screenplay by Jared Bush & Phil Johnston
directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
by Walter Chaw Early on in Disney's Zootopia, directed somehow by a triumvirate (Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush) from a screenplay by Bush and Phil Johnston, a bat-like baby animal declares that it would like to grow up to be an elephant. It even has an elephant hoodie; the creature idolizes, it appears, elephant culture. It gets a laugh. It's worth the conversation to wonder what about this is funny. At its essence, the idea that something could grow to be something else is funny. It's also funny because it knowingly, gently pokes fun at our culture of "you can be anything you want to be," the source of more sometimes-murderous disappointment than any other child-rearing strategy endemic to the West. Astronaut? No problem. And Zootopia opens on a children's pageant where a little animal solemnly declares that where in primordial times he would have been predator or prey, in civilized times, he has the choice to maybe be an astronaut, or an accountant. The third way this is funny is harsher, in that it begins to touch on the truism that there are certain traits you're born with, and while that's a no-brainer when it comes to the rest of the animal kingdom, it's a tough thing for most proud Judeo-Christians to accept. We have hardwiring, see, and accepting that means there are a lot of other things we need to accept as well, almost none of them politically correct and all of them fraught with delicate dancing around the issue. Zootopia is complicated as hell.