Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Most Recent Disney Movie I Saw

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and fluffed it out to 31 entries (since December has 31 days).  I have done a 30-day challenge before for movies, though that one was poorly executed (I started it in the middle of a month, at one point I posted 2 entries on one day, it is a mess).  I did another one just this year in August on Video Games, that one was better, go read it after this one, all of it.  Or don’t, no pressure.

            Today is day 27 and the topic is “Most Recent Disney Movie I Saw”.

I think I used this image already this month.
Either way, good movie.
 “Zootopia” was a smash hit earlier this year and it was the last Disney movie—that is to say, Non-Marvel and Non-Star Wars—that I saw and it is going to be my movie of the year.  There are other movies that might have taken that if I had the time and drive to watch them, but I only have so much money.  Besides, I like “Zootopia” so much I think it is pretty secure on the pedestal.
I haven’t seen “Muana” yet.  I am sure I will like it when I get to it.  I live in an area where movie tickets are kind of overpriced.  Even a matinee with student rates only takes it down to 9 dollars.   Double what that would be in Tallahassee, my previous berg.  Not convenient.
Just for reference, I saw “Zootopia” on Netflix after twice trying to rent it and getting a bad disk.  Reason #2,000,000,000,000 that hard media is going to die out.  I actually saw this after seeing “Finding Dory”, which is also a good movie, go watch it too.

The Plot
The plot of the movie “Zootopia” goes as follows: Officer Hopps must enlist the help of a conman in her search for several missing people tied to mysterious incidents of violence.  Along the way she must face off against the lack of respect she gets from being the only small mammal on the police force.  Traditionally most of her comrades in blue are multi-ton weighing giant mammals like Rhinos and Water Buffalo, and there is an omnipresent air of discrimination as many feel she lacks the muscle to get things done.

Let’s just go ahead and try to outline the things I liked about the movie and give examples.

First Thing: It’s Funny
The movie has good humor, starting off with a children’s play emphasizing the sort of silly production values those usually have, coupled with a clear statement of the movie’s theme.  This is an excellent way to put forth exposition, you start off with a narration of the distant past, which turns into a modern day lesson on the past, the change of venue wakes up the audience and keeps them engaged.  Another movie that used this technique was “Serenity”, Joss Whedon’s swan song for the show “Firefly” which is simultaneously one of the best shows ever, and one of the most overrated now that its hypothetical greatness has been proselytized endlessly in nerd culture.  Getting off topic.
“Zootopia” moves from the school play to confrontations with systemic internalized prejudice, and external prejudice.  Pointing out these hang overs from prehistoric times of barbarism still hang around.  Thru practical example existing prejudices are shown after having the foundation explained, all flowing effortlessly into one another.  The movie even pokes fun at the idea of parents trying to discourage behavior they see as fruitless via what sociologists call, “The crab bucket mentality”, but these parents are still nice and positive people so they do not want to say “no” outright.

Parents, can't encourage bad ideas, but can't crush dreams.  A razor thin line to walk.
Stu: Judy, you ever wonder how your Mom and me got to be so darn happy?
Judy: Nope.
Stu: Well, we gave up on our dreams, and we settled.  Right, Bon?
Bonnie: Oh, yes.  That’s right, Stu, we settled hard.

Second Thing: It’s Exotic
The primary location of the story is a city divided to accommodate the numerous types of sentient animal contained within it.  The locations are vibrant and varied.  There is an area that is scaled up for large animals like Giraffes and Elephants and an entire micro-city for the mice and voles.  There are divisions for jungle, forest, tundra, desert, and the grand cityscape that blends elements in subtler ways.

Like the over world of a Nintendo game.
IT IS COOL.  And I thought going in that I would hate it as being too tortured a concept.  I imagined it being cheesy but the twisted logic of the setting has it make a great deal of sense.  This is the sort of—I won’t say “silly”—but “high-minded” consideration that I appreciate.
I hope this sort of thought is put into science fiction and fantasy projects Disney might make going forward—a Disney iteration of “Babylon 5” maybe—As the varied visuals add so much to the movie.  I like traditional fairy tales that take place in one environment type, but this is so different that it was refreshingly different.

