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The Review: Part III

Your rating: None Average: 2.5 (8 votes)

Zootopia_logo.png So, okay, there's a dozen or so iconic movies out there that furries like to claim as our own, whose characters are held up as examples of what an anthropomorphic animal is, and why we like them so much. But it's not often we get a movie with a premise that seems birthed from something on SoFurry. Zootopia is a film in which all mammals (excluding primates) have evolved. Kinda. They still look the same, including some species having eyes on either side of their head, or being friggin' tiny, but they can walk on two legs, and as children helpfully explain, don't eat each other anymore, and that's what's important.

Spoiler warning: This review does dwell a bit more into later plot developments than previous reviews.

This is the third review of Zootopia on Flayrah; please check out reviews by crossaffliction and Mister Twister! We invite all of our regular contributors (and maybe a few first timers) to share their opinions on this movie during the following month!

The story

Even though the writers went to great lengths not to use the word "racism", or even anything like it, this is a movie about racism. And because this is the United States in 2016, Disney powered up its trusty propaganda machine and made the protagonist a sweet, well-meaning, lovable cop determined to change the system from the inside. Judy Hopps is the first bunny cop, and she graduated top of her class; affirmative action gets her a job with the Zootopia Police Department, but she's restricted to writing parking tickets while the interesting work of finding 14 missing predators goes to her giant, brutish coworkers. Determined to prove she's a "real" cop, Judy wreaks havoc in Little Rodentia and lets herself be duped out of 15 bucks. As she's about to be fired, the timing of a tearful wife desperate to find her husband the rest of the force seems to have given up on gives Judy a second chance: 48 hours to solve a case with no witnesses, no resources and no leads.

Even though the movie emphasizes that she graduated top of her class, the audience doesn't get to really see much in the way of her sleuthing skills; she just so happens to be the only one bothering to try. In fact, the red herrings she follows are all due to her own prejudices. Blackmailing a criminal to help you or having the rodent mafia threaten to "ice" witnesses doesn't make for a very good cop, either, but hey, police misconduct is okay if it's against bad guys, right?

When Judy finally cracks the case, she's finally recognized as a real cop, but it would appear the Academy doesn't give lessons on good PR, because her floundered attempt to discuss the case with the media turns into proof enough for the city's 90% prey population to vilify predatory animals, deposing their lion mayor and throwing the massive city into chaos and making it hard to investigate whomever's really framing predators.

The message

Racial discrimination and how it affects everyone is the point of the film, but there is no real group or groups with power over another, nor is there a group or groups particularly worse off. A big deal is made about the "predator vs. prey" aspect, I don't think the two groups are black and white, unless elephants and rhinoceroses are considered "prey". Both predator and prey have their own societal disadvantages, upheld at a societal level even by the police. Both Nick and Judy have traumatic childhood experiences at the hands (paws?) of the other group. It doesn't work with real-world racism, and it doesn't really work with X-Men style discrimination, either.

The visuals

The city of Zootopia is immersive and well-designed. The fragility of the buildings in Little Rodentia, the "furgonomics" of giraffe-owned cars and public transportation meant for any species, even the way different animals moved showed this was not just a world with animal people, but a functioning society for different species.

That being said, the character design left something to be desired. If you were a polar bear, you look exactly like every other polar bear in the world, unless it's funny for you to be different, or if we need to remember you later. The same is true for every other species we saw more than once. Hell, even the main characters looked pretty boring; Judy kind of looks like the fursona of Fix-It Felix, Jr.

The music

Zootopia has one real song. It's not really a bad song, but it's never played at an appropriate time; the closest to good timing it gets is when Judy is entering Zootopia for the first time, but a song about continuing to try after a failure should probably happen after any failures or disappointments have occurred.

The other time they played it was at a Gazelle concert. There was no explanation of how or why they all went to a Gazelle concert, but I guess you can't make a dig at movies like Frozen for having the characters actually perform a musical number and then do the same thing.

According to the end credits, there was an entire musical score, but I don't remember hearing it at any point, not even a simple leitmotif. It must not have been anything special.

Conclusion

While Zootopia gives furries an entire cohesive setting to insert characters into and have fun with, it's just a spoonfed moral about prejudice with no real working parallels in the real world. There's enough in the film to appeal to non-furry adults, but don't go expecting an instant classic.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 5 (3 votes)

Average review.

"Even though the writers went to great lengths not to use the word "racism", or even anything like it, this is a movie about racism."

