The Main Message In Disney’s “Zootopia”

Is It About Racism?


Image Courtesy Of Amino Apps.

Remmy Boyce, Artist, Writer

Zootopia is a family friendly movie released by Disney in 2016. The setting of the movie is in the city, Zootopia, where anyone can be anything. We don’t see any birds, reptiles, or aquatic life in the film demonstrated, so it’s safe to say that the city is made up of exclusively mammals. In the movie, we mostly see two main categories of animals; predator or prey. These categories will have a bigger influence later on in the movie. It is explained in the opening scene that predators used to hunt prey, but as times became more advanced they learned to live in harmony.
The story follows Judy Hopps, a bunny from a small carrot farming town who has dreams of moving to Zootopia and becoming the first bunny police officer. Early on in the film we can see her parents telling her that her dream is impossible, and maybe to look into a different career. We also see a fox named Gideon, who laughs at her, and at one point even scratches her in the face for thinking she could become “anything more than a stupid, carrot farming, dumb bunny.” Throughout the movie she proves everyone wrong and accomplishes her dreams, to make the world a better place, although she still gets stereotyping from her peers throughout the movie till the very end.
There are a lot of hidden messages in the movie, but the one that stands out is the reaction from prey when predators suddenly start to go savage. Later revealed to be caused by a type of plant called “Night Howlers.” When the predators got hit with the plant serum they appeared to go back to their prehistoric ways of hunting prey and becoming violent or irrational. However, even before the epidemic of savage animals starts we can see examples of discrimination towards certain species of animals. Nick Wilde, a fox and Judy’s future partner on the police force, is seen in an earlier scene trying to order a jumbo pop from an ice cream shop. The owner initially refuses, holding up a sign that says, “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.” Similar or identical to the signs used to separate African Americans from white people when the Jim Crow laws were enforced.
Flashing back into Nick’s past, we see prey ganging up and bullying him, going as far as to put a muzzle on him. Foxes are seen as bad, sneaky, and untrustworthy in Zootopia. Nick got to a point where he decided that a fox can never be any more than the stereotype on them, which led him to turn to a dishonest lifestyle as a criminal.
Though there are a lot of references towards racism, nothing can be applied to real life racism. The prey have a reason to fear the predators when they go savage because they are much bigger than them and have teeth and claws. For the most part, Zootopia was a place of harmony before the savage attacks started. In the original drafts of the movie they were thinking of making Nick the main character of the story, which would make the plot line completely different. For example, all the predators had to wear shock collars for the prey so they would feel safe. Sometimes the collars randomly went off and that made the predators have a huge dislike or feel scared towards them.
I think they still wanted to incorporate the split between prey and predator. Some of the ideas of speaking towards racism to a younger audience still got in the movie, but they just don’t work. Assistant Mayor Bellwether, who you later learn is the antagonist of the film, tells Judy early on that “us little guys gotta stick together.” Later you learn that they are only targeting predators, but some prey like elephants, rhinos, and giraffes are not targeted even though they are much bigger. There’s so many species with so many advantages and disadvantages that you can’t put a race on any of the species or other qualities like big and small or predator and prey. The real message in this film is prejudice. To not judge someone before you know them. Don’t judge on size, if they are a carnivore, or what species they are.