like could have been given more screen time to really flush out, but man, not much to really say about that.
On top of that really good story base, the comic relief was just right. Usually in animated films, the comic relief characters lean towards more childish humor, but Zootopia did it right and had witty retorts and great acting to make us laugh.
Characters: What can I say. Judy Hopps, the protagonist rabbit of this movie, is a little perfect, but Disney did a great job of giving her some real flaws that I feel we all could relate to. She may look like she is always optimistic, but she has some really important character development scenes where you see her doubting and being frustrated by her circumstances. Her arc is fantastic and important and really the whole story.
Nick, the fox, is a narcissist. His snappy remarks and heavy sarcasm easily makes him one of my favorite all time characters. The voice acting of Jason Bateman in the role is by far the most memorable of the cast (but they all were amazing).
Now, there were A TON of supporting characters in this film, and the only one I wasn't too crazy about was the Shakira Gazelle. Mostly because I felt like the move of having a celebrity and music integrated into a film that much to be very... Dreamworks- esk. Though she does act as a catalyst near the end, representing the face of media in response to the climax, I felt her character to be a little shallow and un-needed. The rest of the supporting character all had wonderful moments and added to the story, they weren't just throw-aways. Two thumbs up Disney.
Visuals: Swoooon. As a CG artist myself, the intensely overwhelming amount of content in Zootopia makes me feel like I drank the Disney Kool-aid. There are so many different types of environments, animals, fur types, dynamics, animation techniques, just ... guuuwah. So good. The fur sims were incredible on Zootopia. Comparing this to their last "fur" movie "Bolt", its leaps and bounds above its predecessor. The way the fur interacts with the characters, with the wind, just wonderful. It has a real quality to it now, and there are so many different types of fur that I applaud Disney's LookDev team and all the hard work they did developing this. The animation... also INCREDIBLE. The animation and rigging teams really seemed to have worked together to create some very special acting moments. My personal favorite were all the micro expressions they had going with Nick and his rig (There was this amazing muzzle muscle that they going on the sides of his nose ridge. Such a small thing, but sold it all.) This CG film held up all the classic 12 principles flawlessly.
I have had some friends who have seen Zootopia and felt that it was too preachy for them, but for an animated film to resonate so deeply at a time that really depends on all of us to be open-minded and accepting, means the film succeeded.
It made us feel something more. More than just support for our sister, more than just wanting to find love, more than just our own lives. It said something important about society and made us listen. For both children and adults, this film is a don't miss.