It's about prejudice in general, racism is only one form of prejudice.

"Even though the movie emphasizes that she graduated top of her class, the audience doesn't get to really see much in the way of her sleuthing skills; she just so happens to be the only one bothering to try."

Isn't that part of the point? She actually tries! If no one tries, then nothing happens. Nick pointed out the police had two weeks and didn't find anything while Judy got further than them in under two days. Apathy, not only from police, is a real problem and there are probably many people that feel the same as that otter wife where nothing is done to help them.

When I was at university, my car was broken into. Not too much was taken from it but the locks were broken and the spare wheel was gone. I reported it to the police and they never even went to look at the car or take finger prints. I think they contacted the university to see if there was any security camera footage but otherwise noboddy bothered to do a thing. When I reported it they even said something to the effect of "Oh, yes, you just need a case number so you can give that to insurance."

I also think you're wrong about not seeing her skills. She shows initiative, she shows brains (even if that's sometimes manipulating events) and she has the observational skills and general knowledge that allow her to put the pieces together.

"The message" (It applies to the whole paragraph)

Prejudice does not require a power difference. It helps but that difference can even be local. If you think real-world racism can only be white on black then, frankly, you're out of touch with reality. Think about prejudices that face homosexuals, blacks in white areas, whites in black areas, prejudices against Muslims in the US, prejudices against Christians in the Middle East, prejudices against atheists in many countries. The groups that have power are different in different places. The world is a lot more complex than you make it out to be and that is something that Zootopia recognises.

"While Zootopia gives furries an entire cohesive setting to insert characters into and have fun with, it's just a spoonfed moral about prejudice with no real working parallels in the real world."

I seriously can't believe you could write something like that. There were real world parallels all over. Here are the main ones that spring to mind.

Sexism: Judy is, I think, the only female cop we see. Yes, her gender isn't an issue but the lack of other female cops and the attitude that she isn't suited to that work parallels many women's experiences, especially in police and military work.

Racial profiling: The best example here is with foxes. All foxes are stereotyped, not only in predator prey relationships but also with them being seen as untrustworthy and unsuited for police work. Even when Judy is friends with a fox she sees him as different to others. She doesn't see that her view of foxes or predators is wrong, she sees him as an exception.

Criminal stereotypes: Nick's line about there being no point in trying if no one will ever see you differently is really haunting if you think about the US justice system. Once you've been convicted for a crime it stays on your record for life. It's something employers ask about and that drastically limits your job opportunities. Few people want to hire you after that and it makes it incredibly difficult to change your life. If getting one criminal conviction is going to brand you for the rest of your life then what is the motivation, why try to move away from your criminal past when that's all anyone will ever see?

Religious discrimination: No real world parallels? You didn't consider the way people avoided predators two thirds of the way through the movie to have any similarity with the way Muslims' have been and are treated in the US? The idea that all the predators are potential savages that need to be avoided is a lot like the view that all Muslim's are potential terrorists.

Somehow you've missed 90% of what the movie was saying.

EDIT:

"According to the end credits, there was an entire musical score, but I don't remember hearing it at any point, not even a simple leitmotif. It must not have been anything special."

Almost forgot that part. If you don't notice a score, it's probably done a good job. It should be building the mood, not getting in front of everything (musicals being the exception). And all the songs mentioned in the credits are from when she goes through the radio station songs.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

And yet, he still doesn't like Mad Max: Fury Road.

Your rating: None

Because it's about 1 and a half hours too long for a practical effects demonstration.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None

You know what, next time you do one of these review of a review things, and you disagree, you should all be like "MEDIOCRE!" and nobody'll get it except you and me, but we'll just laugh and laugh ... and it's five in the morning, I'm going to bed.

Your rating: None

Judy is, I think, the only female cop we see.

Nope, Francine, the "elephant in the room", is female too.

I didn't get all the names of the others when the tasks were handed out, though.

Your rating: None

Can't recall that but now that I think about it, wasn't the drill instructor female?

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None

Her voice was feminine, yes. So I am assuming she was a female instructor.

Your rating: None

Prejudice does not require a power difference. It helps but that difference can even be local. If you think real-world racism can only be white on black then, frankly, you're out of touch with reality. Think about prejudices that face homosexuals, blacks in white areas, whites in black areas, prejudices against Muslims in the US, prejudices against Christians in the Middle East, prejudices against atheists in many countries. The groups that have power are different in different places. The world is a lot more complex than you make it out to be and that is something that Zootopia recognises.

