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The Review: Part II

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zootopia french poster_0.pngEvery time a new animated movie comes out, my first question is “Will this story suck?” And that is an important question, since animation studios are often under pressure from producers to dumb down the narrative, to make absolutely sure the smallest kiddies (a.k.a., the target audience) will get it. When the makers cave in, it may end up being good for those “smallest kiddies”, but bad for everyone older than 7. That is a huge problem for grown-up animation fans, since no matter how good the visuals are, a stupid story will always make the watching experience painful, and leave you wishing you could travel to a parallel universe where the writing was better. I was disappointed by cartoons many times before, so I know what that feels like. Not here though. To my surprise, Disney released something actually smart, very very well-written. Zootopia is a smart movie, and is very much worth your time.

For anyone not convinced, I shall elaborate.

Disclaimer: In the reviewer's opinion, the French poster better represents the tone of the movie. Also, I only watched the movie once, but with the greatest attention. With that said, let's begin ...

This is the second review of Zootopia on Flayrah; the first can be found here, and we invite all of our regular contributors (and maybe a few first timers) to share their answers to those questions during the following month!

The Writing

The premise, which you may have already read elsewhere, is that animals have evolved enough to walk upright, and talk proper English (or whatever language you will watch it in). Predator and prey are no longer enemies, and are trying to live together in peace and harmony. A young rabbit from a farm named Judy Hopps (get the pun?) has dreamed of being a police officer since childhood, and ends up passing the police academy, becoming the first of her kind to do so. She travels to the titular multi-species megalopolis of Zootopia, where she could live out her dream of protecting the innocent, and making the world a better place.

There she continuously runs into problems, since the life of a police officer is already hard, and doubly so if you are a bunny. Narrowly avoiding getting fired for an unauthorized heroic act, she gets assigned her first real case, to find a missing mammal, but is only given 48 hours to do so (or get fired permanently). Through plot reasons she teams up with a very-unwilling-to-cooperate fox con artist named Nick Wilde (less of a pun here) to solve the mysterious case as the clock is ticking. Said case of course turns out to be bigger and more serious than expected, leading to many interesting scenes, lots of intrigue and action, genuinely funny comedy, and we all learn something in the end.

Oh, and no birds or lizards. Some cuts had to be made to make the plot work better.

A few things stood out the most for me in the writing. The first one was the small details and the hints. Every good mystery story needs to have those, and Zootopia had plenty. But, you would not know which details are important on your first viewing, and that is very nice. Of course, if you have seen 10,000 movies, and read 50,000 books (looking at you, Fred Patten), you may see certain things coming sooner, but an average viewer will not be able to guess most of the twists until they happen. Zootopia is a smart story, carefully crafted to not insult the viewer’s intelligence. My intelligence was not insulted at all, and I have reasons to believe yours won’t be either.

The second thing would be the lack of the Typical Disney Protagonist Syndrome™. Normally, in movies released by this company, the main character wins chiefly because he/she is good, and the villain loses because said villain is an idiot. Not in this movie. Here, people (animals) get things done by virtue of hard work, using their brains, and not giving up (which is how real life works by the way). And the antagonists (would it really be a spoiler to acknowledge there are any?) are an actual threat, and have planned everything.

And of course, to address the elephant in the room (HAHAHA), Judy being a female matters ZILCH. She is never handed anything, she earns everything she gets, finds herself in danger often, gets hurt and never complains. She is a strong female character, and not the other way around.

An important thing to bring up is that, despite how amazing the story is (according to me), the writing was a longer process than usual. Two people are credited for screenplay, and a whopping eight for the story itself. That is due to the fact the movie started out as something different, and then changed shape during production, as more and more people were brought in to re-write what was there. But, having eight writers certainly did not spoil the stew in this particular case. In fact, here it seems the more, the merrier. A rare case, but it happens.

Oh, and it had three directors. Again, nothing bad came from it.

The Animation and the Look

This should be common knowledge, but Disney is a corporation with enough billions to pay for the best animation in the industry if they want to, and here they did. It’s great. Judging by the timing, I would guess the good old technique of using hand drawn extremes as base for CG was used here.

