Zootopia

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Re: Zootopia

Post by Ben » March 8th, 2016, 4:17 am

I didn't look at Droo's spoilery post above, but I did scan through James' review last night before posting it and got his gist. A little like Droo, though, all I have really seen are a couple of trailers and heard the general word of mouth, so it was good to get that balance.

I must add, though, that even from the trailers (I start to overthink things!) I had begun to wonder what the carnivores eat. And it's going to be annoying to me that they don't address that at all ("everyone turned vegetarian", "I'll never get used to this processed meat!"...something!). Once again a new animated universe is concocted that falls apart whenever the simplest questions are asked.

Anyway, as said before somewhere here, I haven't been too impressed with what I've seen so far, so expectations are in check and I'll probably end up liking it too, although that food issue will be bugging me!

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Re: Zootopia

Post by James » March 8th, 2016, 9:17 am

Droo is exactly right about Zootopia and expectations. I had purposely kept what I knew about it low (as I try to do for most movies) and assumed this was probably going to be a throw away movie while waiting for Moana from Disney. It wasn't until a few days before it came out that the critics started going gaga with a 100% at RT and people claiming it was the best since Beauty and the Beast (my favorite Disney film).

So unfortunately I went in with huge expectations even though I knew nothing about the film. And the film did not come close to delivering what was promised by those critics! If I had gone in without hearing from the lemmings critics, I would have had the same criticisms but they would have been delivered less stridently.

I actually think people here who have read my review will see it and think it's not so bad now that I lowered their expectations! ;)

My biggest beef with Gideon was
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he represented an actual human-world-analogue stereotype that, unlike most stereotypes, is OK to mock. There was no chance we would ever see a character with a stereotypical black accent selling drugs, acting gangsta, doing hiphop, and eating watermelon. That is an unacceptable stereotype even if he does have a change of heart at the end. But the racist southerner stereotype is allowed by PC folks, and is one they actually think is real, so it can be propagated to a new generation of children.
(On a side note. I currently live in the south now, but have lived all over the United States. I was an Air Force brat and went to nine different schools in twelve grades including in several regions of the country. I can promise you the kids in the deep south were no different than the kids anywhere else when it came to bullying geeks!)

While I had big issues with the actual story, I had trouble getting past the in-your-face message. It was so unsubtle and over the top. I find that type of storytelling insulting, no matter the message. Good writers could have taken this same message and built a story around it so that you discovered the message for yourself without it being explicitly stated over and over.

Three more complaints I can remember:
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- There was a joke about the N word in a Disney movie! And it was a joke actually promoting the idea that the N word is OK sometimes!

- A character LITERALLY looks at the camera and reiterates the message to the audience. Some writer had to have said "you know I don't know if all these references to our message are getting the point across. Can we find a way to have a character look directly at the audience and explain it again?"

- Hopps has to work extremely hard to make it past cop training. But at the ceremony that is glossed over in favor of mentioning she was an affirmative action hire. So, who cares that she actually did make it based on merit, we're going to highlight that she made it based on her minority status.

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Re: Zootopia

Post by James » March 8th, 2016, 9:28 am

Ben wrote:...I must add, though, that even from the trailers (I start to overthink things!) I had begun to wonder what the carnivores eat. And it's going to be annoying to me that they don't address that at all...
I didn't want to give much away in the review, and I don't want to do it here since you haven't seen it. But suffice it to say a major plot point late in the film that hasn't got a lot of play in the previews or reviews almost requires an answer to the question about what they eat. You may ask it as a fun question early on, but by the end it is an important question.

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Re: Zootopia

Post by droosan » March 8th, 2016, 11:09 am

My apologies, Ben .. don't read this until later (some spoilers here)! :mrgreen:
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It was not my intention to imply that bullies in the deep south are different from bullies anywhere else. :oops: Only that Gideon's 'southern' accent resonated with me, personally, due to my own experience (FWIW, I was also an Air Force brat schlepped around the U.S. -- and Japan -- before my dad retired from the service when I was in my teens. Maybe I was just a much bigger nerd as a teenager than I was as a little kid .. but I didn't really get bullied much before then. Again, YMMV).

I also didn't see Gideon's accent as presenting him in a negative light, in and of itself -- after all, the sheep whose tickets he was trying to steal in the beginning had quite the 'twang', herself! Rather, I thought it provided a somewhat charming way for Judy to receive the final clue -- the fact that 'night howlers' were an exotic plant.

