‘Zootopia’ could win Disney its third Best Animated Feature Oscar in four years

“Zootopia” opened Friday to rave reviews, scoring a jaw-dropping 99 at Rotten Tomatoes (which scores on a pass/fail basis) and 81 at MetaCritic (which uses a sliding scale). Disney has won two of the last three Oscar races for Best Animated Feature and this sly satire could complete the hat trick. 

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Prior to prevailing for “Frozen” in 2013 and “Big Hero 6” in 2014, the animation giant had lost six Oscar races in a row. Two of those bids were for films from the co-directors of “Zootopia”: Byron Howard (“Bolt”) lost to “WALL-E” in 2008 and Rich Moore (“Wreck-It-Ralph”) was bested by “Brave” in 2012.

They have teamed up for the first time on “Zootopia,” the 55th animated feature from Disney. The sassy script, which is full of topical references and zingers, is by Jared Bush (also credited as a director) and Phil Johnston. Bush was part of the creative team behind “Big Hero 6.” 

“Zootopia” is set in a world where animals have taken on human characteristics and predators and prey live in peace. When predators start to disappear, a rabbit police officer (Ginnifer Goodwin) teams up with a red fox con artist (Jason Bateman) to find them. 

Expect the movie to do boffo box office in the weeks ahead. And with this early release date, the home video version will be ready by the time awards season rolls around. That will allow the studio to save a ton of money on specially manufactured DVDs. 

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Among those cheering loudest for the film was this trio of key critics from leading outlets: 

Neil Genzlinger (New York Times): “This film, action-packed and filled with enough savvy jokes that adults should consider slipping into the theater even if they don’t have an accompanying child, is set in a world where animals have transcended the carnivore-and-prey dichotomy and now live together more or less harmoniously. Funny, smart, thought-provoking and musical, too. Shakira provides the voice of a pop star named Gazelle, and her vocals complete the package appealingly.”

Gary Goldstein (Los Angeles Times): “Bursting with a rich blend of timely themes, superb voice work, wonderful visuals and laugh-out-loud wit, ‘Zootopia’ is quite simply a great time at the movies.”

Richard Roeper (Chicago Sun-Times): “‘Zootopia’ is brimming with silly, slapstick humor and terrific one-liners and yes, some simple yet valuable lessons about tolerance and prejudice and learning to embrace our differences. There’s nothing wrong with a lesson or two when those lessons are packaged within such a great and memorable film.”

Photo: Disney

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