I typically never desire animated sequels. More often than not, there is little reason to revisit their characters or the fictional world they inhabit. “Zootopia” bucks that trend with some of the best world-building this side of Avatar’s gargantuan release in 2009. It’s beautiful, it’s elaborate, multi-layered, all that stuff. More importantly, Disney has taken a film noir with animals and turned it into a shrewd racial allegory that tackles a number of issues ranging from cultural stereotypes to political corruption.
Yes, “Zootopia” has a message, but the filmmakers here work it seamlessly throughout, never hitting you over the head or stating the obvious for all to see. It’s also not the least bit naive, as evidenced by a closing monologue voicing the realities of a complex, evolving society like our own. Jason Bateman and Gennifer Goodwin are perfectly cast as a wily fox forced into a life of crime and a bunny with dreams who’s more than just a cute face. Together they make for a boisterous buddy cop duo and adventure, ripe with funny sight gags for the kids and sly jokes for the adults.
There’s even a famous singer named Gazelle, complete with platinum blonde hair and a vocal social conscience. A clear tip o’ the hat to Lady Gaga were it not for Shakira voicing the character both in song and dialogue. Her epic ditty “Try Everything” is a good echo for the kid-friendly teachings on display, and a good ole Disney song the likes of which we don’t see anymore. The bottom line? Zootopia is one of the better animated films of the last many, many years, and I’d be more than happy to go there again. And again.