Disney delivers positive message in ‘Zootopia’

Published: March 10, 2016

JOE EVANS
Featured Columnist

When it comes to animated films with a positive, educational message Disney is the king.

The company’s older films are classics that generations of parents have shown to generations of kids.

Films like “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King” are ingrained into our cultural DNA through repeated viewings.

It is easy for a company with such an established track record of success to fall back on its giant stockpiles of money and to stop producing the quality content that got them famous in the first place.

Instead, through both Disney animations studios and Pixar, a division of Disney, have been the gold standard of animated films for years now.

A Pixar film, “Inside Out” just won Best Animated Feature Film at this year’s Oscars. Recently, Disney followed up with “Zootopia.”

Not only is this film wonderfully animated, features a stellar cast of voice actors and fun to watch, but it holds a powerful and important message for viewers of all ages.

The theme of tolerance and acceptance is laced throughout every inch of this beautifully imaginative world.

This film is not only eye candy but holds an important point as well. Films that push the importance of acceptance of everyone’s differences, the destruction of widely held stereotypes and are still fun to watch are few and far between. The closest comparison I can make to this film is the positive feminist message of “Frozen.”

“Frozen” introduced a new generation of girls to the strong, positive, female role models, just like “Mulan” did for my generation.

These past few months have been a black eye for equality in America in the eyes of many.

This film comes at a time when many are pondering how to improve or teach sensitivity, empathy, understanding and tolerance.
This is by no means a new message for animated films.

An animated film with a positive, socially-aware message is by no means an oddity.

The best of them, such as “Inside Out” can make nuanced and profound points about a variety of topics, such as feminism, mental illness and depression.

These are important topics to breach for a variety of reasons, especially with the young, impressionable audience they are targeted towards.

I’ve seen first-hand, by working with kids at The Boys and Girls Club of Northeastern Pennsylvania, that kids are by no means inherently hateful.

They are extremely receptive to positive messages. Kids of different cultural backgrounds, religions and socioeconomic status intermingle like the equals they are.

We need to give kids messages that reinforce their nature of acceptance and equality.

That’s why I hope that parents will flock to see “Zootopia” the way they did for “Frozen” because I believe the message in “Zootopia” is just as important, especially in today’s times.

This past year has been a black eye for equality in America in many different ways. Hopefully, “Zootopia’s” themes of equality, breaking stereotypes, not judging a book by its cover and perseverance will resound with the youngest generation the same way that “Let it Go” became a cultural touchstone.

Contact the writer: joseph.evans2@scranton.edu

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