When Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) was a kit, she attended her rural school with big dreams of what she would do with her life. That was growing up to be Zootopia's first rabbit police officer, and she certainly honed her sense of right and wrong to a fine point, researching how the mammal world used to be with predators hunting and eating prey, not how things are done now in these advanced and modern times, then channelling her findings into class projects such as the school play she wrote and performed in herself. Even after her theatrical debut, she was on the look-out for injustice, though she learned the hard way that good intentions don’t always translate into good results...
Which is something she will have to re-learn as the plot of Zootopia, or Zootropolis as it was renamed in some territories for copyright reasons, propels her into the Disney animated equivalent of a buddy cop movie, complete with mystery to solve. Judy does indeed make it to the Police Academy of Zootopia, which is the largest city in this reimagined world where animals rule, or the furry ones at any rate, and her misconceptions that if you wish for something hard enough, putting in the work to realise your ambitions will pay off great dividends, hit a wall. But the film was not willing to shatter any illusions for Judy, as it would allow her to make progress to an extent before knocking her back some more.
As long as you were confident our heroine would make it to the end of the movie with some kind of achievement (this was Disney) then you would be secure in the knowledge that her learning curve had not ended once she finished her courses, and life was demonstrating its way with having something to teach you after the point that you thought you should really have it all sorted out in your mind by now. Though it's not simply Judy who that happens to, as the script went into overdrive to ensure that more or less every character learned a lesson, and that was on the subject of prejudice, which they showed was not solely the trait of the most outrageous bigots, but everyone had a degree of it to overcome.
Judy, thanks to an encounter with a childhood bully, has her suspicions about foxes, so once she has been assigned to parking ticket duty (to her disappointment, though she makes the best of it), she notices a fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), apparently making trouble, when she realises she has him all wrong. And then she subsequently realises she had him all right, and he is a wily low level crook, though crucially it is down to the majority of the populace labelling him a bad 'un without giving him a chance, including Judy. He is so far content to live down to that preconception, but the encounter with Judy hints that she may be the one to chip away at that hardened cynicism, and what he needs to reform is someone who believes in him and his potential for performing the decent actions she has set her mind to do herself.
This is starting to sound like a motivational speech from a life guru somehow transformed into a cartoon, isn't it? But while the message was plain to see, in its original form as a film as pessimistic and hardboiled as Nick until the inevitable redemption, it would not have been as effective as it is. The sense of humour was a big help, with some big laughs particularly in the first half, though the tone grew more serious in the second, not thanks to the lecturing but because it embraced the thriller genre as any buddy cop movie worth its salt is required to do: we have to have the excitement factor to raise the stakes. With the directors of justified Disney hits Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph joining forces, perhaps a little surprisingly as a consequence Zootopia appealed to the wide audience it was aimed at; call it a crowdpleaser but not every one of those aimed at provoking some genuinely positive thoughts by making us confront our less lovely personality traits succeeded, yet here the tone was one of forgiveness and acceptance, going some way to leaving you in a better place than when you started watching it. Music by Michael Giacchino.