Zootopia (2016)

(In French, Video on Demand, June 2016) Disney’s Animated Studios post-Bolt renaissance is further strengthened with this latest entry in their filmography. Zootopia fully takes advantage of the possibilities of today’s cutting-edge computer animation to revel in its anthropomorphic vision. The prospect of a mystery set in a city filled with talking mammals is so obvious that it’s a bit of a wonder why it hadn’t been attempted so far, but Zootopia goes beyond the obvious cute-animal gags to deliver a surprisingly relevant story revolving around prejudice and self-fulfillment. A few comic set-pieces work well, but Zootopia does have enough substance to please the parents while the kids have fun with the cartoons. (Beware, though, that some of the darkest sequences may be a bit too intense for younger audiences.) The world sketched here is expansive and compelling—there seems to be a lot of potential for sequels and spin-offs. Still, what we see here though the likable Judy Hopps is bursting with energy and invention, with surprisingly sophisticated moral commentary on the corrosive nature of populism and prejudice. I wasn’t expecting emerging-Nazism metaphors to creep into my Disney cartoons, but there we are and the result is fit to make adults just as enthusiastic about Zootopia as the little kids loving the cute animals. While I could have shortened some of the more obvious moments (Hopps’ impromptu media briefing seems like a notable misfire in an otherwise deftly handled film, although I’m not too crazy about the excruciating sloth sequence), Zootopia is a big hit with broad cross-appeal and it deserves all the good press it got.

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