There is no better way to cap off a birthday weekend than a jaunt out to the movie theater! Okay – maybe there is, but this is how it worked for me this year. Earlier this month, Walt Disney Production’s latest film hit the big screen and it was high on the “must-see” list for our family. Being a huge Disney fanatic, I was rather eager to see how this one played out, so I took the teen, the tween and the ten year old out for a special movie date with mom.
Zootopia is Disney’s latest installment of animated genius. You have this country bumpkin bunny rabbit who has grandiose dreams of breaking away from the farm and becoming someone who saves the world one crime at a time as a tiny little police officer. Lacking not only parental support, but the encouragement and motivation from her peers, she takes risky leaps and finds herself bringing a reality to the phrase “anybody can be anything.” (reminds me of Ratatouille and the prevailing theme that anybody can cook). Along the way, she makes unusual connections with unexpected characters and learns a lot about pushing through adversity, as well as learning how to see people for who they really are and not just relying on how she was taught to see them. People are more than just what you see in front of you.
There are quite a few contemporary and timeless lessons strung throughout the movie. Right from the get-go, bullying is introduced…something so many of our kids struggle with today. In fact, without getting political, we are seeing a little bit more than we need to in the adult realm, as well! We see a lack of parental support in the movie and big dreams being squashed. There is also a very profound lesson regarding tolerance and prejudice, which seemed to ignite a great conversation among my boys on the car ride home.
In the end, without spoiling the details, we see revelation, repentance and restitution. Of course, we are watching a film geared towards kids (with enough to keep the adults interested), so these “three R’s” come quite a bit faster than they would realistically speaking. Nonetheless, the message still resonates and makes an impact.
The boys loved the movie. All three of them, who range in age from 10 to 16, were laughing throughout the film and found the contemporary humor captivating. I won’t lie – the two oldest found the nudist colony quite amusing and I don’t think they stopped chuckling for quite some time after the scene was over (or for days, to be honest). For those who have not seen the film, no worries! There really isn’t much to stress over in this regard. Trust me! Let’s move on – the boys easily identified with the modern technology, styles and behaviors, as well as were very quick to point out who obviously had a stake in the film (the style of earbuds, the carrot symbol on the phone – you get the picture). My youngest loved Clawhauser, the lovable cheetah who manned the front desk of the police department. He was kind of adorable and perhaps my favorite, as well. Collectively, the boys all loved Nick Wilde, the sly fox who was ironically manipulated into assisting the precocious rabbit. His “cooler-than-you” attitude struck a chord with them and was exquisitely played by Jason Bateman. Of course, the characters that gained the most “chat-time” among the boys were the amusing and never-so-quick-to-move sloths at the Department of Motor Vehicles. I think it took a week before my three stopped responding to me at “sloth speed.”
So here is what I, the recently turned 43 year old mom, thought of this animated film. I am not going to lie. I loved the film, but I still prefer Frozen or Inside Out over it. I was in awe of the creative genius that exuded from Inside Out and I am one of those nut jobs who never tires of hearing Let it Go (particularly since my boys can play it on the piano and I can sing along with them!). But – this does not mean to say I did not find Zootopia adorable and creatively teachable. I think the themes of perseverance, courage, integrity, tolerance, patience and loyalty are well played and easy to identify at even a young age. It’s no secret that Zootopia is a play off the word Utopia, “a place of ideal perfection especially in laws and social conditions.” (according to one of the entries found in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary) Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin of Once Upon A Time fame, believes, at least subconsciously, that, when she leaves the farm, she is entering a world of perfection…where dreams come true, crimes are solved in minutes and everyone treats each other with respect. Unfortunately, she comes to the realization that Zootopia is far from that in its raw reality and that she is no closer to perfection than the fox standing next to her. She has to face her own demons and downfalls and come to terms with the fact that she, too, carries a bone or two of prejudice and elitism. In the end, however, we still see that Utopian response and the preservation of an imaginary and ideal place in which we all wish we lived.
Before closing this out, there is one phrase from the movie that resonated louder than the others for me personally. Judy Hopps says, “Life’s a little bit messy. We all make mistakes. No matter what type of animal you are, change starts with you.” Why did that affect me so much? Well – let’s see if I can put it simplistically. We all have those things in our lives that we regret doing or not doing. We all have those people in our lives that we wished we had treated better or from whom we wished we had received more respect. We all have decisions we have made that affected a huge portion of our life that we cannot change completely. However, we all have the power to recognize our faults or holes, change our mindset and make restitution (even if within our own selves) so that we can move forward and make things a little bit better one day at a time for us, for our children and for those whom we meet in life. I know that’s a big adult theme to carry away from an animated Disney movie….but who said Disney movies were just meant for kids?
Until the next step ~ T