Disney, Opinions

Disney Canon Countdown 55: ‘Zootopia’

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We’re only two days away from Moana hitting theaters. And after reviewing 54 Disney Animated Movies, we’ve reached Zootopiawhich came out a mere 8 months ago. The movie is directed by Byron Howard (Tangled), Rich Moore (Wreck-It-Ralph) and co-directed by Jared Bush, who also wrote the screenplay with Phil Johnston. They are all members of Disney’s “Story Trust,” a group of creative people that work together to bring us much joy and entertainment. And Zootopia is proof that the animation studio has a special group of people in its hands, as it’s a big success for them. Let’s dig in to see why!

Originally conceived as an international spy movie in the vein of James Bond, the story slowly evolved into more of a noir film/police procedural with con-artist Nick Wilde at its center. But after struggling for some time, the filmmakers decided in 2014 that the optimistic Judy Hopps should be the protagonist, changing the focus of the story and causing so many changes that Bush had to be called in to co-direct just to handle all the work needed to get the movie back on track.

Luckily for us, they all nailed it. The final movie is a perfect blend of humor, adventure, drama, mystery and theme. Zootopia is a perfect example of how to show a new world and its intricacies while never losing track of character. It also benefits from smart writing and a plethora of great supporting players that surround the main pair.


Let us take a moment to appreciate great supporting characters: These two make me tear up without ever speaking a word, for example.

We’ve got Chief Boggo, my favorite of Idris Elba’s three Disney voice acting performances in 2016, the Godafther inspired Mr. Big, and the hilarious sloths, just to name a few. What makes them shine is that each of these characters, no matter how small, gets a little moment to make them feel real to us, something many movies forget to do. We see Chief Boggo playing with the Gazelle app, for example, and those few seconds earn a laugh but also add a whole different dimension to the character. It’s details like this that make the difference between a decent movie and a great one.

Of course, no matter how many details you have, your movie is not going to work unless the central characters shine and both Officer Hopps and Nick are a joy to see together, in my opinion. We get who Judy is very quickly, seeing how she’s driven by passion and how nothing can stop her in the short prologue. Then it’s all nailed down by the montage of her police training. If the world tells Judy Hopps she can’t do something, then she does it anyway if she wants to.

Then we get introduced to the enormously fun Nick Wilde, all sarcasm and cool detachment. Their dynamic is the movie’s greatest strength and the constant evolving of their relationship is my favorite thing about the film. We see them as rivals, forced allies, potential partners, broken and alone, and finally working together as a perfect odd couple team. It’s very clear Byron Howard is amazing at handling these types of relationships when you look at Tangled, that also features a passionate optimistic heroine paired with a cool criminal that pretends to not care.

For more Passionate Heroine and Con-Artist pairs, please refer to this Disney Classic.

For more Passionate Heroine and Con-Artist pairs, please refer to this Disney Classic.

But unlike the also fantastic musical, Zootopia’s central relationship isn’t romantic. This continues the trend we’ve been seeing in Disney movies like Wreck-It Ralph or Frozen, where the most important relationship is a friendship. It looks like Moana will do the same with their title character and Maui. And while I have nothing against love stories (read about my unending love for the Tangled lantern scene here), it’s nice to see friendships get the focus and love they deserve too.

Lin-Manuel-Miranda-Dwayne Johnson

Can’t wait for Disney’s movie about this friendship. What can I say, except “you’re welcome” for the idea?

And although friendship is a big part of Zootopia, the main theme here is discrimination, stereotyping and inclusion. These are all handled extremely well and every time I’ve seen the movie with someone else I’ve ended up having interesting conversations afterwards. And a movie that inspires conversations about its themes is a movie worth celebrating. Especially when the theme is that you can be anything you want, regardless of species or gender.

