What Actually Makes Disney's "Zootopia" So Great

What Actually Makes Disney's "Zootopia" So Great

Everything is great! I'm just kidding, I can be more specific!

When I first saw Disney’s latest animated film, “Zootopia,” I didn’t know what I was getting into. The teaser trailers that I’d seen for it had ranged from mildly intriguing to amusing in a painful sort of way. I expected a cute animal film with slapstick for the kids, some sneaky jokes for the adults, and, hopefully, a decent female lead.

I didn’t expect to fall in love, drag my mom along with me to see it again, and to think about little else than this film for a week and counting.

Let me be frank, don’t watch the trailers because they don’t tell the truth. Don’t read the reviews, because they’ll spoil everything. Go see “Zootopia” because it is a great film. I would even call it an important film.

Let me now try to talk about the film and what makes it great without spoiling too much.

Is “Zootopia” perfect? Of course it's not. I could critique this film for lots of things that it isn’t. It isn’t a film with an abundance of major female characters (although its protagonist, Judy Hopps, is an excellent, well-rounded, and relatable woman). It isn’t a film that really represents racial or ethnic minorities (a mostly white cast voicing many different kinds of animals is still a mostly white cast). It isn’t a film that breaks new ground in regards to storytelling or plot twists and it isn’t particularly well-paced.

What “Zootopia” is, however, is a brilliant and valuable allegory for real-world prejudice and discrimination.

The mammals living in the titular city of Zootopia, while undeniably non-human in appearance, are morally human to an uncomfortable extent. This film doesn’t show us a clear-cut universe where only villains hate and hurt others and where only heroes love and help others. This film doesn’t show us a society with no overlap between the one group that is the oppressor and the other group that is the victim. "Zootopia’s" animal world parallels the real world by depicting both overt discrimination and internalized prejudice more accurately than many adult films.

Zootopia is ostensibly a city where predators and prey live in harmony, having set aside their primitive conflicts and formed a society in which “anyone can be anything.” However, in practice, life isn’t so rosy. No one, protagonist or antagonist, can escape being judged based on the stereotypes that are associated with their species. Bunnies are seen as too cute and fragile to be cops. Foxes are seen as too sly and untrustworthy to be friends. No one, even characters who have spent their whole lives fighting against judgments against their species, is free from their internalized prejudices against other species. In one scene, one police officer scolds another for allegedly seeing all predators as “savage” and then immediately refuses to listen to the testimony of a fox because of their stereotype of untrustworthiness. This film is full of examples of both microaggressions (referring to prey as “cute” and complimenting predators on being “articulate” are both portrayed as offensive and patronizing) and blatant discrimination (an elephant ice cream parlor has a policy reserving the right to refuse service to non-elephants and a young predator is beaten up and muzzled by his prey peers). While the people have fur and tails, the world and its problems feel real because these are the kind of problems that we face in the real world, both from other people and from ourselves.

There’s no doubt in my mind that, 50 years from now, “Zootopia” will be considered a classic Disney film. Much sooner than that, parents will use this film as an entryway to talking about the uncomfortable issue of how discrimination still exists in a society that prides itself on freedom and equality and about how, through self-awareness and care, we can recognize and combat that discrimination.

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia

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College As Told By Junie B. Jones

A tribute to the beloved author Barbara Parks.

The Junie B. Jones series was a big part of my childhood. They were the first chapter books I ever read. On car trips, my mother would entertain my sister and me by purchasing a new Junie B. Jones book and reading it to us. My favorite part about the books then, and still, are how funny they are. Junie B. takes things very literally, and her (mis)adventures are hilarious. A lot of children's authors tend to write for children and parents in their books to keep the attention of both parties. Barbara Park, the author of the Junie B. Jones series, did just that. This is why many things Junie B. said in Kindergarten could be applied to her experiences in college, as shown here.

When Junie B. introduces herself hundreds of times during orientation week:

“My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don't like Beatrice. I just like B and that's all." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 1)

When she goes to her first college career fair:

"Yeah, only guess what? I never even heard of that dumb word careers before. And so I won't know what the heck we're talking about." (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 2)

When she thinks people in class are gossiping about her:

“They whispered to each other for a real long time. Also, they kept looking at me. And they wouldn't even stop." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When someone asks her about the library:

“It's where the books are. And guess what? Books are my very favorite things in the whole world!" (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 27)

When she doesn't know what she's eating at the caf:

“I peeked inside the bread. I stared and stared for a real long time. 'Cause I didn't actually recognize the meat, that's why. Finally, I ate it anyway. It was tasty...whatever it was." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 66)

When she gets bored during class:

“I drew a sausage patty on my arm. Only that wasn't even an assignment." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 18)

When she considers dropping out:

“Maybe someday I will just be the Boss of Cookies instead!" (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 76)

When her friends invite her to the lake for Labor Day:

“GOOD NEWS! I CAN COME TO THE LAKE WITH YOU, I BELIEVE!" (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 17)

When her professor never enters grades on time:

“I rolled my eyes way up to the sky." (Junie B., First Grader Boss of Lunch, p. 38)

When her friends won't stop poking her on Facebook:

“Do not poke me one more time, and I mean it." (Junie B. Jones Smells Something Fishy, p. 7)

When she finds out she got a bad test grade:

“Then my eyes got a little bit wet. I wasn't crying, though." (Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly Bus, p. 17)

When she isn't allowed to have a pet on campus but really wants one:


When she has to walk across campus in the dark:

“There's no such thing as monsters. There's no such thing as monsters." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 12)

When her boyfriend breaks her heart:

“I am a bachelorette. A bachelorette is when your boyfriend named Ricardo dumps you at recess. Only I wasn't actually expecting that terrible trouble." (Junie B. Jones Is (almost) a Flower Girl, p. 1)

When she paints her first canvas:

"And painting is the funnest thing I love!" (Junie B. Jones and her Big Fat Mouth, p. 61)

When her sorority takes stacked pictures:

“The biggie kids stand in the back. And the shortie kids stand in the front. I am a shortie kid. Only that is nothing to be ashamed of." (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed, p. 7)

When she's had enough of the caf's food:

“Want to bake a lemon pie? A lemon pie would be fun, don't you think?" (Junie B. Jones Has a Monster Under Her Bed p. 34)

When she forgets about an exam:

“Speechless is when your mouth can't speech." (Junie B. Jones Loves Handsome Warren, p. 54)

When she finds out she has enough credits to graduate:

“A DIPLOMA! A DIPLOMA! I WILL LOVE A DIPLOMA!" (Junie B. Jones is a Graduation Girl p. 6)

When she gets home from college:

"IT'S ME! IT'S JUNIE B. JONES! I'M HOME FROM MY SCHOOL!" (Junie B. Jones and some Sneaky Peaky Spying p. 20)

Cover Image Credit: OrderOfBooks

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