What if an alien in the future stumbled upon Byron Howard and Rich Moore’s Zootopia? Welcome to Earthling Cinema, where we examine the last remaining artifacts of a once-proud culture and try to understand what human lives were like before their planet was destroyed. I’m your host, Garyx Wormuloid.
Stars: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate
Director: Byron Howard and Rich Moore
Production Co: Walt Disney Pictures, Walt Disney Animation studios
Available on Amazon, iTunes, and YouTube
Written by: Ben Steiner
Directed by: Jared Bauer
Analysis by: Kevin Winzer and Jared Bauer
Starring: Mark Schroeder (https://twitter.com/mark_schroeder)
Edited by: Ryan Hailey
Original Music by: David Krystal (http://www.davidkrystalmusic.com)
Opening Animation by: Danny Rapaport
Produced by: Jacob S. Salamon
Zootopia’s Hidden Meaning – Earthling Cinema
Greetings, and welcome to Earthling Cinema. I am your host, Garyx Wormuloid. This week’s artifact is Zootopia, yet another stage in Hollywood’s quest to make me sexually attracted to rabbits.
The film takes place on Earth in the 24th century, after the humans had wiped themselves out and animals raided their wardrobes. Our protagonist is the exhaustingly enthusiastic Judy Hopps, who leaves behind her white trash family in order to become a cop, the most venerated of all professions.
Even though Judy graduates Phi Beta Carotene, the chief puts her on parking duty because she’s too small to succeed. Kind of like too big to fail, but, you know… misguided. Thankfully, the assistant mayor is also a lil’ pipsqueak, and out of solidarity she helps Judy worm her way onto a missing otter case. Then, in Judy’s first act as a protector of truth and justice, she blackmails a hard-working entrepreneur into becoming her unpaid intern.
Judy and Nick the intern discover that the missing otter went all savage on his limo driver, which is weird because limos are pretty much the chillest way to get to prom. The driver blames it on “night howlers,” and then moments later he too goes Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever on their asses. Judy and Nick escape in the Judy and Nick of time, then use traffic cameras to follow some pretty shaggy-looking horses, on account of the old wolves tale that horses howl at the moon.
Lo and behold, they find the otter and a bunch of other missing predators, still straight acting the fool. But also the lion mayor is there, so they have him arrested for plot purposes and replaced with the sheep lady from before. All the Zootopioids start panicking about predators being psycho killers, qu’est-ce que c’est. Judy hop hop hop hopss back home for her annual botany lesson, where she learns that “night howlers” aren’t horses at all, but rather a type of flower that makes you zonked in your bonker. So she goes back to Z-town and heads over to the secret bad guy laboratory where some sheeple are making night howlerade.
I call them sheeple because they are literally sheep that act like people, but also because they are followers. And who are they following? Another sheep, of course: the new mayor. She shoots Nick with the syrum dealio and he goes into beast mode. But don’t lynch him just yet, ‘cuz he was playing make-pretend, and really he was shot by a tiny blue watermelon. They do the not-a-cop-out-at-all movie trick of recording the bad guy’s admission of guilt, and Judy and Nick become partners. Sex partners? That’s for the viewer to decide. And draw. And send to me.
At the heart of Zootopia lies the question of nature vs. nurture: Is identity biologically determined, or can we elevate ourselves by incorporating nurture somehow? At the beginning of the film, we are led to believe the veneer of civilization is the only thing keeping predators from going apeshit, batshit, tigershit, et cetera.
In public, Nick is on his best behavior, bucking the negative stereotypes commonly associated with foxes. But in private, his sly nature rears its adorable head. And when predators begin reverting to their primitive ways, the biological determinists are all “I told you so”.
But when it turns out the whole thing was just because of some obscure poison, the animals realize biology is not to blame. I mean, the biology of plants is to blame, but that’s not really what we’re talking about right now. Try to keep up, ya dumb bunnies. The film illustrates the fallacy of relying on prejudice by inverting all its previously established stereotypes: Judy’s fox bully from childhood is now a pacifist pastry chef. Flash, the slow sloth from all the trailers, is a speed demon drag racer. The dumb bunny solves the case and the sly fox gets an honest job. The meek “lamb” assistant mayor is actually the ruthless mastermind behind the entire conflict, and probably doesn’t even need those glasses.
Zootopia mirrors the social and political landscape of 20th century America, when efforts began in earnest to balance some of society’s glaring inequalities, sort of. The Mammal Inclusion Initiative is similar to various Earthling diversity and affirmative action programs designed to level the playing field for underserved minorities, and in the case of women, majorities.
The parallels are accentuated by the use of language associated with the PC movement. Not to be confused with the Mac movement, which was a sleeker but more expensive movement.
And just like in 20th century America, the citizens of Zootopiaare able to fix all their social ills just by trying hard and being optimistic. Easy peezy, lemon sneezy. God bless you. Peace and tranquility for the entire animal kingdom. Not counting reptiles and amphibians and fish and birds and insects. They’re all dead I guess. Boy, for a movie about inclusion, they sure did go out of their way to ignore the freaks and uggos.
For Earthling Cinema, I’m Garyx Wormuloid. Go forth, and multiply.