Disney’s Counter to Stereotypes?

June 20, 2016

p06-songSince its debut in public theaters on March 4, Zootopia has risen as one of Disney’s most memorable and appreciated animated featured films. Additional to the astounding cinematography and character development, the critically acclaimed movie may have much more to offer than its heart-warming story.

The story follows the journey of Judy Hopps, who aims to uproot societal prejudice and to prove her worth as the first bunny cop. Despite her humble origins from Bunnyburrow and her birth as “meek prey,” Judy struggles to disprove the societal standards derived from the animal food chain.

In this comedic family film, Disney shows a dynamic arc of change from their classic movie plotlines. Not only is there the theme of female empowerment but there is also a deep implicit discussion of society’s racial prejudice. Introducing themes of prejudice by color — a still somewhat sensitive topic for the big screen — through the parallel world of Zootopia, Disney not only directly exposes the hardships and obstacles of the minorities but also moves to challenge those predefined standards with the plot denouement of Judy’s success as a bunny cop. The movie also includes very real themes ranging from the ubiquitous political figure who pledges racial equality for the sake of votes to the hidden allusions of the American Dream to lighter references like the speed-challenged DMV system.

Though the movie includes relatable elements for adults and older audiences, the youth are not entirely left out. As stated by Jen Chaney of Washington Post, “The genius of Zootopia is that it works on two levels: It’s a timely and clever examination of the prejudices endemic to society, and also an entertaining, funny adventure about furry creatures engaged in solving a mystery.” As for the ending, Disney turns to the old, classic fallback of a happy ending with the antagonist set behind bars and the protagonist duly fulfilling her happily ever after.

Even with the predictable ending, the overlying motif is still appreciated as good-old Disney contributes to the growing fight against prejudice.

One Comment

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