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Zootopia (2016)

Directed by: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
Starring (Voices): Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, J.K Simmons

Are you sure you're allowed to do that?

Finally, Disney hits the nail on the head with Zootopia. It had to be done at some point, but that this film served as a metaphorical hammer was a surprise for me. There is an odd relationship with me and animated films recently - I don't expect much, then they end up becoming one of my favorites of the year it was released. The flowers in the small garden outside my apartment complex haven't even bloomed, yet I have a contender for the king of 2016.

The film takes place in Zootopia - an ideal paradise where prey and predators live in harmony under modern technology and social systems. But it also the means the various problems of today, such as racism, prejudice, and agonizingly slow-paced employees at DMVs (portrayed by sloths, which is one of the funniest moments). Our main protagonist is a bunny named Judy Hopps, who has a lifetime dream of becoming an officer at the ZPD, despite having a small physique, and other animals assuming that bunnies are supposed to be dim-witted. Eventually she gets her badge, but finds out her naivety isn't welcomed. Other characters include Nick Wilde, a shady fox, Chief Bogo, a tough buffalo, and Mayor Lionheart, who's definitely not a tiger... sorry 'bout that.

The film's main theme is the importance of not having prejudice, but I did, against the film itself, prior to actual viewing. From some of the trailers and posters, I was reminded of Shark Tale, a sad pile of lame pop culture references so shallow that it made me wonder why it takes place in an ocean. Thankfully, Zootopia takes cliches, and turns them on their head, then embraces them with a lovable attitude. I love it when a film constantly does that to create interesting stories and characters. Of course, strictly plot-wise, it's hardly original, but the original of today is having your own spin on existing tropes.

We find out there is a big-scale mystery that needs solving, so of course we get a nice tour of the city, which has a central metropolis, a rain forest area, a mini desert, and an arctic residence, which has little ice blocks on freezing cold waters as transportation. These interesting sights aren't lazily blotched over at all, and show their full potential, even though we don't get into the very minor details. It's exactly how I imagined an animal utopia. One thing I didn't expect is special cars for the giraffes, which is as high as some buildings.

Lt. Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde are on the case, and their chemistry is admirable. The two exchange dialogues actual partners would exchange, instead of awkward comedic platitudes. They share a couple of heartfelt, but not generic scenes that made my heart move, and even motivate me. As a balance, sometimes it's the classic dumb bunny vs. clever fox mode, which works, because while they acknowledge the prejudices applied to the other animal, they also acknowledge themselves, like human beings. Other characters get decent development; as a result, there isn't a character that is one-dimensional. These animals have truly evolved from their simple past.

Disney has its fare share of more adult-orientated animated films, but filmmakers in charge of Zootopia had the right idea. If my 9 year old self were to watch this movie, a lot of the jokes would fly over my head, and some of the dialogue would have words unknown to me. Never mind, I'm 24 right now, old and wrinkly, and I had a blast. One adult pop culture reference had me in stitches for a straight minute. I won't spoil it here, but I will say that it's a reference to a classic film. It worked not only because it was well executed, but because the script doesn't say, "Look, here's a pop culture reference, isn't it clever?"

Everything's perfect, except that the viewing experience wasn't sensational or emotionally overwhelming like, for example Wall E or Inside Out, but Pixar is in a league of its own. Another faulty error this film makes is having yet another pop artist I don't care about (Shakira) make an annoying song that contains the overall message. Thus, the lyrics are fine but the music, not so much. Why not use Black Dog or Cat People? However, there is no need to worry, as animated films are getting better and better each year. Maybe when the next film arrives it will end the trend.

I close with hoping that a lot more MoFos get to see Zootopia. Don't judge it by its cover!