In the mammal city of Zootropolis, rabbit rookie cop Judy Hopps (Goodwin) is forced to team up with fox Nick Wilde (Bateman) when civilised animals start turning savage.
On the face of it, Zootropolis sees Walt Disney Animation Studios on safe ground. This is the Disney of Robin Hood and Mickey Mouse — cute, anthropomorphised animals, walking on hind legs, talking up cosy platitudes. A familiar formula ready to delight pre-teens and be packaged for enthusiastic toy merchandisers.
It remains entertaining throughout, testament to its inventiveness - and Pixar’s influence.
But Zootropolis has more in common with Pixar than it first appears. The fictional universe it presents — a human-free world where mammals have evolved into a bustling, civilised society — is vividly realised, richly detailed and very funny.
Our guide through this world is Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), a bunny cop in a buddy-cop movie, paired with a mismatched partner — a fox. Hopps is very much a Disney heroine for a post-Frozen world — peppy and independently minded. Despite the urges of her carrot-farming parents to give up her dreams, she becomes Zootropolis’ first rabbit police officer. Her partner, Nick Wilde, is a wily hustler played with sarcastic relish by Jason Bateman. In the wild, they’re enemies; here they form an uneasy partnership as they’re both assigned to a missing-animals case.
In the grand tradition of the genre, the mismatched pair gradually learn to get along. What they uncover — a this-goes-all-the way-to-the-top conspiracy — raises questions over what it means to evolve past your biology; in a city where former bestial foes share an uncomfortable truce, it serves as a smart analogy for the debates on immigration that rage in our human world. It’s not a domain into which you often see Disney venture.
Of course, political metaphors will bypass the youngsters and yet the twisty machinations of the noir-lite story sometimes get lost among the furry shenanigans. This means, for adults, the joy is often to be found in the background: beavers as construction workers; sloths working the desks at the Department Of Motor Vehicles; Shakira as a gazelle. But it remains entertaining throughout — a testament to the inventiveness of the on-screen action. And Pixar’s influence.
The latest creative renaissance of the house that Walt built (but Pixar reinvigorated) shows no sign of slowing. An engaging animation for all ages.