Monday, March 21, 2016

Five Stars: Zootopia

It isn't often that I skip out on a night to lounge around and watch Once Upon A Time. It's even less likely to see me get dressed presentably and go to the movies when I could be at home under a blanket with a book. But last night, my friends and I ventured to see Zootopia, and everyone was pleasantly surprised.

I see children's movies for two reasons. One, I'm a kid at heart, and Disney has never released something that hasn't spoken to my soul. But mainly, I'm a teacher of very young children, and I want to know what's going on in their lives. And let me tell you, seeing the TV shows and movies they're interested in helps cater lessons and classroom conversations to their interests. It stimulates their motivation to learn like no other. I had to see Frozen twice in theaters when I worked at a daycare; it was all the rage among my students and I was quickly realizing I'd missed some key parts that were crucial to the storyline. My preschoolers had no problem alerting me of this issue. 

Trailers for Zootopia had been out for months, and Disney's facebook pages and Instagram accounts had been over-advertising it. Stuffed sloths and police rabbits were available in the Disney store before the movie was even released. And when my third grade practicum students started expressing interest in the release of the movie, I knew I was going to have to see it. Unfortunately, a Sunday evening was the first time my life slowed down enough to allow the time. 

I might not be a well-renowned movie critic, but I know what I look for in children's movies. I call it the three L's: a little love, a lot of laughter, and a life lesson. 

A Little Love 
Not merely romantic love, though I do love a good classic fairytale. But the movie must be filled with love. The characters must be lovable. The storyline must speak to the heart. And while I'm not looking for the next Oscar-nominated animated film, it must be clear that the directors, actors, and producers were in love with their movie. All of this was evident in Zootopia, causing all ages to fall in love with it as well. 

A Lot of Laughter
I was rolling from start to finish. Granted, I do have quite a juvenile sense of humor sometimes, but Disney has been known to throw in a few jokes for the parents, and Zootopia was no different. References to other Disney movies were thrown around subtly but wittily. The personality of each animal was determined by what animal they were: a clever and sly fox, a dedicated and hyper bunny, and painfully slow sloths (ironically working at the DMV). It was a cute movie from a child's standpoint, but it was quite educational from an adult standpoint. It wasn't just a story about some animals in a city. It discussed the habitats and mannerisms of certain animals, prey vs. predators, and biological drives within animals that lead them to become "savage." Talented voice actors and savvy scriptwriters had me laughing and engaged the whole time! 

A Life Lesson
There were so many, I don't even know where to begin. Through the rabbit, we learn that you must work hard and never give up on your dreams, even when no one else believes in you. Through the fox, we learn that the way people perceive us does not control our identity, and it is up to us to prove them wrong. And overall, we learn that there is no such thing as a perfect place. Life is inevitably messy, but we can take steps to improve the world to the best of our ability if we simply choose to do so. Who knew a story about a fox and a bunny could be so inspirational? 

I might not be a movie critic, but I'm a spectator with high expectations for young children and a soft spot for Disney. And by that authority... Zootopia easily gets five stars, and is a top recommendation from Taxis, Tots & Polka Dots! I'll definitely be going again soon to catch those plot holes my students will tell me I missed out on, so I hope to see you there! 

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