Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Zootopia: Breaking Box Office Records for a Reason

By Rebekah Coley

It probably doesn't come as a surprise to anyone when Disney pumps out another instant classic film. Yet, it is not every day that just any animation studio can create a film that truly pushes the boundaries of the expected fare. Such is the case with Disney’s release of Zootopia, which has been running strong in theaters for almost a month since its opening. Find out why Zootopia is not just a must see movie, but one that will leave you with a sense of renewed hope for the future in today's new article...

Zootopia has grossed over $200 million dollars and has even outperformed the opening weekend of Frozen. Yes, that Frozen. While I fully expected to enjoy this movie, I wasn’t prepared to be 100% enraptured and to be prompted to think about the meaning of life for hours afterward. I just couldn’t get enough of this particular movie for one reason: it confirmed that Disney storytelling has finally reached the “Pixar” level of quality. Along with being highly entertaining, the film addresses the distressing truth of a prejudiced society (as seen from both sides of the railroad tracks). Although the messages are told with (mostly) ridiculously cute characters, the underlying message of the film remains prominent... getting along on the playground doesn’t only apply to children. And yet, despite some rather heavy “aha” moments, I left with a sense of renewed hope for the future. Yes, no movie is perfect, but this one may be pretty darn close…

The plot centers around the likeable hero, Judy Hopps, a bunny from a small town who dreams of traveling to the big city and protecting the innocent as a police officer. Determined to see the world through color-blind lenses, Judy goes out of her way to help a predator fox, Nick Wilde, only to find out that he is a first-class con. She later uses this to her advantage and blackmails him into helping her track down a criminal, who is determined to overthrow the Zootopia metropolis.

It is no surprise that Disney films are all starting to feel and appear more like Pixar films, due to the favoritism of computer-animation. (It also doesn’t hurt that John Lasseter is the Chief Creative Officer of all Disney Animation Studios.) Appearances aside, the script of Zootopia seems to hit that special Pixar “niche” where the stories are so… human, despite being told with fuzzy animals or even inanimate objects. It is no secret that Pixar’s groundbreaking animation and exceptional storytelling brought Disney through a very dark couple of years. Starting with their partnership to create Toy Story together in 1995, Pixar continued to produce films with Disney when their major projects included under-performing films like Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons. (I personally feel that some gems were lost in this post-renaissance period of Disney animation, but I’ll resist and stay on topic.) So after years of a beautiful friendship, Disney finally acquired Pixar Animation Studios in 2006 for $7.4 billion dollars. And the rest continues to be history. While recent Disney films like Wreck-It-Ralph and Big Hero 6 were already propelling me towards this conclusion, Zootopia has confirmed that Disney is back and can still create a colossal hit without any princesses. Allow me to elaborate on why this film could be the “game-changer” for the future of Disney Animation.

In addition to the timely and enlightening message, the setting of Zootopia is wickedly clever and goes beyond just giving animals the ability to speak. The city of Zootopia itself is a vast and intricate environment, including several different sub-cities (e.g. the rainforest and tundra sub-sections). And although all types of animals cohabitate the same town, the town itself does not live in complete harmony, as you find out that certain businesses only serve certain types of animals. (For example, there’s an ice cream shop that only serves elephants enormous “elephant-sized sundaes”. Sign me up!) More importantly, there is a clear divide between the strong and the adorable animals. They may work for the same office, but that doesn’t mean they willingly take lunch breaks together. Basically, the effort put into this unique setting far exceeds dressing up animals in clothes and having them slog to their 9 to 5 like normal, ordinary humans.

Secondly, the relatable and well-developed characters take center stage of this masterpiece. Nick Wilde is a stark reminder that many people feel forced into certain roles, and have an apathetic attitude when considering the straight and narrow path. (I, for one, applaud Disney for continuing to address gray areas in their films.) Equally lovable (of course), is Judy. Not only is her character an inspiration for anyone who has ever broken the glass ceiling at work or went into a field that is considered beyond their limitations, her initial woes speak to anyone who remembers their first job. How many people show up to their first “real” job expecting to change the world, only to find out that they will be filing paperwork and fetching coffee? (We feel your pain Judy.) The two main players are so incredibly genuine. A far cry from the woodland creatures who sit at the feet of Snow White.

Lastly, Zootopia finds that perfect balance between entertaining children and amusing their parents. The stunning animation and humorous moments will delight the kids, but the adults will be satisfied by the pokes made at the tap-dancing government and (naturally) the DMV. This film incorporates many other beloved pop references as well, without reaching Robin William-status or being so inappropriate, you question buying this movie for your toddler. Essentially, this is truly a movie that will reach all audience members (even those who have sworn off animated films should give this one a go.)

Although I still find myself mourning the loss of 2-D animation, I have to be honest with myself. If Zootopia is any indication for the future of Disney films, the future is bright. The future is very bright indeed.


Rebekah Coley is a Pittsburgh native who has been obsessing over Disney films (and the corporation in general) for her entire life. Starting with a childhood of constantly dressing up in princess costumes, memorizing songs, and watching the newest Disney VHS tapes on repeat, her love and passion for Disney magic has not faded over time.

In addition to loving the most popular Disney movies, Rebekah has a soft spot for underrated works that didn’t receive the same fanfare (e.g. A Goofy Movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc.) It is a passion of hers to remind other fans of their existence and excellence.

By day, Rebekah works in professional development and holds a Bachelors degree in Human Resources Management from Point Park University. By night, she performs in community theater musicals, reads and exercises compulsively, and strives to stay on top of any Disney-related news. As a lover of entertainment, Rebekah’s blogs focus on reviewing Disney’s theme park productions, stage adaptations, films, and books.

You can find additional examples of Rebekah’s work on her personal blog-

You can find all of Rebekah's articles here.

1 comment:

  1. Nice article. I was surprised how much I liked this movie. The DMV trailer sold me to go see it and then, like everyone apparently, found it funny, charming and even thought provoking. It's very timely in our current culture obviously too.

    I know they're already calling for a sequel... while I love the main characters, the environment they established could create countless stories and characters.