“Zootopia,” a children’s movie that doubled as one of the most politically poignant films of 2016, was recognized as the Best Animated Feature Film of the year at the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday.
On its surface, the film, directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore, follows a bunny named Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) as she tries to establish herself as a police officer in the animal-run metropolis of Zootopia.
But underneath the surface of “Zootopia” is a message about the dangers of stereotyping and discriminating in a multicultural world ― in the case of “Zootopia,” one with co-existing predators and prey ― and the types of people (and animals) who win and lose when we do.
Director Byron Howard told Variety that when he and Rich Moore pitched the film to Disney, “bias and discrimination didn’t seem like the most mainstream” topic for a children’s movie.
But by the time it was in production, the world around them had changed. Protests were raging over the mistreatment of black men and women in Ferguson, Missouri, making them feel as if they had an obligation to tackle the issues of prejudice as “honestly” as they could.
After that, the film only continued to gain in relevancy with the fear-based rise of President Donald Trump’s popularity, “which is what [the film’s] entire third act is about, our villain is using fear to stoke division,” Howard said.
“I don’t think we could have predicted it any closer with this film,” he added.
After its March release, “Zootopia” quickly became one of the biggest hits of 2016. The filmed received positive reviews from 98 percent of critics, tied for the highest percentage of any film last year, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
At the box office, “Zootopia” performed just as well, pulling in $340 million domestically and more than $1 billion worldwide.