Curriculum links: This case study can be used for those studying ‘Critical Approaches to Film: Section A - Contemporary British and US Film’ on the A-level OCR specification.

Disney’s Zootropolis (Rich Moore, Byron Howard, Jared Bush) is set in a fictional city in which animals live in harmony together in the big smoke. It boasts Jason Batemen, Ginner Goodwin and Idris Elba amongst its voice cast and won the 2017 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. 

We classified the film on 18 February 2016. The film was released in both 2D and 3D and we classified both versions of the film, although we only viewed the 3D version. It’s quite common for us to do this when a film is being released in both formats. We decided to view the 3D version as the 3D aspects of a film have the potential to impact on a film’s classification.  In particular, intense scenes of moments such as ‘jump scares’ that are realised in 3D may register more strongly and have a greater impact on an audience. However, in the case of Zootropolis, we did not consider the 3D version to impact on the film’s classification issues and we rated both versions PG. 

Classification Issues

There are occasional scenes of mild threat. 

This includes an opening scene of bullying behaviour in which a fox threatens the film’s protagonist, Judy, before pushing her on the ground and slashing at her face, causing a small injury. Although the scene is upsetting and presents a situation that some audiences, including younger viewers, may relate to, the bullying behaviour is presented negatively, and the hero with whom audiences are likely to identify acts with resilience and uses the experience to motivate her in her dream of becoming a police officer. 

Other moments of threat include some scary sequences in which animals turn ‘savage’ and threaten other animals with their claws and teeth. In one scene, a heroic character chases a more vulnerable animal and appears to grab her by the throat. Although this is intense and potentially distressing, it’s quickly established that both characters are pretending and no one is harmed. 

An action packed train chase in which the film’s heroes are in danger is intense, but the scene is not particularly prolonged and it ends reassuringly.

There are some innocuous allusions to drug preparation and drug paraphernalia in a scene in which an animal appears to be creating an illegal substance. However, in the context of the narrative, it’s clear that the substance is not a drug, nor does the substance result in any pleasurable experience. Any potential reading of the scene as an allusion to drug preparation is likely to go well over the heads of younger audiences. 

The film’s two protagonists visit The Mystic Spring Oasis and we see ‘naked’ animals. However, there’s no nudity as the animals are in their natural state ‘wearing’ fur only. The humour in this scene is a little rude but it’s not a major classification issue. 

There is also occasional very mild bad language ('bummer', 'moron', 'jerk', 'God').

Discussion points

  • The film is rated PG for mild threat. Our PG ratings are benchmarked for children aged 8 years of age. Do you agree with the age rating or do you think the film is suitable for younger audiences?

  • Judy wants to become a police officer but many of the characters in the film underestimate her. In what ways is Judy discriminated against and in what ways does she subvert stereotypes?

  • The relationship between the film’s two protagonists - Judy and Nick - changes throughout the film. In what ways do the characters’ assumptions and/or prejudices about one another affect their relationship? How do other characters express their prejudices towards each other in the film?

  • To what extent can Zootropolis be read as an allegory of prejudice and racism?

  • The film plays with different genre conventions, all loosely related to the crime genre. What kinds of generic tropes can you identify in the film? Think about whether they’re stylistic or narrative tropes. Consider what genres the film borrows from. 

Suggested Viewing

  • Wreck-it-Ralph (Rich Moore, 2012) PG

  • Tangled (Byron Howard, Nathan Greno) PG

  • Wonder (Todd Haynes, 2017) PG