The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it's a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But when rookie Officer Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn't so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman), to solve the mystery.
Halfway through watching 'Zootopia' in the theater for the first time, my 4-year-old son turned to me and said, "Dad, this is so awesome!" That's as much of a review as most should need.
Disney's early marketing of 'Zootopia' threw people off the scent. Selling the movie with the tagline "Like nothing you've seen be-fur," suggested something unique. Anthropomorphic animals in animation, yes that surely hasn't been done before, ahem, be-fur. However, despite its lame marketing, 'Zootopia' manages to create a beautifully animated world populated by intelligent mammals all the while carrying a storyline that offers up inclusion and acceptance as its core narrative force. It's surprisingly effective to say the least.
The city of Zootopia is a place where evolved mammals roam, predator and prey alike. A delicate truce has formed amongst the two disparate groups, only we're never really given any clue on what the predators eat instead of their neighbors. Anyhow, 'Zootopia' somewhat buries the lede, so to speak. Because one might instantly wonder, "Hey, where are all the reptiles or birds? Was there a great animal war where mammals came out on top?" Unfortunately, this is never dealt with. Perhaps in the sequel.
Though, that's all beside the point. Zootopia is a relatively friendly place, but the balance of power between predator and prey must be kept by the city's police force. Naturally, the police force is populated with large, muscle-bound mammals like oxen, rhinos, and polar bears. That's where Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) comes in.
Hopps is a bunny from a rural carrot farm outside of Zootopia. Her dream is to become a police officer. Unsurprisingly, her dreams are considered far-fetched by everyone including her doubting parents. She's determined though.
Once on the force she finds herself relegated to menial tasks like parking duty. The thinking by those in charge is that a mere bunny simply couldn't handle the rough and tumble world of Zootopia's underbelly. This prejudice remains the core of the movie's message throughout.
Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) is a conniving con-fox. Even though Zootopia has changed the ecological system forever, some genetic tendencies remain. Foxes and rabbits, don't get along. Of course the movie pairs up Hopps and Wilde as they jump head first into a mystery surrounding the disappearance of numerous predators within the city limits.
Zootopia is lushly animated. The entire city is something to behold, and far too grand to take in during such a short runtime. The city is surrounded by a dozen separate ecological systems, housing mammals in regards to their natural habitat. It's a clever idea that provides interesting scene changes and reflection on just how a town like this would work. It's imaginative, fun, and affords endless possibilities for storytelling.
Central to the screenplay's success is how it treats its core message. This is a layered approach to ideals such as acceptance and inclusion. It's not just Hopps who finds herself at the tail-end of societal prejudice. No, it's a systemic problem that affects other mammals in varied ways. It certainly provides a jumping off point for parents and children to talk about such subjects as bullying, tolerance, and the roles we play in society at large.
Yet, in the end the thing that sticks with me most is my son exclaiming, during one of the movie's big chase scenes, that what he was watching was indeed, "awesome!" It's a simple critique, but an accurate one nonetheless.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a two-disc set that comes with a 50GB Blu-ray and also a DVD. There is a code included for Disney's Digital Copy. A standard slipcover is provided.
Yep, it's perfect… er… purrfect (I'm sorry). Disney's 1080p presentation of 'Zootopia' looks marvelous. It's every bit as vibrant and lush as it was on the big screen. It's immaculately detailed while being populated with large-scale visuals. Whether taking in large swaths of Zootopia's numerous ecosystems, or a close up of Judy Hopps' purple eyes, 'Zootopia's picture never disappoints.
The detail in the animation is endless. Hair, fur, and whiskers all move with lifelike precision. They're all easily seen even though there are literally thousands of different moving animal hairs being project on the screen at any one time. When Judy Hopps first arrives in Zootopia the sheer volume of animal detail on display is staggering and yet there isn't ever any sign of fatigue. Banding isn't there. Aliasing isn't there.
What we get is a picture-perfect representation of what 'Zootopia' looked like in theaters. It's wonderfully replicated here as colors pop and fine detail wows. There's not much else to say here other than this is some prime demo material.
Disney's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix is lively, engaging, and encompasses the viewer in the robust world of sound that accompanies 'Zootopia.' It may not be equally impressive as the visuals, but this inclusive mix is definitely no slouch.
Dialogue is always clear and heard perfectly in the front and center speakers, depending on the mix's pinpoint directionality. Panning effects are seamless too. The foot chase Judy gets in with the weasel offers some really great sound effects. As the two mammals hop, sprint, and dart across the miniature rodent city of Little Rodentia, tiny car horns blare, tiny buildings almost fall over. The camera swoops around buildings and the sound travels without hinderance.
Surround channels are also full of life. The side and rear channels offer up much of the movie's varied ambient noise. The musical score is also piped through all surround channels. LFE is constant, whether it's some deep bass during a big chase scene or the thuds from a large mammal walking across the frame, the sub-woofer doesn't get a lot of rest here. Another great mix from Disney. That's about the gist of it.
Research: A True-Life Adventure (HD, 10 min.) – A brief overview of how the filmmakers study the animal kingdom before setting out to make this movie.
The Origin of an Animal Tale (HD, 9 min.) – This is basically a genesis of the film's ideas, themes, characters, and how the project came to the big screen.
Zoology: The Roundtables (HD, 18 min.) – This is a three-part feature that discusses: "Characters," "Environments," and "Animation." There's an introduction from actress Ginnifer Goodwin.
Scoretopia (HD, 5 min.) – A slightly promotional tidbit on how the movie's score was composed.
Z.P.D. Forensic Files (HD, 3 min.) – This is kind of a cool little featurette that covers all the hidden Disney Easter eggs spread throughout the movie.
Music Video (HD, 3 min.) – A music video to go along with Shakira's theme song for the movie, "Try Everything."
Deleted Characters (HD, 3 min.) – Here we get to see a few characters that never made it into the movie as directors Bryon Howard and Rich Moore explain why.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 20 min.) – There's a good wealth of deleted scenes included here. Seven scenes in all. Including an alternate opening for the movie. Each deleted scene includes and optional introduction by Howard and Moore.
I'm still surprised how good 'Zootopia' ended up being. I must admit that I was skeptical the first time Disney started acting like computer-generated talking animal animation was something new. However, they figured out a way to spin it just enough to create something that's well worth family time. This Blu-ray has some stellar video, some very strong audio, and a healthy portion of extras. 'Zootopia' is highly recommended.