Disney writers and animators were able to make the best hidden gem of a movie I have seen thus far in my life. They took a basic story of animals living in a city, not unlike our own cities and counties, and taught children and adults about stereotypes and racism while also having fun. This is usually the magic we see in Pixar films but someone at Disney said we can do that too and THEY DID!
Let’s start with the beginning of the film where Judy’s parents are telling her that it will be impossible to be a cop because there had never been a bunny cop before. This movie was released the year before the end of the second term of President Barack Obama. At a certain point in every Black person’s life, we never thought that we could hold the highest office in the land, as they say–that is until we saw Obama take the oath on the South Lawn. Years later, Black people were also able to see Kamala Harris take office as the first female, Black and Asian Vice President. Judy’s parents giving her that speech reminds me of speeches minority children would give their kids pre-Obama. We were always told that we could be anything we wanted to be but we knew President wasn’t really an option. Now, there is a new generation of children who know and have seen someone someone who looks like them take hat office. It just took one person to show them they could and that’s what Judy wanted to show her town, her parents, Gideon Gray and the people of Zootopia. However, did we notice that while she never believed that she could never be a cop, she did believe that predators have a natural instinct to harm or even kill others? Kind of seems one-sided in her thinking if her goal was to protect and serve as a cop in Zootpoia.
Side note, her neighbors are rude and yes, you should apologize for being loud–because you shouldn’t be as loud as they were. Also, hiring Judy seemed very similar to the way people thought about Affirmative Action in the 80’s and 90’s. Later, the ice cream shop scene reminds me of when I watched films like Selma, Lord Selma or even Lovecraft Country where we see restaurants, hotels and other places that are segregated. Now, the target audience for this film wouldn’t pick up on that but someone my age and older would absolutely get that reference.
Back to Judy and the stereotypical trope she falls into. The minute she sees Nick, she automatically thinks that there is something shady going on with him because he’s a fox. Later, she falls for his charm and helps him buy his jumbo pop for his fake son. Afterwards, she follows them throughout their entire day where they sell smaller pops to blue collars gerbils and then sell the wooden sticks to a contractor mouse.
From here, they go with the buddy cop pairing of two people who are tasked with solving this major crime but don’t want to have anything to do with each other. But the funniest stereotype of all is the DMV scene where everyone is a sloth and the sloth that Nick knows is named Flash! I know I speak for everyone when I say that I HOLLERED BECAUSE OF THE ACCURACY. I vividly remember guffawing when I saw this scene for the first time and it is one of the few scenes where I cackle loudly literally every time I see that scene.
Then, we move to an Italian rat mob boss who is hosting his daughter’s wedding. We get more insight into what made Nick as cold and sarcastic as he is. Disney pulled a Pixar and made us feel. I see what you all did there! People often have that same view of themselves. If people only see me as someone who is dangerous, then it’s just much easier to follow that trope and not even try to be anything different. Like Nick, it never takes much.
This brings me to the Procter & Gamble commercial that puts our preconceived notions about people to the test. Take a look.
After finding all 14 missing mammals, chaos ensues because of Judy’s core beliefs about predators in general that she projected during the press conference. Crisis management comes later when Judy sits with Chief Bogo and Bellweather. It’s much like the fallout of any large news story. Companies and agencies go into crisis mode and start to figure out and plan for damage control. The city’s plan was to make Judy the new face of law enforcement to make the prey feel safer in their city since everyone now believes that predators are all savages.
You know another thing that I love about this movie? The various animals we got to see throughout. We got to see a ram, a lamb, a panther, a rat, a weasel, a bunny, a fox and the list goes on. Never once, did I feel like they were forcing any of these animals on me. For me, it honestly felt like people in a town who just happened to be animals, and although that seems simple enough, if they tried any harder to make the predators meaner or ruder, the illusion would have been destroyed. Let’s talk about this twist! I remember when I first watched this movie I was in it. I was right along with Judy and Nick trying to solve the case and when we find out, spoiler, that it’s been Bellweather the whole time…
I was FLOORED! But, did she have a point when she said fear would keep her in power? Do people in power use the fear tactic? Yes, yes they do. Do we, as citizens, fall into that trap? Yes, yes we do. Mayor Bellweather did say that 90% of the population consisted of prey and being that she is considered prey, if somehow Nick and Judy didn’t solve the case, she would have had a successful run as mayor because of the fear of the majority of the population.
When you step back and look at the movie, it’s not a complicated story. I actually think the story isn’t even original in thought, but what is original is how it was presented to us and how the characters developed based on that presentation. Therein lies the magic!
Jason Bateman as the voice of Nick, who you all may know as Marty Byrde from Ozark, and Ginnifer Godwin, who played Snow White in ABC’s Once Upon A Time alongside her husband, were perfect for the roles they voiced. Everyone else did a great job voicing their character as well but these two as the lead could have not been cast any better.
Besides the DMV scene with Flash, what else stood out to you in this movie? I actually wouldn’t mind a sequel to this. I know I fuss about sequels but if they’re done well, then I can live with them. No Thor: The Dark World’s in here! If you haven’t seen it in a minute, it’s streaming now on Disney+, like all great things!