March 2, 2016
When I first saw the trailers of this film, it did not really interest me. All I saw was just another cutesy films with anthropomorphic animals led by a fox, but nothing more about the plot was revealed. Because of consistently good word of mouth and the availability of time, I was finally able to catch this latest output of the Walt Disney Studio.
Zootopia is set in a city where mammals of all species stood on two feet, behaved and spoke like human beings, and lived in harmony with each other whatever the species. The lead character is Judy Hopps, an idealistic rabbit who wanted to be a police officer but was stuck by her gruff water buffalo boss Chief Bogo. When she volunteered to take on the case of a missing otter florist, Mr. Otterton, she conscripts the reluctant help of a wily salesman fox named Nick Wilde. The complex plot they uncover threatens to rip the very foundation of peace upon which Zootopia rests.
I am not proud to confess that this is the first time I took note of the name Ginnifer Goodwin, who was credited as being the voice of Officer Judy Hopps. It turns out she has been in show business for more than 10 years now, making her film debut in the Julia Roberts' film "Mona Lisa Smile." She is currently playing Mary Margaret Blanchard / Snow White on the TV series "Once Upon a Time." Her voice is cute and delightful, brimming with the eager enthusiasm her earnest character had.
The rest of the voices were more familiar names. Nick Wilde was voiced by Jason Bateman. The deep baritone of the macho Chief Bogo belonged to none other than the imposing Idris Elba. J.K. Simmons gave the voice for Mayor Lionheart. Octavia Spencer had a gentle turn as the voice of Mrs. Otterton. Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong) was the voice of Yax, that fly-infested yak yoga receptionist at the nudist spa (yes, they went there!) A big surprise for me was the acknowledgement of Shakira as the voice of the sexy pop singer Gazelle. Also doing remarkable voice work was comedian Jenny Slate as the sweet overworked sheep Vice Mayor Ms. Bellwether.
The whole crime and detective plot came as a complete surprise to me and I really liked it. The artwork detailing all those different mammals, common and rare were so meticulous and complex. The Disney type of comedy here is refreshing and fun as only Disney delivers. My favorite parts were those in the Department of Mammal Vehicles manned by the most unlikely mammals, and that one where the mob godfather was played by another unlikely mammal. It was so much fun to watch those scenes, so I will not spoil your surprise.
The plot tackles the very serious topic of discrimination. In this case of Zootopia, it is not about race or gender, but about the biological difference between the predators and the prey type of mammals. I found it very smart how that sensitive topic was brought into this story as an important lesson to impart to the young audience in such an entertaining manner. 8/10.