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Tuesday
Mar292016

A "Zootopia" Top Ten

We've never even discussed Zootopia! What's wrong with us? (Don't answer) What follows is an off the cuff top ten. But consider this intro a number eleven plus: the joy of the movie is that it's not frontloaded at all continuing to offer delights all the way up to its concert finale in its fleet 108 minutes. So don't let this list feel complete: share your favorite things about it in the comments.

(This is assuming you loved it because everyone seems to)

TOP 10 DELIGHTFUL THINGS ABOUT "ZOOTOPIA"

10 Size Matters (in Comedy)
Lt. Judy Hopps, our heroine, would argue that it doesn't but it does. The animators and writers and filmmakers spin multiple jokes from the disparity in size of so many of the characters. And they've really worked the scale out. Few images in the movie radiated more comic bliss then watching a parade of conformist lemmings lining up for hundreds of miniature sweets made from one elephant sized dessert scoop.

09 Bunny Jokes
That throwaway line "your 275 brothers and sisters" and Judy's sly math joke later on "we're good at multiplying!"

8 more after the jump...

08 Jenny Slate (and Other Voices)
Though TFE will always wish animated movies wouldn't rely so heavily on celebrity casts (two of the greatest voice performances of all time -- Pat Carrol as Ursula and Eleanor Audley as Maleficent -- could never have happened in our current movie climate) but they've found a good balance here. My personal favorite in terms of vocal work is Jenny Slate's squeaky fluster as the Assistant Mayor Bellwether but the actors are doing uniformly good work.

07 "What's with the howling?"

06 Gazelle's Concert
When I first saw an image of the tigers surrounding a shapely gazelle I assumed they were hungrily devouring with her eyes. In motion it's a different feeling entirely as expected lascivious tigers are transformed into muscle bound fey backup dancers like something from an actual pop diva's concert. (Do we think "Try Everything" will factor into the Best Original Song race?")

05 Multi-tasking Spoofs
When Judy joins the police force and her gruff leader Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) shouts out assignments to his officers, saving something inconsequential for Judy who has yet to prove herself, it conjures images of a thousand police procedurals but it's hardly the only familiar trope being gently twisted in this warm comedy: the most obvious spoof is of The Godfather but there are plenty such moments. 

04 Story is Everything
Even if you removed the state of the art animation and replaced it with something cruder, even if they'd made major missteps in voice casting, even if it was missing half its jokes, Zootopia would still be a fun sit. The detective story if actually engaging. It's simple enough to follow (for kids) but complicated enough to offer both genuine surprises and silly amusing detours that aren't only for laughs, and all the scenes build toward satisfying character arcs. 

03 DMV
I couldn't believe they went with such an aggressive stereotype joke (Sloths as slow DMV workers) in a movie about overcoming stereotypes but the sheer commitment of the roasting is awesome. As jokes about commonly held stereotypes go it's almost on the Avenue Q's "Everyone's a little bit racist" level. And that poor anxious pig trying to hold her smile for her driver's license photo had me guffawing. This gif above is a lie because it's sped up but the scene is great precisely for how long they dare to let it run. 

02 Economy of World Building
So many blockbuster entertainments on screens large and small trip themselves up with exposition in an effort to help us understand the fantasy unfolding. Zootopia gets it all out of the way with two swift sequences, one funny and one beautiful: The first is the opening scene when baby Judy (soooo cute) play acts the founding of Zootopia with schoolmates when predators and prey left their old ways behind to live in peace together; the second is her gorgeous train journey to the city of Zootopia itself which conveys the idea of different climates and neighborhoods within neighborhoods for all creatures, great and small. Just the way human cities work really... minus the climate changes.

01 Judy (Ginnifer Goodwin) & Nick's (Jason Bateman) Friendship
Zootopia has won a lot of praise for it's thematic timeliness, taking aim at racism, prejudice and the beauty of unity through diversity. (Though, really, when have these themes not been necessary and timely? *sigh*) As a message movie it's not particularly subtle but the all ages ready lesson of getting to know someone before reducing them to stereotypes and looking past biology to actual individual character is damn beautiful. I particularly love the scene where Judy and Nick square off about his ethically shady work. You think he's outsmarted her at first until she whips out extra paperwork. She's no dumb bunny. 

The climactic scene where you fear Nick will go feral on his friend is frightening in direct measure to how earned the friendship feels by the end of the movie.

Your turn. What did you think of Disney's new hit? 

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Reader Comments (20)

Glad you singled out that train sequence. The movie's a blast, but that scene shows how much it's also a sneaky and well-done sci-fi. Zootopia (the city) is such an imaginative and engagingly designed space.