I also don't think Zootopia's message is about racism, per se. I think it's about tolerance, in general -- about not seeing any group of people as a monolithic 'other' -- but as people .. whether it's LGBT, or race, or religion, or Republican/Democrat/what-have-you. The Blacksad story Arctic Nation -- yeah, that's about racism! :shock: Disney certainly tread wide of that allegory, by comparison. I do agree that the message does become a bit heavy-handed, especially in the third act with the 'Gazelle protest' news stories. :|

I also thought it was clear (and somewhat clever) that Judy and Bellwether were two sides of the same coin .. embarking upon divergent paths/attitudes in the face of casually-oppressive treatment. Bellwether's folksy sentiment that "we've gotta stick together" takes on a much darker tone when her intentions are revealed later on. And Judy finds her own idealism tripped-up when she echoes Bellwether's POV during the press conference.

Certainly, Judy becomes a police officer due to her own merit .. but the 'affirmative action' plan is seen, in retrospect, to be entirely devised by Bellwether with the intention of carefully feeding Judy the clues to 'enable' her to solve the case of the missing animals, and thus claim power. I don't think Bellwether expected that Judy would quit (she'd obviously intended to use her as the face of her 're-imagined' police force) .. and she certainly didn't expect Judy to discover the true nature of 'night howlers' on her own!
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Re: Zootopia

Post by James » March 8th, 2016, 12:28 pm

Gideon's accent wasn't a negative in and of itself. It's the stereotype being perpetuated when the movie asks us not to perpetuate stereotypes. Too often it seems the "southerners are racist" stereotype is allowed to persist by the very people who shun stereotypes for every other group. There was no need for the character to have that accent, it was a specific choice for that specific character. And again, I'm normally not even the kind of person who cares about (or even normally notices!) this kind of thing -- its just at odds with the exact message they want us to take away which I think is a legitimate critique of the film.

I hope you haven't taken a wrong impression of my thoughts on the message. I'm not putting down the message. I'm putting down the clumsy, ham-fisted, unsubtle way it was presented, as well as pointing out how hypocritical some aspects were to that message. And obviously I agree that racism isn't the only -ism being tackled here. But those are easy examples I can use where everyone will understand what I'm getting at.

(Air Force brat brothers! What years were you in? I'd be funny if we were stationed somewhere at the same time! My dad was in with me from '72 to '88.)

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Re: Zootopia

Post by EricJ » March 8th, 2016, 12:30 pm

droosan wrote:Gotta say, though .. nothing is gained by proclaiming any Disney movie to be "the best since (X)." I'm not sure why even Disney does that in its own marketing, sometimes. :|
Right up until Mulan, EVERY SINGLE 90's Disney trailer, Pocahontas and Hunchback included, began with showing the Disney animators at work at their desks, and Ariel splashing up on the rocks, and Beast dancing with Beauty, while the Trailer Voice told us the movie was coming from "the studio that brought you a Whole New World, and became Part of Your Own..." (Except for the 80's ones, when they still sold it with Pinocchio dancing and Lady & Tramp kissing over spaghetti.)
There was still some last pockets of resistance from stubborn 80's folks who refused to believe that 90's Disney movies were Good Again, and they had to put more persuasive evidence right in at the beginning.
(Pixar seems to be doing it a lot more now, opening the oddball teasers for their new original movies with mandatory montages of Woody, Nemo and Wall-E...Whether they're doing it more after coming back from the Sequel Troubles, it's hard to say.)

Some people still refuse to believe that 00's-10's Lasseter Renaissance movies are Good Again, but now you can always persuade them exactly what you mean with the F-word. (Except, of course, for the actual Frozen, which had to use the L-K words.)

And I'd say more about Zootopia itself if today was Wednesday, but I've got too much to do. :oops:

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Re: Zootopia

Post by droosan » March 8th, 2016, 3:49 pm

James, I sent ya a PM with details on my dad's USAF stint.

I don't have any issue with your criticisms of Zootopia; in fact, I agree most of them are valid points. Just offering my own take .. which wasn't anywhere near as negative. Though, I'm well-aware I tend to like just about everything I see, for some reason or other .. and on the rare occasions I don't, I pretty much just say I didn't, and leave it at that. But I realize that's not an option for someone tasked with writing a review. :wink:

That said, I did share your assessment of Inside Out as "good, but not OMG best evarrrr," last year. I also had a similar opinion, personally, of Frozen. But in both cases -- while I was perplexed at the overwhelming accolades those movies received -- I felt it was a good thing for the respective studios to have such a hit on their hands.

