Zootopia: Disney Addresses the Elephant in the Room

Guilty Pleasure | Claudia Rojas | March 10, 2016

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Disney Studios released Zootopia last Friday, March 4th.

Prior to the movie’s release, Disney spoofed up several of the movie’s posters with references to this year’s winning Oscars Nominated movies with titles like “Mr. Big Short”, “Bridge of Sloths”, and “The Hibernant.”

Does Lucky Chomps cereal and Carrot iPhone with FaceTime ring a bell? The film alludes to the real world in these and many more small and a-moose-ing details—the animal puns are icing on the cake.

Zootopia has habitable regions for all its creatures, from the small rats to the cool polar bears, but it’s the mammalian metropolis of Savanna Central that may most feel like home.

It’s like seeing ourselves through those characters walking out of Targoat and the infamous, DMV (Department of Mammal Vehicles).

Savanna Central Photo: (USAToday)

Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, is a bunny from rural Bunnyburrow with dreams of fulfilling her police officer training in Zootopia. Judy’s struggles become our own. She is a hero as much as an ordinary citizen: a young employee striving to gain respect in the workplace and a rabbit wanting to outlive stereotypes against her species.

Film directors, Byron Howard and Rich Moore, and co-director, Jared Bush, collaborated in such an intense manner that Judy’s taught us to think twice before calling a bunny cute. In a Los Angeles Times review, Moore speaks about the molding of the characters, saying “So maybe in the world of Zootopia it should be that sometimes they are cliche, sometimes they aren’t. That gives us that gray that better reflects our world.”


Zootopia is a paw-full of surprises and generalities: a bold rabbit, a con-artist fox, a huggable cheetah, a fierce buffalo.

We find Judy settling in her new home, a small apartment with unapologetic, loud neighbors. She hesitantly decides to carry Fox-Spray on her first day of work. Chief Bogo, voiced by Idris Elba, assigns her to Parking Ticket duty though Judy soon finds an opportunity to work in the case of a missing mammal. In one of several plot twists, Judy finds that a sly fox, Nick Wilde, voiced by Jason Bateman, is the perfect partner in her adventure to prove herself and locate the missing mammal.

“So maybe in the world of Zootopia it should be that sometimes they are cliche, sometimes they aren’t. That gives us that gray that better reflects our world.” – Rich Moore

Shakira makes an appearance through her character, Gazelle, a pop-star that loves diversity and shows Zootopian citizens that celebrities aren’t beyond activism. At seeing Gazelle’s figure in early stages, Shakira requested directors to give Gazelle “some meat” because she was too skinny (way to go, girl!).

The social commentaries embedded in the film are stress-free to watch with the comic duo of Judy and Nick.

On opening-weekend, audiences didn’t fail to react and Disney made about $73.7 million. Zootopia‘s 1 hour and 48 minute running time is a record-breaker as Disney’s longest non-anthology film. There are moments suspenseful enough to nearly spring out of one’s seat, emotional enough to hold one’s breath to listen in closely, and unexpected enough to let out a howl of laughter.

Actor Eric Johnson tweets Trump:

Someone can’t handle all the feels:

Though Zootopia is a family film, IMDb Parental Guide cites nudity, sex, and profanity that appear in small doses and violence that plays a significant role in the plot. Children will notice a bullying scene early on. That is in fact the world children live in today.


In presenting modern problems with prejudice and coexistence, Disney’s addressing the elephant in the room for young and old audiences.

The preys and predators of Zootopia make mistakes. They don’t have life all figured out. Sometimes, in the words of one Zootopian citizen, they’re “ignorant and irresponsible and small-minded.” Zootopia is a genuine and optimistic representation of everything our world is and can hope to be.

In Disney-fashion, attentive viewers will notice an allusion to its next film, Moana, in theaters in November.

Until then, Zootopia deserves two viewings: for the visual fun and for the intellectual work.

Featured Image: “Poster art for ‘Zootopia’” via Fandango