Judy Hopps is a bunny. Nick Wilde is a fox. In the peaceful animal world of Zootopia, that doesn’t automatically make them enemies, since predators and prey exist in perfect harmony. When a few predators mysteriously start disappearing and reverting to their primal ferocity, they threaten to destroy the urban utopia unless rookie Officer Hopps and her devious acquaintance Nick can crack the case.
Although it’s a cartoon, Zootopia isn’t just for kids. Its recurring theme of bigotry blatantly uses the different animal classes in place of race relations, while elsewhere amusing riffs on The Godfather and Breaking Bad make for deeper enjoyment for parents as they fly completely over the heads of unaware kids. Also, the principal plot is basically one long crime investigation, ultimately making the film more of a serious buddy cop adventure than a jokey trip to the zoo. While it doesn’t play on the heartstrings or offer lasting appeal to the extent of most Disney/Pixar offerings, it is a deeply entertaining and worthwhile film.
I didn’t expect much from Ginnifer Goodwin’s vocal contribution as Judy, but she proved to be a solid and likeable choice for the compassionate role. Jason Bateman was an obvious and excellent choice as the sly fox, and the two character voices play off each other well from their initial adversarial relationship through to their mutually respectful friendship. Although it’s a Disney cartoon, there are no musical numbers aside from a Shakira song used for an introductory montage and the end credits, leaving the remaining music entirely in composer Michael Giacchino’s capable hands.
The world of Zootopia is very bright and aggressively colorful on Blu-ray, to such an extent that I frequently felt like I needed to reduce the brightness on my TV to avoid burning my retinas. The image shows a bit of acceptable noise during intense action scenes, while otherwise remaining highly precise. Sound quality is superb, with excellent 7.1 DTS-HDMA channel separation providing full surround immersion into the enveloping animated world.
The Blu-ray is overstuffed with bonus features sure to delight viewers looking to learn as much as possible about the film’s production. The disc features lengthy roundtable discussions with multiple teams of tech nerds responsible for character design, animation, and environments, getting down to such granular detail that the end result feels a bit like overkill. Far better is the feature focusing on the African safari the principal creators enjoyed for “research purposes”, as they show and talk about animal characteristics they studied and included in the film. Another fascinating feature with the creators reveals the original story idea for the film and how it progressed to the vastly different and clearly better end result. For the Disney completists, a handy feature reveals many of the Easter eggs littered throughout the film. Elsewhere, the disc includes looks at deleted characters and deleted scenes, Giacchino’s development of the eclectic score, as well as a music video for the Shakira song.
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