I dunno if that'll be the case for Zootopia .. but I suppose time will tell.

-------------------------------

I thought the news blurb on the front page revealing the fact that the secondary newscaster had been tailored to various regions of the world (a moose for North America, a tanuki for Japan, a koala for Australia, a panda for China, etc) was rather interesting.

Since the movie is called Zootropolis overseas, I wonder whether all the dialogue for the UK/Australian versions had to be re-dubbed with that name..? Because the characters actually say "Zootopia," rather a lot.

Was there some pre-existing work titled 'Zootopia' which kept Disney from using that as the english-language title overseas.. :?:

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Regardless of the storytelling -- both Zootopia and Big Hero 6 are absolutely incredible showcases for world-building and detailed secondary/crowd characters.

A close look at Chicken Little (or even most CG animated features from any studio at that time, TBH) reveals that the secondary characters in the background were based on templates .. the same dog/pig/antelope/whatever, dressed in 'mix-and-match' clothing, with differently-colored fur, etc. Same with background buildings & scenery, for the most part.

That is likely also the case for secondary characters and buildings in Zootopia and BH6 .. but the templates now have so many options, that an infinite variety seems to be on display. There really seems to be a city full of people going through their own story just off-camera, in both movies. :)

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Re: Zootopia

Post by James » March 8th, 2016, 6:11 pm

droosan wrote:...Though, I'm well-aware I tend to like just about everything I see, for some reason or other .. and on the rare occasions I don't, I pretty much just say I didn't, and leave it at that. But I realize that's not an option for someone tasked with writing a review. :wink:
You're right, you can't like everything and be a reviewer! There are a lot of animated film reviewers out there who seem to only use a scale of 8-10 for their scores. I try to take animated films as seriously as a live action reviewers when I write about them. And that means actually ripping these films apart and using the full 0-10 scale. In my defense I did give Zootopia a 5 which is right in the middle, not on the bad side of the scale!

And one last comment on my review of the message in Zootopia: Using the example in my review, if this were a film about eating your veggies that was as in your face and inconsistent with its message, I would be making these exact same comments. It's not the message I'm ripping apart, its the presentation of it.

So Droo and I have shared our thoughts. Anyone else seen it yet?

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Re: Zootopia

Post by Ben » March 8th, 2016, 7:35 pm

I again haven't read the hidden spoiler sections here, but glossing over what James wrote above about a character with a Southern accent, I'm sure hoping that they haven't repeated Lotso from Toy Story 3...!

As for Zootopia/Zootropolis... Apparently there's a zoo or animal preserve in Denmark that trademarked the name Zootopia in Europe. Since they have the mark to produce toys and clothes merchandise, Disney would have had to pay them to use that name (irrespective of what the logo looked like). They could have used it for the film, but not on toys or clothes or certain other items of merchandise. Since licensing is such a huge area for a film property to bring in extra income - especially when it's a big hit like this - they decided to change the name.

I'll let you know if they swap the dialogue but from what I hear that's a no: literally just the name of the film/merchandise has been changed (well, and the newscaster "cameo") so as to not tread on the Danish zoo's claim (a registration that, being a European country, doesn't stretch to the US, where they never trademarked the word). So it's a straight business decision (of course!) so that Disney can own the property outright in either trandemarkable continent (Zootopia in the US, Zootropolis in Europe and, I presume, the rest of the world).

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Re: Zootopia

Post by Randall » March 8th, 2016, 9:48 pm

Interesting! That solves that mystery.

We'll likely see the film on Easter weekend, right after my daughter gets her braces off. She's wanting to eat popcorn again, so we're saving Zootopia (and its accompanying theatre popcorn) for her!

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Re: Zootopia

Post by Josh » March 8th, 2016, 10:58 pm

Personally, I was blown away by Zootopia.

I will say that like you, James, I didn't care for the Southern stereotypes at the start of the movie. But
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at least Gideon changes.

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Re: Zootopia

Post by James » March 8th, 2016, 11:04 pm

Ben wrote:I again haven't read the hidden spoiler sections here, but glossing over what James wrote above about a character with a Southern accent, I'm sure hoping that they haven't repeated Lotso from Toy Story 3...
He's a fairly minor character so no worries about whatever you don't like about Lotso!

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Re: Zootopia

Post by Ben » March 9th, 2016, 5:01 am

Ah, okay...sounded like we had another bad guy from the same region on our hands, and it would have felt a little "more of the same".


