Saturday 5 March 2016

Munir's Disney Retrospective - Animated Classic #55: Zootopia (2016)

Previous post: Munir's Disney Retrospective - Animated Classic #54: Big Hero 6 (2014)

After taking a year off, Walt Disney Animation Studios has returned in a major way with what might possibly be the best film from the new era and one of the best films from the canon ever. Zootopia, the 55th animated film from the studio, is an instant classic perfectly balancing humor, heart and timely themes, all set up against one of the studios' most inventive and gorgeous creations of all time.

Here's a brief, spoiler-free synopsis: Optimist bunny Judy Hopps dreams of becoming a police cop and work in Zootopia, the city where "anyone can be anything". However, when she arrives to the city, she realizes that not everything is as perfect as it seems When many animals start disappearing, she enlists the help of a smooth talking fox, Nick Wilde, a con artist who, begrudgingly, agrees to help her. Together, they uncover a dark and mystery that may change the city's future forever.

Zootopia succeeds on every level and shows a studio that's not scare to take risks. The story may look cute and funny on the surface but, like the best disney films, it's a multilayered and rich story that not only offers a profound view of our own prejudices and biases but also teaches us that fear based on these traits can be extremely harmful for society. But fear not, these powerful themes does not come across as preachy but they are expertly interwoven within the film's plot. The detective-noir angle the film takes is a different yet welcome change of genre from the ones the studio usually uses. I was surprised of how the film wasn't afraid into delving into dark moments, just like the earlier Walt-era films. However,  there are also still plenty of gags and clever humor to keep things light enough and moving the film in a briskly pace.

The characters are simply wonderful. Judy and Nick make a great duo, trying to discover the mystery while also seeing past their own biases to form a unique alliance. Judy is one of the strongest character the studios have ever created: hard-working, optimistic and smart but also a little bit reckless and impulsive. She is the perfect contrast to Nick who is cynic and cunning but also someone who hides a deeper pain. Together, they not only find a friend in each other but also their differences, make them understand the dark truths about Zootopia and the society they live in. The rest of characters are also great and on point but it's Judy's and Nick's development that's the heart of the film with Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman giving outstanding performances.

Zootopia as a city is a sight to behold. You can see the hard-work the animators put in creating this unique metropolis taking into account all the different mammal species that lived there. The animation is simply stunning. Every creature, every environment and every single detail is a sight to behold.

This is fourth film in a row where there's a twist in discovering the villain but I must say that the reveal here, while not as strong as the one in Wreck-It Ralph, it's certainly better than the ones in Frozen and Big Hero 6. I wasn't bothered by this, but the studio may want to think in other ways to do this in the future.

The score by Michael Giachinno (his first for a WDAS film) is great and helps enhance the whole experience. Shakira's song "Try Everything" is catchy and may very well be the spiritual successor of the "Keep Moving Forward" motto that launched the studio into this new era.

Zootopia is the culmination of the process that started in 2007 with Meet the Robinsons. It offers a timely and relevant story, it's not afraid to take risks, it has great characters, gorgeous animation and smart humor. It's the whole package and a must-see movie. An instant classic! Rating: 5/5.

Coming Soon - Animated Classic #56: Moana (2016).

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