Weird then that I never once mentioned "white on black" racism. The groups with power, "different in different places" though they may be, still have power.

Criminal stereotypes: Nick's line about there being no point in trying if no one will ever see you differently is really haunting if you think about the US justice system. Once you've been convicted for a crime it stays on your record for life. It's something employers ask about and that drastically limits your job opportunities. Few people want to hire you after that and it makes it incredibly difficult to change your life. If getting one criminal conviction is going to brand you for the rest of your life then what is the motivation, why try to move away from your criminal past when that's all anyone will ever see?

Not a working parallel because people didn't view him negatively because he'd done something bad in the past; he was attacked and muzzled because of his species/race.

Religious discrimination: No real world parallels? You didn't consider the way people avoided predators two thirds of the way through the movie to have any similarity with the way Muslims' have been and are treated in the US? The idea that all the predators are potential savages that need to be avoided is a lot like the view that all Muslim's are potential terrorists.

Actually, you're right, that one does work pretty well.

If you don't notice a score, it's probably done a good job. It should be building the mood, not getting in front of everything (musicals being the exception).

I disagree. The musical score is a big reason for my enjoyment of any movie; I focus on it greatly to give me context cues of the emotional state of the characters, or even the gist of what they're saying if I didn't catch it (this is especially true in theaters, where I can't just turn on closed captioning). If I don't notice it at all, I might miss the soul of the movie.

And as for musicals, well, Disney is good at musicals. Zootopia would have made a good musical.

Your rating: None

I'm going to disagree with the musical bit; Disney does not make good musicals anymore. Frozen had one and a half good songs; "Let It Go" was pretty good, and I vaguely remember something about building a snowman, but that's about it.

Also, Zootopia would have been a terrible musical.

The score was weird; it contained vocals, was genre parody, or a diegetic gag ("Hey, buddy, can you turn off that depressing music!"), so probably a lot of the score probably didn't register as score, actually (but more as individual songs). That being said, the main "theme", outside of "Try Everything," was, as far as I could tell, a deceptively simple three note progression; it isn't an exciting theme, show-off-y theme.

Your rating: None

Oh, and also, I could completely off base, but when they go into the lab, I am just about sure there is a Jurassic Park theme reference; not the big theme, but one of Williams' recurring "scare" riffs from that movie. It would be kind of thematically appropriate, so that's awesome.

Your rating: None

The movie has an important message about discrimination and prejudice. It exists, it shapes how we live and interact, and it's not just arbitrary non-sense but historically rooted. So we have to both 1- acknowledge our prejudices, 2- work to repair them, against our cognitive biases.

Critics / people are being too self-centered in saying specifically it's about a type of discrimination they are most familiar with (so the metaphor does / does not work). Zootopia is a place where multiple species coexist in a human-like contemporary setting, and several kinds of prejudices are shown in the movie. I'd say Zootopia citizens have a lot more prejudices than we do, by their nature. The movie's about overcoming any kind of prejudice, always working to do our best.

It's not particularly about feminism. It's not particularly about black racism, or muslim racism, or mexican racism. It's not about discrimination against police officers who munch lots of doughnuts. It's all of the above.

Your rating: None

It is imperfect and parts of it don't work right and could be done better.

Sounds like reality doesn't it?

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

So Part I and Part II were Momma bear reviews, and too soft. Part III was a Pappa Bear review, and too hard.

Guess we'll have our Baby Bear review soon enough.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

*rolls eyes*

Your rating: None

Hey man, just excited, finally get to review a movie.

As far as presentation goes I think yours is the best one so far. But you do have the most experience of the three.

And yours will probably be the best spoiler-free one at the end of the day.

Your rating: None Average: 1 (1 vote)

Well, anyone finding the score a bit anemic should try out the official Zootopia character Spotify playlists. The second song on Nick's list is Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side." I don't know if Disney really meant to send a possible large audience of young, impressionable minds straight to a song about a transexual prostitute (with explicit references to oral sex), but, my God, I hope so!

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About the author

Equivamp (Kile Onasi)read storiescontact (login required)

a Zebra Pegasus from Cloud Nine, interested in star wars, spider-man and food not bombs

Kile "Equivamp" Onasi is the online pseudonym of a WikiFur Colleague, hobby artist, and fursuiter.