Disney has traded in anthropomorphic animals all the way back to its origins with the “Alice Comedies,” Oswald the Rabbit, and “Steamboat Willie.” But Disney has never used such figures of fun to more socially responsible ends than those of Zootopia, a sneakily relevant animated feature with distinctly positive messages for kids.
Zootopia concerns a plucky rabbit named Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), born and raised in rural Bunny Burrow, who dreams of being a cop in the big city of Zootopia, “Where Anyone Can Be Anything” (and where pop star Gazelle—voiced by Shakira—musically encourages everyone to “Try Everything”). Though Judy’s father cheerily discourages her with advice like “If you don’t try anything new, you’ll never fail,” Judy is as determined as they come, fighting to become the Z.P.D.’s very first rabbit officer, and then to be taken seriously amongst its ranks.
This early conflict would be enough for most animated movies: the (feminist) story of how Judy escapes from the underestimation of parking duty and becomes the cop of her dreams. But Zootopia has been laying some groundwork for an even more on-point moral. On her first day on the job, Judy profiles a fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), and though she’s been taught by her parents to fear foxes, her good nature overcomes, and she defends Nick from a bigoted shop owner who refuses to serve him.
Well, as it turns out, Nick is a hustler, with almost-legal scams keeping him fed. He also turns out to be a fox of interest in the case of fourteen missing mammals. Judy coerces Nick to help her get to the truth, discovering along the way that the “sly fox” can be trusted. In this city of 90% prey, 10% predators, the predators seem to be reverting from civilized to “primitive” and “savage,” striking fear into the hearts of the prey and sowing the seeds of distrust and xenophobia.
As directed by Byron Howard (Tangled) and Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph), along with co-director Jared Bush, Zootopia amounts to expert world-building, with eye-catching 3D environments (though the most nondescript is sure to be the most popular: the sloth-run DMV) and dynamic movement, including a one-of-a-kind Lilliputian police chase through the borough of Tiny Rodentia. The top-notch voice cast includes Idris Elba as Chief Bogo (a Cape buffalo), J.K. Simmons as the mayoral lion, and Jenny Slate as a sheepish deputy mayor.
In addition to an unmistakeable reference to The Godfather, Zootopia suggests Chinatown and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? in its plot points about corruption and discrimination. If Zootopia only reluctantly comes around to its crime-solving story, that’s understandable: the good stuff resides in the characterizations and the morality play around them, decrying fear of the other.
Disney welcomes us to Zootopia on home video in a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD special edition that sports reference-quality A/V. Picture quality is flawless: tight, bright, and vibrantly colorful, the picture is the kind that makes the most of Blu-ray's ability to dazzle the eye. Naturally, the digital-to-digital image is clean and stable in the extreme, and black level and contrast are calibrated to perfection to further that impression. Detail and textures couldn't be sharper, and the compression artifacts that most commonly plague animated titles are nowhere to be found. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix offers top-of-the-line ear candy as well, making the most of surround channels for atmospheric ambience and giving robust treatment to the musical score, while always resting crisp dialogue atop the music and effects.
A substantial bonus features package begins with the pre-production behind-the-scenes featurette "Research: A True-Life Adventure" (9:58, HD), which explores, specifically, research into animal movement and character. "The Origin of an Animal Tale" (9:15, HD) gets into story development, character development, and themes. The three-part Zoology: The Roundtables, each part with an introduction from actress Ginnifer Goodwin before filmmaker table talk, comprises "Characters" (5:47, HD), "Environments" (5:44, HD), and "Animation" (6:52, HD).
"Scoretopia" (4:59, HD) examines the film's music, while "Z.P.D. Forensic Files" (3:23, HD) gives a breezy tour of Disney-themed easter eggs in the feature. Rounding out the disc are the "Music Video 'Try Everything' by Shakira" (3:21, HD), "Deleted Characters" (3:16, HD with directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore, and a suite of Deleted Scenes including "Alternate Opening" (4:08, HD), "Wild Times Pitch" (2:44, HD), "Homesick Hopps" (3:26, HD), "Detective Work" (1:39, HD), "Alternate Jumbo Pops" (2:59, HD), "Hopps' Apartment" (2:45, HD), and "The Taming Party" (3:11, HD), each with an optional intro by Howard and Moore.
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