March 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoe K

It's a better movie than The Lego Movie, but, sorry, Try Everything just isn't nearly as good as Everything is Awesome. Nomination is probable because of hit status, but no one's going to be bummed over it's loss. Still, I believe someone with that personality and dress sense would listen to that song. (No, I'm still not over the idea of how someone who acts like, and with the fashion sense of, Evan Peters' Quicksilver is choosing to listen to something as mellow as Time in a Bottle in 1973. Seriously, Singer: If it was about the song? Keep him in the headphones and put a radio in the shot. (It keeps the idea he's ALSO listening to music, but that what you're hearing and what he's hearing are probably not in sync.) If it's about him wearing headphones? Change the song to something King Crimson or Captain Beefheart. (Yes, I'm asking a mainstream movie to have, maybe, blasted the audience with Moonlight on Vermont or 21st Century Schizoid Man.) If, meanwhile, Singer wants to say that he's listening to this song? Change the costume and characterization to fit someone who'd listen to...THAT.)

March 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

That's a bad song.

March 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

I personally loved "Try Everything". It is a little corny, but it really matches the optimism of the film.

March 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

I LOVE this movie and Nick is the sexiest animated fox since Robin Hood. I know that sounds weird BUT HE IS.

March 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSteph Bello

I still have to catch up to this. My favorite thing is that my 3yo niece refers to it by its full title of DISNEY'S ZOOTOPIA

March 29, 2016 | Registered CommenterChris Feil

If you don't like the song I tend to think you're probably a cynic...or a music snob.

March 29, 2016 | Unregistered Commentertonytr

Could someone tell me if the sloth scene in the film is any different from the scene theaters showed in front of "The Good Dinosaur" and "Star Wars" last year? If so, that kind of spoils it.

March 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

tonytr: I'm far from "hating" Try Everything, (as I said, it's probably a nominee on hit status alone and deserves that), but I also doubt even it's most ardent fans are going to be that bummed over it losing like, say, the ardent fans of Everything Is Awesome were over that song's loss to Glory from Selma.
Jonathan: Yes. And it was a dumb decision.

March 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

A movie with a socially relevant message on racism that hits harder than most 'adult' films, not to mention with 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. Are we underestimating this film's chances of getting a Best Picture nomination?

http://conmanatthemovies.com/2016/03/27/why-zootopia-could-contend-for-best-picture-a-reviewanalysis/

March 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterConMan

My favorite aspect of <I>Zootopia - it's a cop-out answer, but a little of everything Nathaniel mentioned, really. Based on what I've observed over the years, no animated film from Disney (excluding Pixar productions) has ever been so brilliant while relying primarily on its script (i.e., most of Disney's animated classics are musicals).

On ConMan's point, I can totally see it getting in for a BP nod if Disney bothers to push it. But that likely depends on what happens with <I>Finding Dory (I'm expecting it to disappoint, but you never know), Moana (it'll be seen as a "disappointment" if it isn't the next Frozen), and <I>The Light Between Oceans (I've no clue).

As for "Try Everything," it's very cliché, but the two sequences that use the song totally work, and it goes along perfectly with Judy's narrative of perseverance.

That said, I just bought the song a few hours ago, so... *shrugs*

March 29, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterDonovan W.

Having seen this at the weekend (it's Zootropolis over here in the UK) I can say I love this film!!!! So much fun, I left the cinema as high as a kite. Favourite things, other than everything in your great list Nathaniel: the overall character of Judy and how also how expressive her ears are, Breaking Bad and Frozen references, adorable Clawhauser and the fact that he is an overweight cheetah plus that fanboy shot of him at the finale concert is everything. Also I LOVE Try Everything and will be thrilled if its nominated.

March 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterChrisD

You pretty much nailed everything I loved about the film. The world building (the train ride/entering the city sequence is superb), the thematic and timely elements, the wonderful lead characters, and the smart storytelling. And to speak more to the last part, the storytelling, a much lesser film would've ended it on the discovery of the missing animals. But they didn't and then that press conference happened... and it's like YES MORE!

March 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

LOVED. And finally a legitimate mystery movie for kids! I am always clamoring for quality mysteries and this fit the bill. The movie references within were phenomenal.

March 30, 2016 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

LOVED IT, TOO. favorite things:
6. Hunky tiger dancers
5. the writing
4. all the tiny animals and their tiny train doors :)
3. Judy and Nick and their character arc
2. Clawhauser
1. Sloth DMV

March 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRicopolo

I seriously did not expect to love Zootopia as much as I did. So damn entertaining! And tho I guess the twist wasn't all that original or even shocking, it was still clever.

Try Everything is pretty awful as a standalone song lol but in relation to the movie, it's pretty perfect I think.

March 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Loved the [obviously gay] security guard that was a Gazelle super fan lol. And the Godfather mobster mouse. Just so much entertainment in one movie. I will have a different answer depending on when you ask me.

March 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

It's fantastic - my favorite animated feature since the first Kung Fu Panda, which also coincidentally deals with themes of diversity and stereotype. Animated feature nom is a shoe-in, and it has to be the front-runner unless something else comes along (Moana, Sing) that makes voters forget it. Beyond AF it will need to show up on a lot of end year lists and be a real threat in screenplay.

March 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

The movie is the best movie of the year
I love the Sloth character.
I love Nick Wilde and Judy Hobbs
Try Everything is a good song.

March 30, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

If you have not watched Zootopia, be sure to look here http://putlockers.watch/
Very cool!

August 9, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterann

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