A utopian harmonic metropolis

As the U.S. presidential election ramps up, and candidates trade barbs, insults, and half-truths about each other, it’s easy to become cynical and jaded. No matter which party you support if you are in the United States, the rhetoric is old, familiar, and repetitive.

“Don’t assume things about other people—or animals—based on how they look or where they originated from.”

I watched a movie several days after listening to the aftermath of the Super Tuesday primaries in March. Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t think everyone is misguided and power hungry. Finally, I found some voices I could believe in: the characters of Zootopia. Yes, folks, the most reasonable, calm personalities on the screen right now are animated, anthropomorphic animals—in a Disney movie, no less.

Zootopia follows the story of Judy Hopps (the voice of Ginnifer Goodwin), a determined rabbit that wants to avert the path of her parents and 278 brothers and sisters destined to be carrot farmers, and instead become a police officer. Despite her parents’ misgivings—and comedic pleas for her to settle and not pursue her dreams—Judy completes her academy training and becomes the first bunny police office in Zootopia, a utopian metropolis where predators, omnivores, and herbivores live in harmony, for the most part.

Because of her size, however, Officer Hopps is relegated to parking duty, while the elephants, rhinos, and yaks get a juicy case to find 14 missing animals, all predators. Despite the disappointment, Judy excels at parking duty, and after accidentally duping Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) into putting her on the case, the chief assigns her to the missing mammal mystery under one condition: she most solve the case of a missing otter in 48 hours or resign her post. Out of necessity, she enlists the help of a con artist fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), and the two, despite stereotyping each other initially, forge a bond and try to solve a mystery that isn’t as cut and dried as it seems.

Zootopia is simplistic, but in this case, simple works. The basic concept of recognizing differences and figuring out compromises isn’t new, but in today’s political climate, it is oft ignored. Despite its claims to be an ideal urban environment where every animal is welcome, the city of Zootopia regresses as certain characters start to perpetuate the fear that some mammals feel in regard to other mammal species. The animals start to resort to stereotyping each other, closing their minds and exposing their prejudices. Even the movie falls into its own stereotypes on occasion, including an Italian-accented mafia boss, Mr. Big (Maurice LaMarche), and a scantily clad pop songstress, Gazelle (Shakira).

Those hiccups don’t deter from the good intentions and great execution in getting the message of inclusion across. I asked my nine-year old what she thought the movie was about. She thought a while, slightly annoyed that I was asking her to essentially do homework and critique a movie that she found enjoyable and entertaining. She said: “Don’t assume things about other people—or animals—based on how they look or where they originated from.”

In addition to the positive message for all ages, parents will find nuggets geared toward them, including homages to The Godfather and Breaking Bad. Even though the message is simple, the clever dialogue keeps the movie from becoming just another feel-good animated movie. It is a shoo-in for an Academy Award nomination for best animated feature film. It will receive its nomination just a few weeks after the new president is sworn in early in 2017.

Until the election, we’re probably in for eight more months of finger-pointing. My vote is to make Zootopia required viewing for all presidential candidates. Perhaps they would be inspired to take a more communicative approach. Until then, I’m casting my vote for the bunny police officer and her friend, the shifty fox.


3.5/4 stars. Rated PG for action sequences, a few scary moments and some rude humor. It’s still more suitable for children than the presidential debates.