Monday night, my daughter and I were invited to attend a pre-release screening of Zootopia, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 55th film. Zootopia is now available on home video – BluRay, DVD, Digital – iTunes/Google Play/Amazon Instant Video, etc
Disney provided the following synopsis of Zootopia:
The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But when rookie Officer Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman), to solve the mystery. Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Zootopia,” a comedy-adventure directed by Byron Howard (“Tangled,” “Bolt”) and Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph,” “The Simpsons”) and co-directed by Jared Bush (“Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero”), opens in theaters on March 4, 2016.
Last month I had the opportunity to attend a talk by Matthias Lecher, the art director for environments. During the talk, he talked about the thought process behind some of the environments showing us drawings and some short clips. It was so interesting to see the environments that he described creating. My only disappointment with Zootopia was that we didn’t get to see even more of the amazing environments, particularly Sahara Square and Tundra Town which had very little screen time.
When watching the movie, I was able to appreciate how the environments were suited to the different animals. and I felt like I had a much better understanding of the backstory of Zootopia than I would have if I had just watched the movie. A few key things that I learned at the talk that will increase your enjoyment of Zootopia:
- In Zootopia, animals have evolved to live in a modern world (with no humans). Predators and Prey live peacefully together in Zootopia.
- Judy Hopps is the first bunny on the police force. Previously it is composed entirely of large predators.
- The habitat neighborhoods surrounding the Downtown area of Zootopia are artificial recreations. Be sure to look for the sprinklers in the rainforest.
- The environments needed to accommodate both large and small animals. The train station where Judy arrives in Zootopia is a great example of how different animals co-exist. Some of my favorite parts are the hippos emerging from a stream, the giraffes at the juice bar, and the lemmings.
My daughter and I both enjoyed Zootopia. There are plenty of jokes incorporated for the adults, while still totally appropriate of children. One of my favorite scenes is the DMV which is fully staffed by sloths. My daughter and her friends love the scene which is in the trailer below even though they’ve never had the experience of waiting in line at the DMV (or the Secretary of State in Michigan).
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Zootopia has a couple of great messages. Zootopia is billed as a place where “anyone can be anything.” This message is carried throughout the movie in several ways. It shows how you can be anything you want with Judy becoming a police officer. At the same time, it also is shown as characters learn not to judge someone by what they are but rather by who they are.
One thing that I loved was all of the subtle references to modern culture. A few examples are:
- Smart Phones with Carrot logos instead of apples
- Targoat shopping bags
- Mousey’s department store
Unlike most Disney animated movies, I do not recommend Zootopia for younger children. During our screening, I observed some younger children losing interest and getting restless. There were a couple of scarier scenes (including one that made me jump) and the plot was more complex to follow than some movies. I had follow-up conversations with a couple of parents of younger children who saw a screening. The consensus was that the movie is best for older elementary students through adults and not preschoolers (young elementary students). They expressed that their children did not enjoy the movie and found some scenes scary and the story was too complicated for them. As a fourth grader, my daughter was able to follow along with the story and did not find it too scary.
Have you seen Zootopia? Let us know what you thought.