Just like the animation, the colors, the lighting, the textures, and the effects are all top notch. However, I will make a small complaint and say the team went a little too safe with the designs of the characters. Most of the animals look a bit too generic, with the typical “standard cute harmless marketable look”. Was it to, again, make the movie extra marketable? Or was it (a personal theory of mine) to make the merchandise easier to manufacture? Nevertheless, one positive thing is that the animators spent extra effort to make the faces extra expressive, as expressive as those “cute and simple” designs would allow. Sometimes I even forgot I had a problem with the designs at all, since the animation of the faces and bodies was so good.

The Voice Acting

I will make this extra short. Every actor fits the role and the look of every animal. Everyone does a great job, and nobody screws up. 10/10, won’t complain.

The Music

This is a case of a fitting soundtrack that is not particularly invasive. It does its job, and I applaud the composer. Nothing to really add here. There is one song in the movie, and you probably already know what it is. It is used sparingly, twice to be precise. It is a bit on the simpler side, and a little cliche. But, just like everything else in Zootopia, the simplicity of the song also makes sense in context of the story. All in all, nice music, used nicely. NICE.

Final Verdict

With the high quality and surprising maturity of the story, the great direction of the animation and voice acting, this movie is not a dumb kids’ movie. The Pebble and the Penguin it is not, Pan’s Labyrinth it is yes. Zootopia is a rich and mature story that adults not allergic to animation will not have a problem appreciating.

And an obligatory ... thing to add at the end ... this is not just a “furry movie”; this is a great movie for everyone.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

As of today, I have not seen “Zootopia” yet. I’m paralyzed, in a convalescent hospital, and dependent upon my sister to take me out in my wheelchair to see movies. Sherry hasn’t had the time to take me to see “Zootopia” yet; she hopes to next week.

However, I’ve known the plot of the movie and “whodunit” since late January when I read the “Zootopia Junior Novelization”. And I’ve read (and reviewed; http://dogpatch.press/2016/03/05/the-art-of-zootopia/ ) “The Art of Zootopia” which also reveals whodunit and why there are no birds in Zootopia (the city), so I can read these reviews without worrying about spoilers.

“Zootopia” may be almost unique in being an intelligent ANTHROPOMORPHIC animated movie for adults, but there are more and more movies for grown-up animation fans. They just aren’t anthropomorphic (meaning “not for us”). Frankly, they leave me with the feeling of, “Okay, but why didn’t they just film it in live-action?” I will make exceptions for the current animated adaptation of Kahlil Gibran’s “The Prophet” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9dY5zkwK5M) which is basically a showcase of several different animators’ art styles”; and for a 1970s Japanese animated version of “The Diary of Anne Frank” that combined realistic cartoon animation of her life with abstract, Picasso-like depictions of the horrors of war. Other than that, there are the current “Anomalisa” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OSWBxzWpgNQ) that is getting rave reviews for how realistic its stop-motion animation looks; the Israeli “Waltz With Bashir” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylzO9vbEpPg),, a story about Israel’s 1990s invasion of Lebanon; “Persepolis”, a true-life story of one woman’s growing up in Tehran during the establishment of Iran’s current oppressive theocratic government; Bill Plympton’s “Cheatin’” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8ilPAEgkpA) , an adult comedy-romance … how many examples do you want? But have you ever heard of them? They don’t get American theatrical distribution because “animation is just for the smallest kiddies”.

One question I have about “Zootopia” is that Judy Hopps has wanted to be a policewoman since her childhood; she goes to the police academy and passes; and she goes to Zootopia to join its police department. Okay; where is that police academy located? Obviously somewhere outside of Zootopia. Why not inside Zootopia? (Remember, I haven’t seen it yet. This may be answered in the movie.)

More later.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None

No answer in the movie. The Police academy part is quite short.

Judy's hometown of Bunnyburrow is 211 Miles from Zootopia so you are only seeing two parts of the whole world.

Presumably it is located out of Zootopia for space and cheaper real estate reasons.

The Snow Leopard news anchor has a British accent so presumably there are other countries and at least something exists that is an analog of England.

