Zootopia from Disney: Exploring Race and the Other with Animals

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Zootopia from Disney follows a young bunny named Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) as she sets out from her small town life to become a police officer in the big city of Zootopia. After graduating at the top of her class at the police academy she is accepted as the first bunny officer on the force, a huge honor that turns into a huge disappointment when she is immediately discriminated against due to her species. (Bunnies are considered good farmers, not police, and they are cute, but you can only call them cute if you are another bunny otherwise it’s raciest.) She is forced to team up with a fox, Nick Wilde, (Jason Bateman) to solve the disappearance of several predators, but foxes are not to be trusted in animal society. So Judy faces her own long buried prejudice and must fight the same bias used against her, to maintain a friendship with Nick. Together they are pulled into a Chinatown like mystery that will pit predator against prey and species against species, where they learn that everyone deserves a shot no matter their spots.

My son is brave.  He has watched Star Wars and the first two Harry Potter movies with no issues at all.  Zootopia is the only movie I have ever seen scare him.  I say this only to illustrate that every child  reacts differently to every movie.   There are scenes of animals going savage and wild that he was really frightened by.  He actually closed his eyes and told me it was too scary.  I was surprised by the reaction and it only served to remind me that I don’t always know what is going to affect him.  That being said we both enjoyed the movie.  It provides a lot to talk about and does a great job using the animal metaphor to talk about racism or sexual discrimination.  This idea is used at it’s best visually when is shows all the different “boroughs” of the city, one for arctic animals, one for desert, one for rain forest, but my personal favorite, a chase through the tiniest part of town where mice and moles live work and shop.

The writing is great in that both parents and kids can really enjoy what it has to offer.  The plot is modeled after traditional film noir and is as twisty as a movie like The Maltese Falcon or LA Confidential whiles still capturing what’s great about movies like Monster’s Inc or Kung-Fu Panda.  It finds a nice tone between adult mystery and kids fun without ever bowing in either direction too much.  Watch it with your kids and you should both walk away happy, and hopefully, not scared.

Deals with racism, bigotry, and sexism in its way

Parents: ***

Kids: ***

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