To a little kid, “Zootopia” might just seem like a fun movie. But to older audiences, it’s an important lesson about racism.
“I like that [the movie] teaches kids that even if the world is against them, if they really work for it their dreams can come true,” junior Daniel Johns said.
The movie depicts a bunny named Judy, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, who grows up in the small village of Bunnyburrow. Judy dreams for years about becoming a police officer in the city of Zootopia, a haven for mammals of all kinds. But because Judy is a bunny, therefore weaker than other animals, everyone in her life ― from her parents to a school bully ― tell her that she can’t do it.
But, and maybe just because “Zootopia” is a Disney movie, she does. Judy finds a way to use her small size to rise to the top of her class at the Academy. That’s where the movie begins to show that it’s more than just the usual “Disney underdog proves herself” kind of story.
“I think [“Zootopia”] was a cute movie,” junior Kirsten Weber said. “It sent a really great message to the younger generations on how to not discriminate against people based on how they were born.”
Judy is assigned to a precinct in Zootopia as its first ever bunny officer. She’s optimistic about her new life but soon finds that she is looked down on by the rest of the officers who believe she was only hired as a “token bunny.” The chief of her precinct, Chief Bogo, gives her parking duty instead of a place investigating the recent disappearances of different animals, as he doubts her potential.
After only a few days, Judy is able to break free from her “token bunny” role and start doing some good for the city. She finds the missing animals and implicates the mayor as the one responsible for their disappearance. The mayor, Leodore Lionheart, is a lion and his actions are blamed on the fact that he is, biologically speaking, a predator.
In the process of this investigation, she meets and befriends local thief Nick Wilde, who is a fox and voiced by Jason Bateman. At first she is wary of Nick; she was beaten up by a fox when she was younger and has held a prejudice against foxes ever since, but she soon learns that it is unfair of her to judge him solely on his species.
This point in the film is where the themes of racial profiling and stereotyping really come into play. The animals who went missing are now acting “savage” and they all happen to be predators. The city begins to panic and think that all predators will start acting that way.
“Even though the movie was made for children, it covers many adult themes,” senior Samantha Dix said. “It cleverly portrayed parallels between predator and prey versus white superiority and minorities. There are always going to be challenges and differences when it comes to race but the movie demonstrates that no matter where you are in life, if you try your best you can excel.”
Judy, who until this point was a voice of reason, accidentally blames the chaos on the predators during a press conference by suggesting there is a biological connection between the “savage” animals that the city is seeing and the basic nature of the predators.
Her statement causes even more panic in the city and causes Nick to isolate himself from her, as she was just beginning to convince him that he too could overcome his biology and become a police officer.
In the end, like all Disney movies, everything works out. The person who was truly behind the evil plot is revealed and brought to justice and Judy realizes the consequences of her mistake and seemingly fixes every problem in her life.
But even though the ending of the movie is tied up in a bow of happiness and rainbows, “Zootopia” makes a surprising impact on its audiences. Its themes concerning racial profiling and stereotyping make the film so much more than another cliché Disney flick.
“I thought [“Zootopia”] was a cute movie that teaches kids to be what they want to be,” senior Mckenzie Bacich said.