Things I learnt from Zootopia: the power of fantasy


Zootopia is a new Disney animated movie set in a world where humans never existed. Instead, animals from different species co-exist in a network of cities, many of which has been modified to provide animals with the environment they need.

Disney has done a lot of things right with Zootopia, and one of them is how much they have explored the unique culture that would arise in a city composed of anthropomorphic animals. A lot of movies with anthropomorphic animals just draw them with human mannerisms in a human city. Not Zootopia. In fact, Zootopia takes advantage of animal characteristics and interactions that an all human cast wouldn’t have and creates a culture from it.

First, there’s the tension between prey and predator (which actually isn’t that clear cut because there are plenty of predators who are also preys to other predators). Which makes sense. They may all be ‘civilised’ now, but there’s a history where animals ate each other to survive.

There’re also species specific stereotypes. Like how sloths are slow, elephants have good memory, and that foxes are dodgy. These stereotypes affect how characters interact with each other and even effects the careers they go into.

Then there’s the size difference. Even for humans, who don’t vary that much in size, adjustments are still needed to cater to these different sizes. A kindergartener’s chair would be uncomfortably small for a typical adult, and a secondary school table would just tower over the average kindergartener.

Now imagine a mouse and an elephant living in the same space. A scoop of an elephant’s ice cream could be as big as a mouse’s house.

Well, Zootopia addresses that too. There are different zones that cater to citizens of different sizes. Similarly, there are certain careers that would be closed to animals of certain sizes.

This puts a lot of layers into Zootopia’s culture, and Disney also weaves all these differences and attitudes into the characters and the plot, be it overt or implicit. It gives the movie more depth, and also allows a deeper exploration into concepts like stereotypes, discrimination, prejudice, and more without being preachy and stepping into all kinds of landmines that plague our society.

Zootopia may be a fictional world, but the issues they deal with are very real. And that’s the power of fantasy.


Posted on June 27, 2016, in Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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