July 20th, 2016
Zootopia‘s differentiated animal society is a rich allegory that reflects issues of race, gender, and disability. Every element is anchored around these theme and it injects a sense of dynamism, variety, and depth that I don’t think I’ve seen in any animated movies before.
- Typecasting is natural in Zootopia‘s world because the animals are different species, yet the film is a commentary on issues of race, gender, and disability among humans, one species. This is an incredibly rich dynamic which the movie explores deeply through both its story and the details of its world. At the same time, it’s also a potential minefield for those writing about the movie.
- Is racism equivalent to speciesism? Is speciesism okay because there are strong biological differences between animals? Is segregation in employment okay if some animals are inherently better at doing some tasks than other animals? Is there more discrimination in the human world than the animal world? Is the difference between predators and prey in a animal world a comment on the eugenics movement? One of the reasons why Zootopia asks such challenging and interesting questions is because the animal world and the human world are not easily comparable.
- One of the reasons why it’s not easy to compare Zootopia and the human world is because Zootopia is equally as happy to satisfy traditional roles in the human world as it is to subvert them. The police force is full of masculine types (predators), while administrative roles are given to feminine types (prey), yet it is suggested that Officer Clawhauser, an overweight tiger (predator) who mans the front desk, is gay. Clawhauser’s role in helping the protagonists capture the villain is also far more significant than the more masculine characters. Finnick, Mr. Big, and Yax also have subversive character traits.
- Jude’s comments at the press conference and Nick’s reaction serve to demonstrate the power of language and how the taken-for-granted mindset can often undermine our own values. This scene was the highlight of the movie. Everything afterwards was simply going through the motions. Given the tone of the movie, I would have preferred a more unconventional third act over the stock “heroes defeat unexpected evil villain” trope.
- I loved the subtle examples of differentiated design, such as the smoothie stalls with the mini elevators that ship drinks up to the giraffes. Zootopia, as a world where diversity has been consistent through its history, offers us a potential glimpse at what a future society which caters to individual difference would look like.
- The range of animal types offer a great deal of visual and thematic dynamism to the movie, especially the differences in the size of the animals. The donut scene in the mouse village is an excellent example of contrasting worlds within the same city.
- I love the narrative cohesion and symbolism created through the “It’s called a hustle” line, which represents the power relations between the main characters. Nick tricks a naïve Jude, Jude outsmarts Nick, and the pair then work together to catch the villain.
- I don’t think we saw any monkeys in the film.