As December rolls on, so too does the cavalcade of year-end lists. The latest authority to weigh in is AFI, by which I mean the American Film Institute and not the Californian alternative-rock group also known as A Fire Inside. While we may never know which films the quartet behind “Miss Murder” favored this year, the other AFI has released their list of 2016’s ten best releases, and it’s a little more varied than some of the heretofore published lists, bringing in some films with less awards buzz along with your usual suspects of Moonlight, Manchester by the Sea, and La La Land.
Since the introduction of the Best Animated Feature Oscar at the 74th Academy Awards in 2002, we’ve seen a steady exponential increase in animated movies over the years. Pixar, and, by extent, Disney, has usually dominated the competition, with eight wins out of ten nominations, followed by DreamWorks and Disney’s animation studio. This year, we have a record 27 movies eligible for the award, and while the Academy can pick only five to nominate, for now it’s anyone’s game.
A single giraffe in Zootopia contained over nine million individual hairs, which is more hair than all of the last three Disney animated films together. That’s just one of the hair-raising (sorry) Zootopia facts in the latest installment of You Think You Know Movies!
As it turns out, making a politically-minded movie for kids can be financially successful.
Pardon the pun, but Zootopia is a beast. Disney Animation’s new film held on to the number one spot at the box office for the third weekend in a row and made it look easy. Not even Allegiant, the third film in the Divergent series, could topple it. Could the film end up pulling Frozen numbers? Maybe. Possibly. We’ll have to see how strong it stands in the face of a couple of superheroes.
That sound you hear is the folks over at Disney popping a couple dozen bottles of champagne — Zootopia didn’t just open at number one at the box office, it had the biggest opening of any film in the history of Walt Disney Animation Studios, beating out 2014’s Frozen. Unfortunately, the rest of the newcomers didn’t fare quite as well, with London Has Fallen and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot limping into second and fourth place, respectively.
Along the western edge of Disneyland, rises a craggy peak of mossy cliffs, tangled tree roots, and thorny briar patches. This attraction — part animatronic carnival, part kid-friendly log flume — is known as Splash Mountain, and thanks to the technical wizards at Walt Disney Imagineering, it really looks like an authentic summit. But of course, it’s not; it was built in the late 1980s at a reported cost of some $75 million. It’s a very fun ride — and possibly the strangest in the entire Disney empire, since it’s essentially a giant $75 million monument to a movie that Disney has kept out of circulation for more than 30 years.
In the beginning of Disney’s ‘Zootopia,’ Judy Hopper, a young determined bunny with big aspirations, is told by her parents that complacency is better than chasing your dreams. “You know why your mom and I ended up so happy?” her small town carrot farmer dad asks. “We gave up on our dreams and settled!” At first ‘Zootopia’ might seem like Disney once again banging their follow-your-dreams and never-give-up drum, but it quickly overcomes that outdated adage. Instead, Judy’s story of perseverance becomes the entry point for a larger movie about the tough realizations that come with leaving a bubble of blind comfort, and one that uses he animal kingdom to comment on prejudice, race relations and police brutality.
As the story goes, corrupt government officials intentionally introduced a dangerous drug into marginalized minority communities resulting in increased power for politicians and law enforcement through the manipulated fear of the middle class. This narrative has been the subject of a number of popular conspiracy theories over the years concerning the CIA’s alleged involvement in the crack cocaine epidemic among the African American community in the mid-80s. It’s also the plot of the 55th Disney animated movie starring a group of cute, talking animals.
The marketing for Disney’s Zootopia hasn’t exactly hooked us just yet, but early word-of-mouth suggests that the studio’s latest animated adventure is not only smarter and more subversive than the trailers would have you believe, but that Zootopia is right up there with the best of Pixar. Speaking of which: Like Pixar, Zootopia has its own easter eggs connecting it to other Disney films — well, it has at least one easter egg, and you can check it out in this gallery of new, high-res photos from the upcoming film.