Disney is the master of subtext

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Starting with the catchy, contagious, upbeat theme song sung by Gazelle (Shakira), “Zootopia” only goes uphill. The film incorporates everything you would expect from an animated movie and more; it’s almost like it’s meant for adults more than kids.

The movie follows Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), as she aspires to be the first bunny cop in Zootopia, a city initially portrayed as an idealized New York, a place where everyone is accepted and dreams can come true. Even before Hopps’ departure, Disney seamlessly integrates issues of racism and sexism into the movie, starting from the moment her parents give her fox repellent and a taser, to keep her safe from foxes specifically.

The city of Zootopia is something completely different: It compartmentalizes animals into predators and prey, creating instant injustice the second Hopps sets foot into the city. She realizes everything she has seen about the city has been propaganda, and she is forced to try and find harmony in a place that cannot look past another animal’s fur. Despite this discovery, she fails to be disheartened; she even tricks a cunning fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), into helping her, in spite of his devious nature.

Disney’s use of animation is a stroke of genius: By targeting a young audience, they introduce issues of prejudice and stereotypes into children’s minds, urging them to be aware of the constant battle some species (or races) face. Adults are also hyper-aware of the issues they raise, and can relate to the feeling of sloths running a DMV, or the reference to show “Breaking Bad.” By using animated characters, Disney avoids many controversies that could possibly arise; no one is going to deny that some animals target others.

Throughout the movie, I remained captivated, in constant shock at how again and again the movie managed to touch upon so many issues, all while making me laugh. The audience included members of every age group, from the small kids screaming in the back while their parents shushed them, to the two teenage boys sitting in front of me. It is no wonder that the movie did so well at the box office: The characters were vibrant and dynamic, their chemistry feeding off each other, which is impressive for an animated movie.

The main friendship (between Hopps and Wilde) is perhaps one of the most interesting features about the movie—their friendship and problems are quite relatable, and it was nice to see a friendship that wasn’t boiled down to a simple romance. The film portrayed a realistic approach to following one’s dreams, but still managed to have some twists and turns that are bound to surprise both children and adults. At the end of the film, I wasn’t the only one to leave the theater smiling.

Movie: “Zootopia”

Release Date: March 4

Directors: Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush (co-directors)

Rating: ★★★★★