Zootopia excels at creating a complex anthropomorphic world, but neglects the human side of its two main characters
Anthropomorphic: It’s a five-dollar word. Ten points to Gryffindor if you can define it. Put simply, it’s when something inhuman takes on human qualities, but it’s trickier than that, because everyone has a different definition of what it means to be Human.
To give credit where credit it due: The movie is ambitious. In the macro, Zootopia created a detailed and clever universe. A world devoid of humans. Perhaps to differentiate themselves from Pixar’s filmic universe where Humanity always exists in some form or another; Humans are always in the background, unaware that everything inanimate has an animus, whether it’s Robots, Cars, or even Monsters.
The universe also provides the majority of laughs in the film. Sometimes the jokes are slow, in the case of the sloths. While other times the Jokes are fast and hard; the makers are not pandering to those who aren’t paying attention. Every company name or label is an animal pun—Lulu Lemmings, for instance. The architecture in Zootopia takes on animal qualities from skyscrapers shaped like husks, to office buildings with leopard spots. The trains have different sized entrances depending on the critters, and all the public transport is customized to the many assortments of animals. The world has three main climates also provide a lot of variety: A frozen tundra district, a jungle district and a Sahara district. And no, its not a comment on the differentiation of class structure and race within the neighbourhoods of any city.
But, in the micro, Zootopia failed to give the animals any depth of human emotion. It follows Rabbit-Cop who’s trying to prove herself and that is paired with an unwilling Confidence Man Fox. The two of them work together in order to solve the mystery behind several animal disappearances within the city of Zootopia. They’re both quick witted, and their dialogue is charming enough to keep one’s attention.There are plenty of jokes for children and adults alike. But, if I was asked what they were like, I’d be left stuttering, saying things like “Well, one is a cute energetic rabbit, and the other is wily fox.”
Perhaps I’ve been pampered by Pixar’s delivery of heavy weight after heavy weight, but I think this film could have been so much more, had they decided to develop the buddy cop relationship between the Rabbit and the Fox. Here’s what I mean: The result of having an elaborate world that resembles Human civilization, while at the same time having plain jane main characters who lack any human qualities, is that the creators inadvertently equate society to humanity. And, I think most readers can agree that we’re a bit more than mammals that write tickets for other mammals.
Pixar understands this. For the most part, they equate emotion to humanity. The societies they create are nothing more than a clever—and often satirical—backdrop for the characters. Regardless of whether you agree that our emotions are what make us human, it’s certainly what keeps an audience member like myself involved.
I’d still recommend the film; it has definite heart: a clever and multifaceted animal universe that provides spectacle for audiences of any age. But it could have been so much more, had they tried to flesh out the characters.