“Disney’s in-house animation studio has slowly but surely been catching up to its Pixar counterparts for years now. Movies like Wreck-It Ralph,Frozen, and Big Hero 6 have shown the John Lasseter-led operation’s ability to make a nuanced animated movie, and with Disney’s latest release inZootopia, it has officially crested the mountaintop. Everything from the intensely masterful visual elements to the surprisingly deep social message made it a movie that would just as easily fit under the Pixar banner as any other.
The story follows Judy Hopps, a rabbit looking to become the first of her species to ever join the Zootopia Police Department. Things go far deeper than a simple “small character looks to accomplish big things” narrative. The world Judy lives in is one where both predators and prey live in (supposed) harmony, despite obvious biases against smaller animals and their ability to hold down certain jobs, act a certain way, and exist on the same plane as “superior” creatures. If that all sounds eerily familiar, that’s because it is, acting a direct parallel for our own nation’s spotted record with race and gender equality.
Disney has created an animated movie depicting a surface-level post-racial utopia with a dark underbelly. On a tertiary level, the city of Zootopia looks like one where all animals coexist peacefully. But what we see as the movie goes on is a society that would rather believe it has no inter-species problems to solve, rather than taking a hard look in the mirror. The central conflict revolves around a fear of predators, a small minority of the population that prey believe are genetically predisposed to harm them. It’s a heavy racial narrative for what amounts to a kids’ movie, but one that’s all too relevant given the real-world context of its story…”