Your rating: None

I saw Zootopia yesterday and was wondering the same thing about the police academy. Judy goes to the Zootopia police academy, gets recognized by the mayor of Zootopia in a ceremony, then we see her riding a train to Zootopia, gets off, and starts to look around, all with that look of wonder one gets from seeing the big city for the first time. This had me wondering, if she hasn't been there before, where was the academy and where did the ceremony take place? Maybe I'll notice some things in the second viewing that will clear this up.

Also, did anyone notice the parallel between Judy's line, "a bunny can call another bunny 'cute', but when other animals do it, that's a little...", and a certain n-word?

Your rating: None

Actually, all of those other films you mention DID get American theatrical releases, especially Anomalisa. Just not necessarily outside of independent theaters.

Your rating: None

Yeah, but who notices the independent theaters except a tiny intelligentsia? If you ask the average Man In The Street about "Waltzing With Bashir" or even "Anomalisa" which a major company like Paramount is distributing, they'll say that they never heard of it.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None

I had to explain to a guy at work what a Zootopia was this Thursday, actually, so Anomalisa and Waltz with Bashir got no chance.

Your rating: None

Get well quicker than slower! Always remember that a healthy mind filled with passionate energy and a strong will to live will speed up the physical recovery every single time.

Well, I'll be...

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Fred is convalescent because of a stroke ... he had in 2005.

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Yeah; well, I've been paralyzed for eleven years now. I'm not holding my breath waiting to improve.

Fred Patten

Your rating: None

Hello Fred! I recently read about you / from you in different places, and, I'm greatly honored to read you every single time! Thank you for your response here. I dream of having your passion for reading, and culture, and specifically furry culture, at your age. 's gonna take a while for me to be such an experienced grey muzzle, but I'm slowly getting there. I'm trying to convince people here (Spain) to start documenting the furry fandom as it was born (here) around 2000 - 2005.

I read your review of The Art of Zootopia at dogpatch.press ; the book looks interesting, but the price is too steep for me right now. Anomalisa was nominated for the Oscars this year, so that should give it some attention (that's where I heard about it).

The Zootopia movie is very dear to me in that I was not at all expecting it. I heard some rumours that I didn't really believe because honestly I'm a bit disappointed in the direction the movie industry has taken, in making prequels of sequels of remakes, dumbing everything down, making special effects the star rather than storytelling, etc. I'm a sci-fi fan (mostly Asimov and P. Dick), and I wasn't hyped for Star Trek, and I was even less hyped for Star Wars, and I couldn't care less for Jurassic World.

So I believe this movie is a landmark in that, there has never been a smart, extremely animal-anthro movie (biped humanoid furs acknowledging their animality), released before by a major studio, and I couldn't believe Disney of all was gonna be the first. My favourite furry stories have always been those with a moral message we can learn from, Aesop's fables, The Little Prince (and the fox), or Tranquilla Trampeltrue The Persistent Tortoise (Michael Ende, 1972). I'm a bit of an ethic philosophy buff so I was blown away by not just how well scripted Zootopia is, but the moral message it delivers to kids & adults of being persistent, tolerant, and doing the right thing; following your dreams BUT ALSO that life isn't a bed of roses, so all you can and MUST do is always YOUR BEST with everyone you encounter!

I hope you can watch the movie soon, either at the cinema or in DVD / Blu-Ray. I'd like to hear your thoughts on it, and whether you believe my devotion for the movie is justified.

Your rating: None

I'm a bit disappointed in the direction the movie industry has taken, in making prequels of sequels of remakes, dumbing everything down, making special effects the star rather than storytelling, etc.

You know what else is interesting...

Forbes said that Gods of Egypt was "the biggest-budgeted outright original picture coming to theaters this year." It's kinda meaningful that they overlooked animation... I believe Gods had a $140 million budget and Zootopia had $150 million. It's not just loveable for good Furry stuff and good animation, it's good original movie making!

The reputed horribleness of Gods is disappointing considering that the director used to be super gifted with sci fi. (Here's a kind-of furry connection.) It's called "the epitome of everything wrong with big-budget moviemaking today."

