ZOOTOPIA

This image released by Disney shows Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, in a scene from the animated film, "Zootopia." (Disney via AP)

Disney pulled a rabbit out of the hat with this one.

A clever plot, charming characters and deeply meaningful messages make “Zootopia” a must-see film for kids — and kids-at-heart — everywhere. The film blends comedy with surprisingly mature life-lessons in a seamless manner. It’s a film capable of teaching us all life-lessons we would be wise to heed. The lessons learned from this colorfully-animated film can, and should, be applied to our all-too-often black and white world.

Our “Zootopia” protagonist is Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin). Hopps is an exuberant rabbit who has dreams of becoming the city of Zootopia’s first bunny cop. Zootopia is a place where all animals have learned to live and work together in harmony, both predator and prey, but Zootopia has never had a bunny cop before, and the police officers tend to be much larger, and stronger, animals. Thankfully, this fearless rabbit is up for a challenge because Judy Hopps is basically rabbit Rocky Balboa.

She’s got it all. Humble beginnings on the carrot farm, an unquenchable thirst to be the best she can be and a willingness to go toe-to-toe with the heavy-weight champions of the animal kingdom. She even lives in a terrible apartment in the city.

Hopps isn’t given much of a chance by her police chief — even though she graduated the police academy the top of her class. She can’t be kept out of the game for long though as animals, predators specifically, start to go missing around the city of Zootopia. Hopps finds unlikely help from the shady fox Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman). Together, the duo begrudgingly work together to solve the case and prove Hopps’ worth to disapproving Police Chief Bogo (voiced by Idris Elba).

Perhaps the biggest strength for “Zootopia” is the manner in which it addresses differences in people. For the children watching the movie, it’s subtle. Officer Hopps distrusts Wilde simply because he is a fox. In a flashback, Wilde reveals he was bullied as a child for being a “predator” animal, even though predators in the film are as docile as the animals of prey. These differences cause friction among our protagonists, and are downright criminal when it involves the missing animal mystery Hopps works to solve throughout the film.

The beauty of the city of Zootopia is it is such a clear metaphor for the state of America. How many times in our country recently have we seen instances of discrimination or mistrust based on superficial differences? Ringing any bells? Issues of race, sexual orientation and even gender identity parade across our headlines as people fight and bicker with each other over little differences in appearance or thinking. Many spew words of “tolerance” and “acceptance” before turning around and pointing fingers at their neighbor to call them a “bigot” for disagreeing with their way of thinking. How did we get here?

“Zootopia” illustrates a pretty good answer to this question. When we fail to accept each other’s differences, we fall into a broken and fearful society. One of the characters in the film says of Zootopia, “We may be evolved, but deep down we are still animals.”

The same could be said of 2016 America. We may live in a sophisticated society, but deep down we tend to tear each other apart.

Thankfully for Officer Hopps, she preaches a message of hope.

“Life’s a little bit messy,” Hopps said. “We all make mistakes. No matter what type of animal you are, change starts with you.”

When is the last time such poignant and deep-hitting messages were given in the form of a children’s movie? Kids growing up with the ideals of Officer Judy Hopps are bound to view life in a different light. I want to live in a world where everyone decides to give each other a fair chance, no matter what kind of animal they are. Children can learn these lessons early, and Disney deserves credit for their brilliant packaging of these messages into a kid’s film.

For the adults — we’d be wise to treat our inner-child to a viewing of “Zootopia” as soon as possible. As you watch, ask yourself, where does that change occur in me?

Officer Judy Hopps is right. Change starts with us, and let’s not be above recognizing such an important message wrapped in children’s entertainment. “Zootopia” is instant awesome.

Contact David Dishman at ddishman@mcalesternews.com

Contact David Dishman by email at ddishman@mcalesternews.com.