The defining characteristic of Zootopia’s story structure is its emphasis on racism. Prey are wary of predators, species talk down or speak negatively about other species, and stereotypes about foxes and bunnies run rampant. It was an interesting take in pre-Donald Trump’s election 2016, a time where racism still definitely existed, but wasn’t at the forefront of so many social and political discussions as it is in our current moment.
Strangely, Zootopia’s take on racism doesn’t make it feel more prevalent to our current moment but instead makes it feel a bit heavy-handed, almost like Disney specifically made a movie using talking CGI animals to tackle these difficult social themes. Watching it for the second time, its pretty interesting just how much stereotypes and discrimination are prevalent in nearly every scene of the movie. When 10 years go by and we lose our concept of when particular movies were released vs. who was in office or what was going on in the country at that time, we’re going to misremember Zootopia as a Trump era movie and that will define its legacy for better or worse.
As for now, Zootopia is still a masterful movie, breathtaking in its majestic animation and laudable for its laughability. This movie is funny, not just in a “oh they made an adult joke in a Disney movie” funny, but actual “on the level of an early Judd Apatow or Mel Brooks” movie funny. The sloth DMV scene in particular is a laugh riot, and even though I watched it countless times on YouTube before the movie was released, it still cracks me up.
Judy and Nick are fully-fleshed out characters and the world of Zootopia is magnificently-realized, every inch of every frame painted with a clever take on animal urbanism. I’m a big fan of all the recent Disney CGI-animated movies and those from Pixar as well, but this is one that I can actually see myself rewatching multiple times a year, just because the humor and animation is so fresh.