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Film review: Zootopia – Disney’s all-animal animation is a wildly entertaining take on race relations

Nuanced tale bristles with messages and concepts in a noirish storyline that combines an adult-friendly whodunit with a ‘you can do it’ message for the cubs

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 23 March, 2016, 12:00pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 05 April, 2016, 1:28pm

3.5 stars

Most animated films – perhaps with the exception of Japanese anime – are made with young children in mind. But that’s just a quirk of cinema history, as there’s no reason why the medium shouldn’t tackle the same subjects as live-action films. Although Zootopia, a well-written crime story featuring a bunny cop and a fox, is ostensibly pitched at younger teens, it doesn’t make any concessions to its audience. It’s an entertaining mystery that just happens to feature funny animals.

Like Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur , the story has an intriguing premise. In a world ruled by civilised animals, someone is making predators revert to their pre-evolved, primitive types. Jaguars, tigers and otters suddenly want to kill their fellow citizens and eat them. A rookie bunny cop and her fox sidekick are assigned to crack this seemingly impossible case. But why are the higher-ups placing obstacles in their way?

Zootopia falls somewhere between anime and Disney in tone. The story is a typical film noir, and it’s fun to see the animals take on some of the personas of characters in classic films such as The Godfather and Chinatown. A mafia society made up of polar bears and a Don Corleone-like Arctic shrew works especially well, and the character design is sophisticated throughout.

Disney sneaks grown-up look at bias into animated animals film Zootopia

Although it would be stretching things to describe Zootopia as a metaphor for modern society, its underlying message of racial tolerance is a useful lesson for everyone.

Zootopia opens on March 24

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