Over spring break, I went to the movies with a 4 and 6 year old to see Zootopia. These kids love the movies and were so excited to see the newest Disney animated movie starring talking animals. I had read that this movie was a commentary on racial bias in policing, and was very curious to see how a topic this heavy would be explored in a film aimed a little kids.
Let me start out by saying that I enjoyed this movie. It was cute, witty, and engaging. It focuses mostly on a bunny, Judy Hopps, who has a dream of being a police officer in a world where bunnies are never anything more than farmers. Even though she graduates top of her class from the police academy, she faces discrimination on the police force because she’s just a bunny. There’s an ongoing “prey” vs “predator” struggle in Zootopia which is meant to represent the racial struggles in America. Without giving too much away, the story follows corruption, an unlikely partnership between bunny and fox, and overcoming adversity. Heavy stuff for a kids movie, right?
This got me thinking: why make a movie with themes that go right over the primary audience’s heads? Then it hit me looking around the theater…all of the kids were there with their parents. Does this mean that the target audience for this movie is actually adults, people who will understand the underlying message? Are the talking animals just a ploy to get parents to take their kids to see the movie and make a difficult conversation about racial discrimination easier to swallow?
Whatever the method, it seems to be working. Zootopia was #1 at the box office on opening weekend, and has people talking about race relations (and kids also love it). I definitely recommend going to see it if you get the chance!