In an alternate universe, animals live on their own without any people. These animals have a deep history of predator versus prey being the ruling factor. Over time, however, they learn to live together. Zootopia gives us an inside look of one bunny’s story, a story of hope for a better world. Judy Hopps, the main character of this film, wants to be the first rabbit cop. She surpasses everyone’s expectations and achieves her wildest dream. Through her story, she teaches us more about ourselves through her discovery of herself.
Although Zootopia is advertised as a “kiddie film,” it seems that it serves a deeper purpose than to be aesthetically pleasing to children. It teaches children, and people of all ages, about the dangers of passing judgment based on stereotypes.
Zootopia is a very special story. In the beginning, we see a younger Judy Hopps speaking freely at a talent show of her wish to be a police officer in the city of Zootopia, where “anyone can be anything” (Zootopia).
The city of Zootopia is made up of different ecosystems to support different species of animals, where they all live harmoniously. Some of these ecosystems include Tundratown, Savanna Central, and the Rainforest District. Judy works very hard toward her goal and graduates from the Police Academy at the top of her class. However, due to lack of faith in her, the Zootopia Police Department Chief sticks her as a meter maid on her first day of duty. In attempt to prove herself, she volunteers to find a missing otter, who is just one of fourteen missing animals in Zootopia. The chief gives her only 48 hours to complete this task. In her search, she finds and surprisingly recruits a fox named Nick Wilde as a partner on this mission. They run into some trouble and things begin to get rough when there seems to be issues with certain predators. This leads to a momentary tear in the idea of all animals living together in peace. However, Judy and Nick get to the bottom of the big mystery and save Zootopia from its momentary crisis.
The plot of Zootopia is a lot thicker than it seems. It tackles some very important and relevant issues. Katelynn McIlwain highlights these issues in Teen Ink. She summarizes Zootopia’s plot into three main themes: the stigma currently against police, racial stereotyping, and being who you want to be despite what society tries to tell you. She brings up the rise in police brutality in recent years. She also mentions that although police brutality is bad, the majority of police officers do want to make the world a better place. This is the embodiment of Judy Hopps. When we see her as a child in the movie, she boldly states at her school’s talent show: “And I can make the world a better place; I am going to be… a police officer!” (Zootopia). McIlwain also writes about the stereotyping in Zootopia and how it greatly reflects racial stereotyping today. The biggest conflict of the movie comes around when a plan is made to turn “prey” against “predators” after all the hard work to ensure that everyone can live together peacefully. On a smaller scale, we see dialogue between characters that deal with stereotyping. For instance, there is a dialogue between Judy and a fellow officer, Clawhauser, in which he calls her cute. She responds “you probably didn’t know, but a bunny can call another bunny ‘cute’, but when other animals do it, that’s a little…” and Clawhauser cuts her off with a huge apology before she can finish (Zootopia,). According to McIlwain, the third theme is the most important one in this entire movie. She writes that “there is no person or stereotype that should tell who you are or what you can be” (McIlwain). This is an extremely crucial point to show in a movie aimed towards a younger audience. This teaches an important lesson that you can understand better the earlier you learn it. Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde represent this lesson through their character development in the movie.
Kevin Lally seems to agree that Zootopia holds important life lessons. He mentions that this movie is a “rare animated feature children and adults will enjoy equally, one that works on multiple levels of both thematic sophistication and pure fun” (Lally). He also agrees that this movie reflects the stereotyping in our reality. He mentions that the fact that the main character, Judy Hopps, is trying to be taken seriously as a cop is an obstacle we want to see her overcome.
Nathan Poppe fits right in with seeing the message of the movie as embracing our differences. He says this film welcomes diversity. However, Poppe doesn’t necessarily seem as enthusiastic as others. He says that Zootopia “plays up the differences between predator and prey,” and that sometimes it seems the message is being put out a little too strong (Poppe). Poppe also shares Lally’s opinion that children and adults will love this movie, going even deeper and mentioning some movies referenced in this movie that many adults will recognize. Poppe describes Zootopia as a movie with an “old soul,” and hopes it’s the beginning of something amazing in Disney.
The film Zootopia is incredible in every aspect, from the music to the plot. Everything about it makes it the perfect kids’ movie. The animation is amazing, as well as the voice actors. It is so well constructed. It teaches such an important lesson to its viewers, and it shows us the dangers of passing judgment on people based on stereotypes. Zootopia is the perfect way to get this message across to kids, especially those living in homes where tolerance for everyone is not important or clearly expressed. Judy Hopps, our main protagonist, even shows us a bit of falter in her seemingly-unbiased personality when the conflict with the predators began. She tried to tell Nick he couldn’t become “savage” because he’s not that kind of predator. This was an obviously insensitive thing to say but it shows us that even the nicest of people could be guilty of passing judgments based on stereotypes.
These stereotypes can also affect how we see ourselves. In an important moment of learning about Nick the fox, we see a flashback from his childhood. In the flashback, he was being bullied for being a predator, and the children bullying him were saying he could never be anything but a sneaky fox that can’t be trusted. He recounts that he learned two things that day: never to let anyone see that they are getting to you, and if that the world is only going to see him as a bad fox, then that’s what he should be. His friendship with Judy greatly helps him because her overall trust in him makes him start to believe in himself more. This leads to him becoming the first ever fox cop.
The other underlying message of this film also serves a great purpose, which would be to always go after your dreams. No matter who or what you come from, you should always go after your dreams. This is important to learn as a child so that as you grow you believe this more and more. Zootopia is an amazing movie that educates those that are going to grow up and lead the world we currently live in.