esteban’s review published on Letterboxd :
79% 🍅 - Walt Disney presents : Chinatown Confidential
Sounds crazy, right? What's even more surprising, is the fact that I'm not kidding. Not at all. The creators of Zootopia were clearly heavily inspired by those classic movies. And it shows the whole running time, with confidence and proud. I guess in some way, you can see Byron Howard and Rich Moore as the Roman Polanski and Brian De Palma of Walt Disney Animation, bringing one of the studio's most grown up and clever written stories to date. Not afraid to handle difficult themes like racism or fear by preconceptions, all relevant and topical.
"But ... A world filled with animals acting like modern human beings, including pop culture references? That sounds a lot like the sky-falling tale of ..." Let me stop you right there! Zootopia is absolutely everything Chicken Little wasn't. And so much more in every possible way. This world is really imaginative. The fact animals of all kind have to spend daily life in the same environment, could raise a lot of questions, but it seems everything was thought trough, very inventive. There's so much going on in a positive way, it's simply impossible to take it all in by first viewing.
The character design is great. To say the animation itself was great too, would be an understatement. It's nothing less than stunning. As someone who's very into animation of every kind, I was impressed, even fascinated, by the endless details in the facial expressions. A typical 'flaw' in many, even the best, animated movies, is the fact side characters kinda 'freeze' in the background when it's not their turn. Sometimes they even stop blinking. This one is on another level. Watch out, Pixar. Every single character feels very much alive all the time and keeps being a part of the scene or conversation by using subtle facial changes. A real pleasure to watch. And the way they captured and translated those typical dry looks of Jason Bateman through the fox, just marvelous.
So, this is clearly a four star -or more- review. Why did I stop at three and a half?
In comparison with the the last WDA production I saw in theatres, I can't ignore the fact Big Hero 6 touched me deeply. At one moment it even made me cry. Almost. Okay, it did make me cry. Happy now? But while I sympathized with both Judy Hopps (bunny) and Nick Wilde (fox), it just didn't even came close to the emotional impact some previous Disney features had. I liked it a lot, left with a smile. But it didn't touch my heart.
Another reason is the fact it was the Flemish version, unfortunately. Went looking for some English clips afterwards and noticed a lot of the jokes and clever dialogues were totally lost in translation. A re-watch of the original version on blu ray is on my list.
Nonetheless, this is a fantastic production with a lot of ambition, taking the next step on different levels, for big studio animation, that is.
Footnote : I would not recommend this to children younger than 7-9 years old, at least not in theaters. My 7 year old niece is quit clever when it comes to multiple layered stories or symbolic elements, she has no problems with more mature and less evidently movies like 'Beyond, Beyond' or 'The Little Prince'. But the plot of 'Zootopia' went over her head. She said that it was fun, but she didn't understand what was going on and why the animals did what they did. During the movie, a lot of younger kids couldn't keep their attention. And by the many reactions during the credits, it was clear they had a very hard time keeping up with it. Everyone above that age will have a great time. No doubt.