Why is Disney’s Zootopia so… Weird?


I recently saw the film Zootopia. Before I continue, I have to say I enjoyed the movie immensely. I thought it was well written, funny, and the animation was great. What I thought would be a standard Disney flick turns out to be a clever buddy cop movie. If you haven’t had a chance to see it, go check it out.

The story follows our heroine, Judy Hopps, a rabbit who wants to be a police officer in Zootopia, the metropolis a train ride away from the farm she grew up on. The problem is, she’s a rabbit, and there’s never been a rabbit on the Zootopia police force. With grit and determination, she manages to secure a spot on the force. When she arrives, she finds that she’s not really a member of the team, and is given parking ticket duty. What Judy soon discovers is she’s only there as a political campaign stunt, and the other police would rather not have her aboard. Still determined, she sets out on fighting crime whenever she sees it.

Enter Nick Wilde. He’s the smooth talking, charismatic fox. He’s a con artist, melting down large ice cream treats for elephants and selling them back to hamsters at a considerable markup. Judy catches him in the act, and through a few loopholes, is able to pin something on Nick unless he can help Judy with a crime. And that’s where the buddy cop film comes into play.

There were the number of usual questions that arose from watching the film though. The usual “Can this world actually exist?” Right off the bat, the city of Zootopia was separated into four quadrants. The desert, the jungle, the arctic, and the regular area. There’s massive heaters to keep the desert hot and dry, and there’s gigantic air conditioners to make the arctic cold and wintery. To make this happen, Zootopia’s energy bill has to be through the roof. The carbon footprint must be outrageous.

How does their economy function? Elephants are charged enormous prices for ice cream, while smaller creatures get away with paying a fraction of the price. How does this work? Do larger animals get more money for doing the same job? Is there some sort of Zootopia subsidy that makes it possible for an elephant to live on a hamster’s wage? Throughout the movie, all the animals seem to be segregated.

How can the carnivores survive without eating meat? Nobody throws down a burger or a steak in the movie. It’s mentioned a number of times that predator and prey used to follow the natural norm, but society has blossomed and there’s no one eating meat. How can that be? Lion’s still are carnivores, as are wolves, foxes, otters. Are there intelligent cows, and then regular cows they eat? Who determines where to draw the line?

But the most important question for adults appeared when it became apparent that the two main characters, Judy the bunny and Nick the fox, were flirting with each other. A lot. These animated pair have more chemistry than most regular people I know. So the question popped up. Can judy and Nick have bunny / fox hybrids? Would they just have some bunnies and some foxes instead? Is breeding even possible, and would they be forced to adopt? For all the films messages, like, “You can be whatever you want to be”, all the films couples were portrayed as same species. Otters got married to Otters, Shrews got married to Shrews. All the pairing were animal-normative. Is inter-species coupling in Zootopia frowned upon? Is there an underground civil rights movement happening in Zootopia the film doesn’t mention? Will the sequel bring into the focus of this power struggle?

“Mr. Charlton, why on Earth are you getting worked up about a silly movie for kids?” Aha, now that’s the question for the ages. What made this movie seem so bizarre is that it never really felt like a kids film. It felt like an honest to God buddy cop film with animals. Most of the themes were pretty serious. There was some jokes thrown in for kids, but as a film, it bucked the rules. Most of the time, with animated films like this, you get a children’s film with a few adult jokes sprinkled in. This was the opposite. It was an adult movie with kids jokes in it.

It’s still an enjoyable movie for all ages. But Disney, if you’re going to make a film with a lot of adult tones, keep in mind that you might get a lot of adult questions.


The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. And goddamnit Disney, stop giving your animals bedroom eyes. There’s enough confused furries as it stands.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s