So there's your example and counter-example of what's up with movies in 2016.

Forbes again, on how Zootopia is a "Disney B Movie:"

the so-called B-movie allows that much more variety in terms of the kinds of animated stories and kinds of animated characters Disney can create. The likes of Zootopia doesn't necessarily have to be a grand and sweeping adventure in the classic Disney tradition or what-have-you. It can be a crazy word-play based comedy like The Emperor's New Groove, a dazzlingly creative and heartbreaking time travel adventure like Meet the Robinsons, or it can be a delightful throwback like Winnie the Pooh. Zootopia may not be the best or grandest Disney animated feature in 2016. But by virtue of its lower profile status and its existence as one of three, it has the freedom to be a little offbeat, a little quirky, a little out of the conventional Disney wheelhouse...

This bodes well for furries and their own free, offbeat, off-the-reservation role in fandoms. Marketing to furries is successful business! :)

Speaking of mainstream notice... remember Vanity Fair, and how shitty they were to furries with their attack article in 2001, the most cited one for the next 15 years? They just shared about furries and Zootopia, with predictably lousy journalism. They linked me so I said thanks and asked when they will apologize. Check the "controversy" section of the Zootopia article on WikiFur. [Ed: Fixed link.]

Your rating: None

I like the B movie article! I enjoyed The Emperor's New Groove a lot more than other Disney movies at the time. Except, Zootopia isn't a B-movie, it's an AAA+ movie!!

Thanks for documenting the trend with that article at dogpatch.press! You can't control what they'll publish. Their job is specifically to come up with something shocking, so relating it to sex is the most effective way, and they will mock you regardless. But what you can do is keep an upbeat attitude, and tell the truth about how passionate and loving and welcoming the fandom is. And this is what you do! "This isn’t Zootopia fandom taking over, it’s furries doing what they already love."

Organizing the screening here at the capital city was kind of difficult because, topping about 40 attendees, we only filled like 1/3 of the room. We knew of the event weeks before the movie came on cinemas, but the cinemas would allow us to book the seats 4 or 5 days in advance at most, without a definite hour for the screening. So we the organizers were kind of freaking out by such uncertainty, as drama queens furries tend to be. This contrasts to how considerate other venues / events are. I remember The Force Awakens was being announced all over the fucking place way ahead, and you could buy your tickets much in advance; radio advertisements and such encouraged you to do so.

But everything was fine and we had a great time! That's the job of organizing stuff, making the effort so it's a smooth sail. I was thanked for it, that's enough reward.

Your rating: None

Hello All,
I am a new,older user here. the question of what the Evolved predators eat
has been answered by the producers as being Bug burgers and Protein base plant foods.
Wrappers or cartons for Bug Burgers are supposed to be visible at Nicks feet in
one scene. There me be more on this in a sequel or tv series. I will have to look for
that on a next viewing.
joel361b

Your rating: None

I remember food of many kinds was shown. Everyone eats vegetables, that much is confirmed, but perhaps SOME feral animals still exist (and those are a-okay to kill!)

Well, I'll be...

Your rating: None

Yeah, I don't remember being given any clues this was the case, but for some reason I got the idea that fish, bugs, other animals were still animals. I think i may have assumed this just because only mammals were said to evolve, but I guess apparently birds and reptiles have their own countries somehow (doesn't make sense that there would be no immigration in a technologically advanced society, but whatever).

Your rating: None

I thank whoever went through my review and edited it properly.

However, I would ask to not change my grammar again, thank you very much. All of the "errors" I made are deliberate; I worked on the review for several days, I knew what I was doing.

Well, I'll be...

Your rating: None

I would guess that the donuts that the officer at the front desk had would be
made from something from like soy based plants in this scenario.
Food allergies in this case would be a real problem for for the predators but
don' expect any tv series by Disney to explore that as a story.

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About the author

Mister Twister (Andrew V.)read storiescontact (login required)

    a stew-dent and Homo Somewhat Sapiens from US of A (east coast), interested in music (listening, collecting and preserving), drawing, 2d animation and i dunno what else.

    Bio - graphy... that "graph" of my "bio"...... what?