Media Moment: Zootopia, a utopian movie experience for my family.

Media Moment: Zootopia, a utopian movie experience for my family.

Dear Reader,

Welcome to another Media Moment! This month, Mary Shertenlieb, a former TV and film content screener and mother of two, shares her experience watching Zootopia with her two boys and her appreciation of movies that entertain and inform both children and adults. These stories are meant to help create a village square of commiserating and co-celebrating the many ways media intersect with the lives of children. Please comment and even submit your own ‘Moment’ to share with your fellow readers.
Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
~The Mediatrician®

Zootopia, a utopian movie experience for my family.

Now is a fabulous time to be a parent.

At least when it comes to choices in animated family films.

It hasn’t always been this way, especially for Disney.  Home on the Range or Treasure Planet, anyone? I was running through my grocery list in my head while watching those – did I remember to add asparagus?

I was excited to take my boys to see Zootopia, having read all of the stellar reviews. Fortunately, it lived up to the hype, being one of those wonderful animated family films where both my kids and I were entertained.

The film centers on Judy Hopps, a small town bunny with dreams of becoming a police officer in the big city.  Her parents discourage her from this idea – bunnies aren’t cops.  In the words of her father, “We gave up on our dreams and settled.  That’s the beauty of complacency.”  Don’t dream big is their message.  Live the comfy, protected life.

Thankfully Judy embraces her dreams and we follow her on a fast paced adventure through a vibrant world filled with a variety of animals. The story is structured to capture the attention of both children and adults, and is peppered with jokes that speak to both audiences.  For example, Judy visits a local Department of Motor Vehicles, which is employed by sloths.  Yep.  We’ve all been there…stuck for hours.  My son was all, “Mommy!  Look at the cute sloths.”  While I was cracking up at just how slow they were moving.

Beyond the beautiful animation and funny jokes, Zootopia deals with heavy topics such as racial profiling, tolerance and diversity, as well as inspirational themes about following ones’ dreams and doing the right thing even when it’s tough. Although important, these lessons aren’t heavy handed, rather they are woven throughout the plot. For example, an overarching theme in the movie is treating animals equally no matter what species they are, or ahem – treating all people equally.  I love when my kids are entertained and get a good message!

Part buddy cop comedy, part political thriller, Zootopia is full of great moments – just as one brilliant scene is ending, you’re whisked away to another, equally brilliant scene.  I wasn’t surprised when I saw John Lasseter as the executive producer in the credits.  He’s the creative genius behind Toy Story and Cars and was essentially the heart of Pixar films.  He is currently the chief creative officer at Disney Animation and Pixar.  He puts the emotional wallop into these films and brings them up a notch.  In Lasseter’s words, as a film creator, “Your connection with the audience is emotional.  They can’t be told to feel a certain way.  They have to discover it themselves.”  He never shoves a lemon in your eye and forces you to cry, but you are right there feeling it.

My eight-year-old is slowly awakening to the idea of the world as a less than perfect place.  A few days ago, we drove past a van with a missing child sign on the back.  My son read the poster and exclaimed, “Mommy!!!  There is a missing boy!  We have to find him, now!”  Oh my.  That really got me.  I had to explain to his sweet eight-year-old heart that the police were on it and that the boy may have already been found. In my experience as a parent, it is always better to deliver messages of hope rather than despair.

Zootopia does just that.  Films are written and produced months before they’re released.  So how Zootopia predicted the future and nailed it with its descriptions of today’s political climate is beyond me.  But it delivers a cool message of hope, with the notion that open-mindedness, love, and positive leadership will prevail. Never preachy, never lecturing – you get the message and you’re having fun.   Honestly, Zootopia feels tailor-made for the discussions in American happening right now.

Here’s hoping Zootopia will continue our current utopian trend of animated family films! Instead of remembering to add asparagus to our grocery list, we can sink deeply into a good story together, parents and kids.

~ Mary Shertenlieb

(photo by Theme Park Tourist/CC by 2.0)