How can Disney show adults and children that they are not racist and sexist? By using animal stereotypes to mask a plot that circles the toughest of human issues. “Zootopia” is much more than animals being civilized and running their own Utopian world. This is a film that manages to tackle gender roles, stereotypes and racial segregation through adorable animation that is fun for the whole family.
“Zootopia” is another one of Disney Animation’s attempts at a comedic approach to tackle topics that children do not typically understand. The comedy and straightforward dialogue makes the film easy for everyone to follow and are highly entertaining.
The main plot of the film follows around a determined female rabbit who wants to make a difference in the world by becoming Zootopia’s first rabbit police officer. She decides to take a case of a missing otter and enlists the help of a sly fox, Nick Wilde.
The unlikely duo is forced to put their differences aside to solve the case. This leads the story into deeper issues that are perfectly depicted. The entire script is laced with racial undertones that are clearly shown using animal stereotypes. These include the majority group of prey thinking they should run the city instead of the minority predators, the smaller animals thinking they need to stick together, and different animals being excluded from jobs and areas because of their species. The writers were able to show the deepest human struggle of acceptance through every scene. The way that the scenes are delivered is perfect for children to see that exclusion is not acceptable or the right thing to do.
“Zootopia” also tackles gender roles. Even though Disney often depicts gender roles poorly, they have taken a step in the right direction with the way the characters are depicted. The rabbit, Judy Hops, is told that she cannot dream big and will never become anything more than what she was born into. Judy decides that her life is not enough for her and follows her dreams. She also does not let the male characters push her around and keeps fighting until they value her opinions and intellect. Females in other Disney films typically do not express these qualities.
However, Judy is still depicted the same as other female Disney characters, as she is in need of rescuing a few times, during which Nick comes in to save the day. It was unfortunate that Disney kept to its standard depiction of females in need when the rest of the film was rather productive.
“Zootopia” entertains greatly with Disney’s clever Easter eggs to give the most avid fans extra laughter. Keep an eye and ear out for multiple Disney references, including various “Frozen” references, and even a “Breaking Bad” reference. Disney loves to poke fun at itself in the animated features, and this one is no exception.
The entire film is highly satisfying on many fronts. Disney was once again able to strike a chord with their oddball way of confronting the worst qualities that humans exhibit. Through crafty design, animation, storylines and dialogue, “Zootopia” is an absolute winner.