Which leads me to “Try Everything,” the song featured in the movie and sung by Gazelle. I have heard the song four times in my life, each of the four times I’ve seen the movie. I’ve cried every single time. You see, Gazelle is voiced by Shakira who is Colombian, just as me. And anyone who knows me will testify to my deep love for Disney movies. My biggest dream is to one day write a Disney movie. But being an aspiring screenwriter and filmmaker is hard. Especially when you’re not from the United States.

So hearing the voice of a fellow Colombian in such a fantastic Disney movie has an effect on me that I can’t describe. She might be a global superstar, but she was born in the same country as me. And every time Gazelle sings and speaks, I can’t help but being overcome by emotion and excitement and hope. Because if one Colombian managed to get themselves in a Disney movie, then surely I can too. I just have to keep trying. We all do. Because we can be anything we want.

So, did I love Zootopia? Yes. Yes I did. Would I like to hear your thoughts on it? Yes, I would.

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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About Pablo Ruiz

Pablo Ruiz is a Colombian filmmaker. Movies like Toy Story, The Lion King and Aladdin made him fall in love with the art form and now he hopes to dedicate his life to telling stories, hopefully for Pixar (if they go back to doing original films). Some of his ambitions are making a movie as emotionally impacting as Toy Story 3, meeting JK Rowling, and petting a million dogs. Follow him on Twitter (@PabloRV7).
  • Dimitris Koliniatis

    I would also like to point out Ginnifer Goodwin’s (Once Upon A Time) phenomenal work as Judy! She nailed it !

    • PabloRuiz7

      Yes! Her and Jason Bateman give such great performances.

    • Dan Siciliano

      Hear hear!!

  • Great article, and a fun read! I think you managed to hit all the reasons that make Zootopia such a great film. It’s nice to see Disney making such a variety of films, while keeping the quality top notch. This is one of my favorite “non-musical” Disney movies from some of their more recent releases. Picking one of my favorite Disney musicals is a tough one. How can you pick between such Disney classics like Tangled or Anastasia? Not sure, but since Tangled has the lantern scene, I’m going to have to go with that one. 😉

  • Dan Siciliano

    One of my top seven favorite Disney movies, hands down, along with films such as “Fantasia” and “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”. In my opinion, this film is like “Wreck-It Ralph” combined with “Robin Hood”.

  • Rachel Wagner

    We did it! The countdown is done. Great write up. Zootopia is amazing Disney fable and one of best non-musicals Disney ever has made

    • Manuel Orozco

      I didn’t think Zootopia was great. Maybe semi great

  • Manuel Orozco

    Zootopia was as good as Tangled and Frozen combined! Beneath its vibrant animation and fun characters, the movie posses a surprisingly thought provocative message that reflects the media’s desperation for diversity that continues to this day. I have to agree not focusing on a romantic relationship was quite refreshing. Also, Cheif Bogo’s Let It Go joke was a little bit unnecessary. One more thing, Anastasia is not a Disney movie.

    • Lennon Surcot

      Okay so you said you didn’t think the movie was great in a reply then one minute latter you praised it?

      • Manuel Orozco

        Just my opinion

        • Lennon Surcot

          Huh? That didn’t at all answer my question.

          Regardless if you didn’t like the film you are indeed entitled to it! Just don’t expect very many to agree with you as the overwhelming majority did enjoy this film.

          • Manuel Orozco

            I did like it i didn’t love it. There is a tiny bit of a difference

          • Lennon Surcot

            Thank you for the clarification. 🙂

          • Manuel Orozco

            Your welcome

  • Lennon Surcot

    Zootopia is a fantastic film and for once the critics and box office agree!

    Having already won both the Hollywood Film Award and a BAFTA last night I’d say expect to see this film strike gold many more times this award season!

    • Manuel Orozco

      It is fantastic indeed. Again, I really liked the movie but I didn’t love it.

  • Zootopia was the first Disney film I saw in theatres upon its release (I know late to the party) and it was fabulous! Judy and Nick make such a fantastic duo, and I really love the world building.

