There’s a mystery to be solved among the walking and talking animals in Zootopia, another winner from the Walt Disney Animation Studio wing of the Disney company.
The Production: 4/5
There’s a mystery to be solved among the walking and talking animals in Zootopia, another winner from the Walt Disney Animation Studio wing of the Disney company. Big, colorful, and ambitious as each of the new animation projects that have recently emanated from this organization, Zootopia mixes various species of mammals into a world of mostly peaceful but potentially disrupted balance featuring a story with characters we can root for and more than a few surprises, too. There are interesting themes for young and old alike, always the mark of a successful animated endeavor.
Judy Hopps (Della Saba as a child, Ginnifer Goodwin as an adult) has wanted to be a police officer her entire life, and even though the world doesn’t restrict career ambitions for its inhabitants, no rabbit has ever been able to pass the physical requirements to earn a badge, that is, until Judy shows her superiors at the Academy what pluck and determination can do. Even graduating at the head of her class, however, Judy is crushed to be treated with disrespect by her commanding officer Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) who assigns her meter maid responsibilities in Zootopia. When she overhears Mrs. Otterton (Octavia Spencer) begging the chief not to give up on searching for her missing husband, Judy volunteers for the assignment. Bogo makes a deal with Judy: find the missing otter in two days or resign from the force. For assistance, Judy recruits sly street huckster Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) who seems to know everyone in Zootopia and grudgingly agrees (with the help of a little blackmail) to join her where the two find they actually make a great detective team. Judy eventually locates Mr. Otterton, but what she also finds is a conspiracy that could blow the lid completely off the peace and tranquility of the city.
The screenplay by co-director Jared Bush and Phil Johnston offers a delightful and engaging mix of personalities and character types within the eye-popping, expansive world of Zootopia with its different borough habitats and both hilarious and exciting adventures awaiting our sleuthing duo. Having sloths in charge of the Department of Motor Vehicles or a nest of flies buzzing around the head of the yak Yax (Tommy Chong) is simply fall down funny, and while there are a couple of lazy aural and visual references (the Mr. Big sequence straight out of The Godfather is a too-direct and not particularly inspired allusion), for the most part, the storytellers and animators have used wonderfully imaginative ways to get these different sizes and shapes of creatures living and operating within the same world. The core mystery does have a rather novel solution built around a surprisingly apt theme, and there is the expected temporary falling out between the protagonists that one simply knows is coming. Still, the story more than holds our attention, and the animation is astounding throughout. The use of shadows throughout the movie is especially creative fashioning an animated noir that seems dangerous and foreboding, and as always with Disney’s animated features, there are so many charming and unusual peripheral characters who surround our heroes that there are frequently characters and situations to engage us delightfully.
Ginnifer Goodwin makes a very plucky and resourceful Judy Hopps, but the real scene stealer is Jason Bateman’s foxy Nick Wilde. Clever, confident, and very appealing even when pulling off one of his scams, Nick is another of Disney’s sly rogues (think Timothy in Dumbo and Tramp in Lady and the Tramp) who matches up so well with the film’s central hero. Idris Elba is a great, blustery Chief Bogo while Jenny Slate as the downtrodden deputy mayor Bellwether earns our sympathy in her ongoing support of Judy against her superiors who are trying to bring her down. J.K. Simmons is full of hot air as the blowhard Mayor Lionheart, Nate Torrence is the lovably portly desk sergeant, while wonderful actors like Octavia Spencer as the frantic Mrs. Otterton, Bonnie Hunt and Don Lake as Judy’s parents, and Alan Tudyk as the slippery Duke Weaselton add various colors to the inhabitants of the town and its environs.
3D Rating: NA
The film is presented in its original 2.39:1 theatrical aspect ratio and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is exceptional allowing us to see the intricacies of the hair and fur animation on this complex feature. Color is gorgeously appointed with bold hues where necessary (the greens of the Rain Forest habitat come through especially well) but with no bleed or blooming. Black levels are beautifully rich and deep, and contrast has been consistently applied. There is no banding in the image to spoil its consistency. The film has been divided into 22 chapters.
The movie was presented in 3D in theaters, and there are quite a few shots where even in 2D, the depth is impressive, but only the 2D set was sent for review.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound mix offers all of the sophisticated channeling found in today’s most ambitious animated features. Dialogue is wonderfully directional at times and always easily discernible. Michael Giacchino’s background score and songs by Shakira who plays Zootopia’s hit songstress Gazelle get terrific multi-channel treatment. Atmospheric effects likewise permeate the fronts and rears with some impressive deep bass at certain intervals to add heft to the aural package presented here. It’s a reference audio track.
Special Features: 4/5
Research: A True-Life Adventure (9:58, HD): directors Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush and producer Clark Spencer discuss how important it was that they studied animals in enclosed environments and on a road trip in their natural African habitats in designing the world for Zootopia.
The Origin of an Animal Tale (9:15, HD): ): directors Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush, co-writer Phil Johnston, and producer Clark Spencer discuss the six different facets of story arcs they went through during the film’s four-year development from idea to finished product.
Zoology: The Roundtables (18:23, HD): actress Ginnifer Goodwin introduces three sets of crew members : one group who worked on character development who created the drawing, modeling, and texturing of the characters, one which designed and created the environments of Zootopia, and the team of lead animators who brought the characters and their stories to life.
Scoretopia (4:59, HD): Oscar and Emmy-winning composer Michael Giacchino introduces us to a group of percussionists who brought his score to life as we watch behind-the-scenes during the recording sessions.
Z.P.D. Forensic Files (3:23, HD): a funny little featurette dealing with the dozens of Easter eggs planted in the film referencing characters from other Disney animation.
“Try Everything” Music Video (3:21, HD): Shakira performs the song which occurs twice during the movie.
Deleted Characters (3:16, HD): directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore introduce us to inhabitants of Zootopia that didn’t make it into the final movie.
Deleted Scenes (28:03, HD): Byron Howard and Rich Moore introduce seven deleted scenes (some animated, some in pencil sketches) and explain why they were cut. The scenes may be played in montage or separately.
Promo Trailer (HD): Finding Dory.
DVD/Digital Copy: disc and code sheet enclosed in the case.
Zootopia marks another delightful and imaginative feature from Walt Disney Animation Studios, a sly and cunning mystery that comes as close to noir as a Disney animated movie is ever likely to get. Highly recommended!