Early Buzz: 'Zootopia' Is An Action-Packed Neo-Noir Comedy With A Surprisingly Political Message

Walt Disney Animation Studios has been on a roll in recent years, with a list of films that includes Wreck-It Ralph, Tangled, Big Hero 6, Frozen and the short films Feast and Paperman. Many people would say that the Burbank-based animation studio has been turning out more consistently great films than their Emmerville brother Pixar. Their latest film Zootopia from directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore (Bolt, Tangled) is set to hit theaters in the US in March 2016, and the first trade reviews have begun to hit online as the film is being released early in international markets (under the alternate title Zootropolis).

Does Disney Animation have another hit on their hands or will this be their Good Dinosaur? Find out as we take a look at the early Zootopia reviews through spoiler-free excerpts, after the jump.

Spoiler-Free Excerpts From The First Zootopia Reviews

Michael Rechtshaffen from The Hollywood Reporter:

The energetic voices of Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman and Idris Elba lend life to Disney's amusing animated menagerie. ...  the 3D caper expertly combines keen wit with a gentle, and very timely, message of inclusivity and empowerment. The engaging result should easily appeal to all creatures great and small, giving this premium Walt Disney Animation Studios effort a paw up on spring break entertainment, not to mention the summer arrival of Universal's animated The Secret Life of Pets.

Robert Abele from The Wrap:

Goodwin's bouncy performance and Bateman's well-honed comic delivery are ideally matched, and there are enough lively characters and snappy scenes to keep even the clichéd elements humming, even the usual inside jokes ... [Zootopia] has its share of laughs and action, but sets itself apart with its more serious-minded elements ... its moral ambition gives "Zootopia" enough of a refreshing twist to stand out from the rest of the animated pack. After the animals on screen finish talking, parents and kids just might be inspired to have their own discussion about the movie's well-intended message.

Peter Debrudge from Variety:

A classic L.A.-style detective story, a la "The Big Lebowski" or "Inherent Vice," yielding an adult-friendly whodunit with a chipper "you can do it!" message for the cubs. ... The deeper they go, the more "Zootopia" comes to resemble such vintage noirs as "Chinatown" and "L.A. Confidential," from its increasingly shadowy look to Michael Giacchino's jazzy lounge-music score. Disney has been down this road before with "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," although this time, there's not a single human character to be found, while the adult-skewing jokes (mostly references to other movies) aren't nearly so inappropriate for kids. ... While it doesn't have quite the same breakout potential as the Mouse House's past few hits, "Zootopia" has shrewdly established both an environment that could be further explored from countless other angles (in a spinoff TV series, perhaps) and an odd-couple chemistry between Nick and Judy that carries on even after Gazelle returns for her obligatory grand finale.

Patrick Dane of Bleeding Cool:

As a family film, Zootropolis is largely successful. It has a fairly vibrant art direction that will delight the eyes, and the world of Zootopia, while on the surface appears standard fair, proves to be a complex and interesting creation. It's full of several well realised characters, not least of all the two leads. ... What really, really makes the film interesting though is its focus on politics. ... the film has a pretty clear political focus, and that's one of societal prejudice, most specifically that of race. The film isn't lightly hinting at this either, it bravely runs headlong into the issue by making it the entire premise of the central narrative. ... While this could have be a little heavy handed, and at the rarest of times it can be, for the most part the theme is well written and evenly considered. It's not black and white, and the character we root for also indulge in their own prejudices about the other group, helping to create a morally complex society. This isn't the idealised harmony Hopps thought it was, and the film is about coming to terms with that. This actually feels like it takes from great Sci-Fi movie, in the ilk of District 9, that uses a metaphorical society to talk about our own. It's very well done indeed.

Melissa Hoban of The Upcoming:

It delivers an action-packed neo-noir comedy onto our cinema screens, with a musical hit by Shakira to boot. ... The animation team surpass expectations with the fantastic personification of each animal's characteristics and personality. This skill is mirrored by the cast, who inject their voices with the stereotypes we hold within the animal kingdom. ... Disney's animated films have moved past their days as a guilty pleasure for adults too embarrassed to admit to watching their childhood favourites, and Zootropolis firmly confirms this new status. It is full of jokes for the adults in the audience.

Looks like most of the international reviewers have enjoyed the film, which seems to pack a bigger social political message than expected. Zootopia hits U.S. theaters March 4.