Why 'Zootopia' Is 'Who Framed Roger Rabbit' For The 21st Century
The newest animated film from Disney, Zootopia , is a bit of a surprise. The film hasn't received a ton of hype or press, but it might just end up being regarded as the best movie Disney has put out in years. The film is already the best-reviewed film of 2016 so far, and provides further proof that the new Disney Renaissance is in full swing (in case you still needed it after Wreck It Ralph, Frozen, and Big Hero 6). In doing so, the film heavily recalls the movie that kicked off the last Disney Renaissance back in 1988, which also starred a cartoon rabbit. That's right, Zootopia is this generation's Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, for those of you who may have forgotten, was a revolutionary film. Its special effects were groundbreaking, as well as very expensive given its $70 million budget set a record at the time. Zootopia isn't nearly the achievement that Roger Rabbit was from a technical standpoint, though it does feature stunning animation, but the two films have a number of things in common that just can't be ignored. Whether these things are coincidental or whether the creators were influenced by the 28-year-old (!) Disney classic is a question to which I don't have the answer, but take a look yourself at these nine similarities between Zootopia and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? to see what I'm getting at.
1. They're Both Noir Films
Classic whodunit storylines aren't exactly common in the world of Disney animation, so the fact that both Zootopia and Roger Rabbit follow plots where the protagonists have to solve a twisting, ever-evolving mystery seems pretty remarkable. It's hard not to think of Chinatown while watching both films.
2. Both Have Rabbits Teaming Up With An Unwilling Accomplice
In Zootopia, rabbit cop Judy Hopps teams up with fox Nick Wilde, who wants nothing to do with her at first. Just like the contentious team-up of Roger Rabbit and surly detective Eddie Valiant.
3. Both Are Rated PG & Feature Adult Jokes
Zootopia isn't nearly as adult as Roger Rabbit ; nobody dies and there's nothing that comes close to the sexualization of Jessica Rabbit. But the movie still features allusions to blood and death, an extended nudist colony scene, and a joke that references the N-word. For real.
4. Both Feature Fully-Realized Fictional Cities
Roger Rabbit introduced fans to Toontown, where cartoons live, while Zootopia features its titular animal-filled metropolis.
5. Both Are Racism Allegories
Zootopia is all about the dangers of stereotyping, while in Roger Rabbit, cartoons are treated as second-class citizens by humans.
6. Finnick = Baby Herman
These two adorable characters, both of whom look like babies but are in actuality adults with nasty attitudes, both wait to reveal their true nature to the audience.
7. Both Have Weasels As Villains
Despite Zootopia's message of tolerance, the poor weasels are still portrayed as slimy bad guys, just like the memorable henchmen in Roger Rabbit.
8. Both Feature Animals In Their Best-Matched Human Roles
Although Roger Rabbit features a mix of humans and cartoons of all kinds, the movie still finds a way to pigeonhole its animal characters into roles that fit them, like the gorilla bouncer at the Ink & Paint Club. Zootopia goes to this well often, with everything from the DMV-operating sloths to the corporate drone hamsters.
9. Both Revolve Around Conspiracies That Threaten Their Worlds' Way Of Life
In Roger Rabbit, the threat of "Dip" has the potential to wipe out every toon, while in Zootopia, predators turning savage threatens the core belief of their society that all animals can get along.
Zootopia is not as dark nor as revolutionary as Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, but the two movies have a lot in common. It's hard to say if the new film will be as fondly remembered as the classic that appears to have inspired it, but given the formula that it follows, I wouldn't bet against it.
Images: Touchstone Pictures; giphy.com