In 2015 I did not see any movie at all in a theatre. In 2016, I saw three; one of them was Deadpool, which I saw on a record heat day with a free ticket, and the other two were both Zootopia. I not only liked Zootopia, I liked it enough to see it twice. So here’s your spoiler-free penny-ante review and then I’m going to jump below a fold to say something about the specifics in the universe, about the storytelling of Zootopia:
Zootopia Is Really Good. I liked it a lot and I hope you enjoy it if you haven’t seen it.
Well, now, the writing about Zootopia is already widely written. I mean, I’m in that particular overlap of the world where I can watch a community of people I respect talk about how this show is basically hate crime, because it makes cops look like human beings. And how it fatshames. And how it’s fascist to want traffic cops.
Really rough stuff here.
Thing is, setting all that aside, this movie did a really, really good job at what we call the plant and the payoff. The story is full of these things that are put in one spot and followed up on later – almost nothing in the movie is used just once as a narrative point.
Well, there is this one thing. I can’t think of a second time in the movie the proclivity of wolves to howl collaboratively is used more than once. It’s introduced in the scene it’s used, then I think it goes away. This isn’t exactly a huge deal, though – it just kind of indicates how much of the rest of the movie is made in a sort of folding structure, ensuring everything that comes also goes.
I really like this sort of pattern. in storytelling. I like good structure. That isn’t to say, by the way, that structure is inherent to enjoying a piece of media, but it’s something that some people (like me!) can find super satisfying to see in action.
Think about how often a character in Zootopia shows up twice; sometimes it’s as a flashback or an echo to their first appearance. Think about how many things are first stated by one character and followed by another.
Particularly, this story features two departures from home, but both times, the home moves; the first time, Judy leaves her home with her family and heads to Zootopia, the second time, she leaves her home in Zootopia to head to her family. It features the dynamic between the two central characters antagonistically, reversing, then repairing. And of course, there’s…
Gideon Grey is not the kind of thing I’m used to seeing in Disney. I’m not used to childhood bullies being humanised in a way that leads to them apologising. Most of these movies tend towards being short – or rather, the story they traverse over is short. Bullies are sometimes reluctantly prone to apologising after a single day of extremely awkward socialising, which often represents that the bully is mostly not actually a very committed bully.
Gideon is projected as a bully, and it’s suggested that he’s been at it for some time, and then, the story, after its long plant, pays off later with Gideon explaining that he knows what he did was wrong and makes meaningful amends. It shows that the damaged, angry boy with the bad self esteem who resorted to violence wasn’t defined by that.
It’s a very nice thing to see, in any movie.
Sorry about all the cops.