  • I was genuinely surprised with this film. I knew it would be good, but I was not expecting it to hit all of the tones and themes that it did. The surprising villain thing is becoming a bit of a trend, but everything in the film was nice enough. Disney was on a good start this year with the film.

    • Manuel Orozco

      I hope the surprise villain things stops with Moana. Other than that, I agree Luckily I was ready for the effort being put into Zootopia.

      • Me too. If it continues, it would be the 5th consecutive film.

        • Manuel Orozco

          Actually in my perspective 4th since King Candy being the villain didn’t surprise me even a little bit.

          • King Candy is definitely debatable to many people, so I kind of hesitated with adding it to that label.

          • Manuel Orozco

            Didn’t occur to me at all. I just figured he wasn’t a surprise since from the start he wanted Vannelope out of the picture. Plus I don’t find him that sympathetic of a villain.

          • PabloRuiz7

            Well, King Candy was obviously the villain but we didn’t know he was Turbo, did we? =)

          • Manuel Orozco

            No we didn’t

    • Same here. The general thought was that Moana would be the big Disney film of 2016, an instant classic, and Zootopia would just be that other film that Disney put out. The trailers weren’t all that impressive. But man, were we proven wrong.

      • I am still in the middle about Moana, and not that excited. Maybe it was the Twitter reference that threw me off.

        • Manuel Orozco

          I’m going to wait until DVD to see Moana

        • Jeremiah

          My gosh, curse that twitter reference. Everyone talks about it, even people who were excited before. Apparently referencing twitter is the one thing fans cannot take. 🙂

  • I love the impact this movie is having on people who aren’t even huge fans of animation (like not as big as everyone on Rotoscopers lol) like at my school we always talk about Zootopia when it comes to the changing times and I think I love this movie more just by how the impact it has is so great and refreshing especially coming from Disney
    Love the world, characters, story, after a few viewings this is definitely one of the bests from Disney that isn’t formulaic (fairy tale and musical wise) :))))

  • aquapyro

    Ah Zootopia, a flim that no one wanted at first/weren’t interested at first but became Disney’s biggest surprise and 2nd highest grossing animated film from that studio.

    • Jeremiah

      I know. I saw the first trailer and thought, “What is this? A Disney buddy-cop movie?” But it looked like, just maybe, they were going to take the idea of anthropomorphic animals to new heights and really explore how they would live different lives and what a city for them would be like. I hoped and hoped, and it was what I hoped and it was glorious.

  • In my opinion, easily the best Disney film of this “2nd Renaissance” so far. Fantastic characters, fantastic animation, and a setting that’s truly creative. The best part was
    the story. Zootopia discussed relevant, complicated, and even somewhat controversial topics. And it did it in a mature, respectful way that still allowed for some great comedy and overall fun. My only criticism was all the pop culture references. They were fun, but will become dated over time. Overall, I didn’t expect much from this. The trailers were nothing special. But man, Zootopia blew me away! An absolutely amazing movie.

  • Míriam

    Great article, Pablo! We’d all love to see you in a Disney movie! 🙂

  • aLeC m.

    Okay, I’m going to admit it. I don’t love Zootopia as much as everybody else. I really love the things it has to say about our society and the characters are fantastic. But I feel like it didn’t take me on an experience like other animated films that came out this year like KP3, Kubo, or Boy and the Beast. I would probably give like four stars.

  • Jeremiah

    That’s the end? Awww, it’s been so fun. But that brings us to today, with Disney in another Hey-Day. I didn’t really grow up thinking much of new Disney movies, they usually disappointed. So I think I speak for many when I say I’m getting delayed childhood, and discovering animation isn’t for kids at all. Disney is for everyone.

  • experiment626

    I have to point out the irony of a movie which focuses on the evils of stereotypes yet Br.Big and the Zootopia Mob Family are all played using stereotypes.
    But I did really like Zootopia and agree that Shakira’s Try Everything was one of the best Disney songs.