Third Thing: It’s Exciting
“Zootopia” is primarily a mystery story.  There are missing animals, signs of violence, and a government conspiracy.  The unraveling of what is going on and why adds tension to the narrative, clues are dispensed at regular intervals so that the audience takes in and processes the information like the characters do.  You don’t feel cheated as you do with some mysteries that seemed to be holding back information.
Beyond mystery, there are chase scenes in the context of being a police officer, and it is some daring action.  Judy is a tiny little bunny, but she is so agile, fearless, and fast she manages to move almost like Spider-Man and in one memorable scene makes smart use of her movements to turn her opponent’s strength against him.
There is a neat little juxtaposition when she and a suspect (who is a weasel) fight in the micro-city of mice and voles.  She and the weasel are like Kaiju, compared to the tiny residents, knocking over multi story buildings.  While the rest of the time she has to get by fighting people much larger than her via escape, regroup, and counter attacking… you know, like a cop who is out gunned and getting back up.

Also, little known stereotype: Cops eat donuts.

Fourth Thing: It’s Paced
The script is rock solid in regards to unveiling information and character development.  Beyond the technical proficiency the SUPER complex racial and gender themes running thru this elevate it to that next level of story telling you always hope to see in a family movie.  I do not want to discuss specifics, it is a mystery film, so I am trying to be more general with the praise for this element, instead letting the examples in the other entries illustrate.

Fifth Thing: The Themes
I keep seeing people (morons) trying 1-1 comparisons of the material to real life, completely ignoring that the movie is not entirely about simple racial stereotypes applied to animals.
Applying straight 1-1 racial stereotypes to different species… say, making all the Hyenas black people, would have bad implications.  The closest they come to this is one scene in which a crime boss is portrayed as Italian.  And I have to ask, when it is a straight up reference/homage to “The Godfather” is it still racist?  Is “The Godfather” racist to Italian people?  Because at this point it is all a little weird, mostly because I am so tired of that movie being referenced.  Whatever.
My point is, that people are too hung up on RACE as the issue this movie hits on.  Race is there, no denying that, but these strawmen are missing another element: there are also a lot of gender issues too.  You don't see a lot of female officers on the police force in this movie.  I don’t actually remember any beside Judy, and she is forced into the role of meter maid.  There is some commentary going on there and it might be too subtle as it is not getting mentioned very often.

And Judy has some culture shock too.
But beyond that there are other forms of stereotyping that ascribe only to the animals in the setting.  Even between non-predatory species stereotypes and pre-conceptions exist as there is a big scene about how, "An elephant never forgets, man" even as that stereotype is not shown in action and completely subverted.
There is also a thing about the effects of drugs on a community?  I put a question mark because there are drugs, but they are inflicted, not voluntarily consumed.  So that message is a bit muddled.  There is also a “Breaking Bad” reference, though that almost felt out of place.
The whole thing is supposed to be allegorical, but not simplistically so.  It is supposed to make you think.  Unlike other racially charged projects of the past that I have talked about in this blog series.

No Numerical Position: My Only Identifiable Complaint
The only complaint I have is that the movie ends with a godawful Shakira song that has nothing to do with anything.  Would it have been too hard to license "Man in the Mirror"?  Or was that too obvious?  The movie is about discrimination and that is the quintessential song about discrimination and prejudice.  Like, right on the nose that is the obviously better song for this situation.  Whatever.

The Other Thing: Beg for Attention
            Share your own thoughts on this in the comments.  I know I am not the only person out there who is nostalgic for Disney products, and I am sure many people disagree with my selection for today’s entry. 
I picked Disney stuff just because I knew there was so much of it to talk about and it lends itself to discussion in the comments.  So tell me about the last Disney movie you saw.

If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

1 comment:

  1. I think the elephant who had a birthday in the early scene is female, but I can't remember for sure. She (?) is the only other female cop I remember, and doesn't impact the plot at all.

    And I'm glad that you and the movie are bringing attention to the oft-ignored "cops love donuts" issue; it's something that's not given enough attention. ;)