Disney’s Zootopia is a surface kids movie that has lessons for every adult

Disney’s Zootopia is a surface kids movie that has lessons for every adult

Disney's Zootopia is a surface kids movie that has lessons for every adult

In our world, a rabbit and a fox would never get along. One is prey and the other a predator. However, in Disney’s Zootopia – out Friday – a world devoid of humans has overtaken its primal instincts and is a place where “anyone can be anything”. Judy Hopps – voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin – is a bunny and an avid follower of the motto, and she resists any advice to the contrary, even if it comes from her parents.

Hopps dreams of being a policeman but faces a gargantuan task: there has never been a rabbit cop. Through her optimism and determination, and with the help of Mayor Lionheart’s (JK Simmons) Mammal Inclusion Initiative, she gets her lifelong wish and becomes Officer Judy Hopps. But his problems are just beginning. The story elements from here on out are so simple that you’ll see most of its parts come a mile away, but it’s the underlying lessons and the heart with which it delivers them that makes Zootopia more than a fun cartoon game.

Among its many themes is the issue of racial and gender stereotypes. Early on, a donut-loving cheetah office cop makes a remark about Hopps’ looks and size. She instantly jumps into what appears to be a repeated comment: “You probably didn’t know this, but a rabbit can call another rabbit ‘cute’, but when other animals do, it’s a bit…” and pauses to preserve any remaining subtext. In a later scene, when assigned to parking by her superior, Chief Bogo (Idris Elba), she defends herself and claims, “I’m not just a token bunny.”

Hopps – despite her good intentions – is also not above making such mistakes herself. Upon meeting Zootopia’s first fox, she jumps to one conclusion: all foxes are cunning and sneaky. And it obviously doesn’t help that his first impression of Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) is of his cunning nature.

“[Judy] responds naturally because of the way she was raised,” Goodwin says of her character in a Disney video, though she tries not to have any preconceptions. Hopps ends up teaming up with Wilde to solve a crime, but his initial struggle is something we all relate with, especially in a multicultural and multiethnic country like India. Throughout our lives we are told that certain communities behave in certain ways or that they look like something. It not only influences the way we think, but sets the expectations of people we never have And we prefer that they act as they appear in our minds, as it reassures what we have been fed.

That’s not to say Zootopia doesn’t make tons of jokes at the expense of its mammalian traits, whether it’s Nick wondering what sheep matter when they can’t sleep, or paying a wonderful tribute to The Godfather. A memorable scene sees Hopps and Wilde visit the DMV (the American equivalent of India’s RTO) to speed up their investigation, and Hopps is exasperated when she learns the bureau is run by sloths. But the film is still smart enough to stay on the bright side, as Wilde asks, “What? You’re saying that because he’s lazy, he can’t be fast?”

What Zootopia says is even more important today, at a time when democratic nations around the world are moving towards harsher right-wing policies, out of fear and misinformation from “outsiders”. The city of Zootopia – a microcosm of the world’s natural habitats – bears clear parallels to humanity’s own diversity and, through Hopps’ beaming eyes, offers a glimpse of what can be achieved if only we don’t stay so determined in our habits.

Zootopia is not only funny, clever, and the most heartwarming buddy comedy story I’ve seen in a while, but the values ​​behind it speak volumes, even more so for adults. He tackles tolerance, racial diversity and stereotypes with as much wit as panache; and because of his animal vision, his indispensable message is accessible and universal.

“Anyone can be anything” is not just something we need to tell the youngest, but a lesson we need to teach ourselves first.

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