DISNEY has long been the butt of derisive jokes, and for good reason. Their normative storylines—featuring a plethora of milquetoast princesses—have been consistently tone-deaf to society's increasingly progressive views on race and gender. However, a sea change within the company seems to be underway: Disney's been taking baby steps into the 21st century with films like Brave and Frozen, and with their latest, Zootopia, the company has produced a fun and clever allegory about the pitfalls of discrimination.
In Zootopia's alternate universe, animals have evolved—and have rejected the concept of "predator and prey," instead choosing to co-exist in relative harmony. However, strict societal roles still exist, with weaker animals being pigeonholed into secondary positions while larger beasts run the city. When tiny rabbit Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) joins Zootopia's brutish police force, her attempts to crack the city's most baffling missing animal case are squashed, forcing her to team up with Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a local conman... errr... fox. Con-fox?
One wouldn't be off-base to compare this flick to George Orwell's Animal Farm—though instead of targeting Stalinism, Zootopia's plot reflects America's current fear-based relationship with equality. (A fire continually stoked by Donald Trump.) While seemingly advanced, these characters still struggle with preconceptions associated with their particular species, and are all too quick to judge one another. (There's one particularly pointed scene where Nick the fox is warned not to touch a sheep's hair—a hilarious shout out to Dear White People.)
Zootopia may ostensibly be an animated buddy cop flick with a few winks to Chinatown, but it's also chock full of smart, incisive observations on race and gender, as well as front-loaded with tons of laughs and heart. Disney is doing better.