Here I am, a mature male without children sitting among what seems to be a sea of eight-and-unders happily munching on popcorn or choctops and slurping noisily on mountainous containers of soft drink. Will I be able to ignore this and enjoy Disney’s Zootopia? The answer is yes! Once the film started, the children were silent (except for laughter) and were all engrossed. So was I!
The film’s heroine is a bunny, Judy Hopps, (Ginnifer Goodwin). She has dreams of being a cop in Zootopia, a metropolis where predators and prey live in segregated harmony. Judy is constantly on the defensive, trying to prove that she can do anything other larger animals can do. Her boss is a Cape Buffalo police chief named Bogo (Idris Elba).
Bogo and a lot of other male beasts want to squash Judy’s ambitions and so they make her a meter maid. Luckily, Mayor Lionheart (J.K. Simmons) has begun a new mammal-inclusion initiative. Judy is determined to be the best meter maid she can be and work her way up. But on the first day she’s scammed by Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a fast-talking fox.
Still, this seemingly mismatched couple makes a dynamite team when the chips are down. Predators revert to nature and go on snarling, violent attacks. Animals go missing. Eventually Judy and Nick find a research facility that jails predators that have “gone savage”.
Naturally the bunny and the fox save the day with a quasi-surprise happy ending.
It would be easy to dismiss this as just another Disney animation film, but it’s not. It’s a social comment about anti-segregation and equality of social class (with a Disney spoonful of sugar).
As with all Disney films of this genre, the animation is excellent, detailed and colourful. The character voices are well chosen and executed (although I found Ginnifer Goodwin’s voice a little whiny and irritating at times). The musical score is lush and atmospheric.
The pace of the film is perfect except for flat spot about three quarters of the way through when Judy and Nick return to Zootopia. The children in the audience grew restless.
The inclusion of a koala newsreader (for Australian audiences) was a clever addition. Australians had the chance to vote on a name for the Koala character in a competition run through the Disney AUNZ Facebook page; ‘David Koallabell’ won by an overwhelming margin. David Koallabell is voiced by none other than Australian personality David Campbell.
David Campbell said of his cameo role: “I’m a huge Disney fan, so it’s such an honour to work with Walt Disney Animation Studios on this project. I can’t wait to see the character come to life on screen as David Koalabell.”
So, take your children to see Zootopia. They will have a good laugh, (you will as well) and learn some important life lessons at the same time.
Reviewed by Barry Hill
Rating out of 10: 9
Zootopia opens in cinemas on 17 March 2016.