Racism and optimism in Zootopia
I recently got to see Disney Animation Studios’ newest offering Zootopia. As many critics and bloggers have said, the movie is pretty good. It does take the classic Disney charm and combine it with an updated, more modern look and feel that we see today. There is an obvious through-line in the story exploring racism and how just because society is integrated, that does not mean that discrimination no longer exists. That lesson is taught effectively and bluntly. Also, Shakira is inexplicably in this video about animals, most likely just to have a catchy tune included in the movie’s soundtrack. There is another aspect of the film that I really liked though and it deserves a more fleshed out exploration, the fact that the town of Zootopia is nearly as cynical as the real world.
After seeing the film this was the first thing I pointed out to my wife. In the beginning of the movie we are shown a small rabbit child who wants to be a police officer, she is met by resistance from the general public, the neighborhood bully, and even her own parents. I find that a fascinating deviation from the typical Disney film formula. There is no fairy godmother, no pixies, no “always by your side” pal who helps push our main character through the story and achieve her goals, it is simply her own determination and unwillingness to listen to any outside force that pulls her through.
Sadly, I know that most of the world I see today is filled with cynicism and I feel that, although it is not the feel-good lesson normally taught in children’s programming, the message of “be what you want to be and don’t let others dictate your life” is an interesting one to present to kids at a young age. I am unsure on how I would have dealt if given that same exact advice back in my elementary years, but it probably would have resulted in breaking more rules and getting in more trouble. I know that may make it sound like a bad thing, but I think that the world could always use more people who shake up the status quo and are willing to make things happen.
If you came looking for a review, sorry for all the tangents. The movie was good! Fun humor, great animation, sound design was a little strange but easily forgivable, and the story is one that will keep both children and adults entertained. Also, Shakira is in it, ya know, if you’re into that kind of thing…