We get the film March 25 here and I will go see it. Usually the UK release is held back so far that the Blu-ray hits the US around the same time, but since this is almost the same it'll be more of a wait (rumor is September for home video, quite a long wait nowadays) then we'll make the point of going. However, it opens for Easter here - just when we're away for that weekend! So I'll end up seeing it either the following Tuesday or Wednesday when we get back...still just within March though!

Have to say that from what I've seen and reading the kind of feedback the film has been getting (despite the box-office and critics, word of mouth has not all be spectacular) my expectations are certainly still in check so I'll likely like it more than some. Without the surprisingly good reaction, though, it's also likely that I would have waited for the disc, as from the sales material the thing just doesn't look that appealing! Will let you know what I think when we catch it at the end of the month.

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Re: Zootopia

Post by EricJ » March 9th, 2016, 6:14 pm

James wrote:
Ben wrote:I again haven't read the hidden spoiler sections here, but glossing over what James wrote above about a character with a Southern accent, I'm sure hoping that they haven't repeated Lotso from Toy Story 3...
He's a fairly minor character so no worries about whatever you don't like about Lotso!
Lotso wasn't meant to be a "Southern" character, he was supposed to be a jolly, warm Ned Beatty/Paul Dooley-type character, who, heheh...might not be. :twisted:
If Beatty has that particular dialect, it's just part of the character image.

And yeah, was going to see it today but the weather was too good, so I'll save it for the cool rainy weekend, even though I can also eat popcorn with no problem.

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Re: Zootopia

Post by Vernadyn » March 9th, 2016, 9:33 pm

I agree that Zootopia isn't up to the standard of Big Hero 6, Frozen, Wreck-It Ralph, or Tangled, and that the "message" was heavy-handed, but it was a good sight better than Happy Feet. I'd say it's also better than The Good Dinosaur but in the same ballpark as Bolt--decent, but not spectacular.

The first half or so was episodic--particularly the yak, sloth, and Mr. Big segments--but I felt the film started to pull together more as it progressed. As with The Good Dinosaur, I also felt the film didn't quite explore its intriguing premise--in this case, a city with several distinct boroughs and different species living in harmony--to its full potential. I was expecting there to be more laughs, and I agree that there actually weren't that many.

What actually impressed me more was the sincere moments between the two main characters; it's a testament to the voice actors and animators that the performances remained convincing, hampered as they were by the didactic tone of some of the writing. Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde were appealing characters with just enough complexity to make them believable. Whatever faults Disney Animation's recent films may have, they're still the best mainstream American animation studio at creating engaging characters with whom you'd want to spend two hours. (Pixar held that crown until Cars 2 blundered into town, though Inside Out shows that the studio can still be marvelous when firing on all cylinders.)

As for the spoiler-y stuff…
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Yes, Disney has to stop using the "unexpected villain" trope because we'll all be expecting it now and groaning when the reveal happens. At least it made more sense here than the "turn" in Frozen, though I still think Wreck-It Ralph did it best. In fact, King Candy is kind of similar to Gaston--he starts off as a blustering, daft buffoon before he reveals his true nature.
Also, don't read the track titles for the soundtrack if you don't want any spoilers. No, it's not as blatant as "Qui-Gon's Noble End," but anyone with reasonable powers of deduction can figure out the reveal by reading the cue titles.

Speaking of the soundtrack, even though this wasn't one of Giacchino's better efforts (especially as he had a stellar 2015), I did enjoy some of the stylish instrumentation. The lack of good themes, however, is a major detriment, especially from a composer who thrives on clever, complex thematic variation. There is a main "relationship" theme, but it's a very simplistic construct that sounds like leftovers from Lost. Henry Jackman's scores for Wreck-It Ralph and Big Hero 6, despite being more action-oriented overall, still handled the emotional moments with more poignancy than Giacchino's score for Zootopia. Then again, it was a more lightweight film, so I suppose Giacchino was just writing for the film he was given. That said, it was nowhere near as infuriatingly Mickey-Mousey as Randy Newman's Toy Story scores.

As far as critical reception goes, I kind of see Zootopia as this year's Mad Max: Fury Road-- rapturous reviews by critics, and while both are good films, neither blew me away. Despite the moments of pontification, Zootopia is more of a vivacious if somewhat frothy confection mostly redeemed by its charming lead characters. (That sounds a whole lot more like a Rotten Tomatoes critical consensus blurb than I intended.)

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