Per Matt
When a film features SEVEN writers, three directors and undergoes a major rewrite, its troubled production schedule generally receives a bit of bad publicity. But when the movie in question is an animated Disney release, all possible negatives get tossed out the window. Walt Disney Animation Studios Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter definitely had his hands full with this movie.

Zootopia depicts a diverse animal kingdom, one where both predator and prey live together in harmony. In that sense, it’s definitely a fantasy. Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) is Zootopia Police Department’s newest recruit and first rabbit to join the force. Facing size and species stereotypes (but never any gender issues), Judy must overcome many obstacles with her new job. Ever the idealist, her positive outlook on life shines brightly in the face of several immediate disappointments.

After getting hustled by the con artist fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), Judy must prove to herself — as well as her boss, Chief Bogo (Idris Elba)– that she’s more than just a speedy meter maid. Reluctantly, Nick teams up with her to solve a mystery, one which involves night howlers and missing creatures, both large and small. In this sense, the movie becomes a detective story, rife with many movie references that’ll soar right over the heads of the young ones.

Zootopia, as a city, is a rich environment with plenty of tiny details taking place in the background that may be missed. These bits will definitely encourage multiple viewings, as well as plenty of screen captures, once the movie is made available for home viewing. As a movie, it’s a heartwarming comedy, it’s got a fun sense of humor and there’s no denying the animation looks great. Kids of all ages could learn something from the positive messages spread throughout the movie, but sadly, my interest in the storyline strayed multiple times. For a movie that goes out of its way to be politically correct, it’s exceedingly sweet. So much so, it’s practically condescending. When a well-rounded Pixar movie conjures up great feelings, it tends to feel genuine. This movie feels like it continually hits you over the head with its message — which is far from subtle… maybe, just maybe, Lasseter’s rewrites tried too hard to recreate that Pixar magic. Reportedly, the first draft of this movie focused on the fox, which would have been a bold, new direction for the animation studio. Unfortunately, I would have preferred that movie to what is currently appearing in movie theaters.

There’s a very good chance Zootopia will have great box-office returns in the family-entertainment market. At the very least, sequel or spin-off possibilities loom large. Expect to see many of its anthropomorphic animal characters pop up throughout the Disney theme parks in the near future. As a movie, Zootopia is OK, but shouldn’t Disney’s animated films aim a little higher than being just theme-park characters hawking merchandise?

Review: 3.5/5