'Zootopia' Star Ginnifer Goodwin Says Movie's Relevance to the Current Election "Scares Me"
“I can't speak to Disney's stance because Disney is an unbiased storytelling entity, but I can say [the plot], of course, brings those recent political statements to mind for me personally,” says the film's breakout voice star.
Zootopia may be a megahit kids movie, with a worldwide box office that has already reached $431 million, but what has surprised many, including the film's voiceover star Ginnifer Goodwin, is how directly the movie, from Disney Animation, appears to speak to the charged racial, religious and gender rhetoric swirling around the current Republican presidential nomination campaign.
Set in a city where both predator and prey live in harmony, Zootopia's anthropomorphic mammals grapple with the du jour issues of stereotyping, fear-mongering and bias after a spate of violent outbreaks, blamed on several of the predators, who happen to be in the minority. In this mythical realm, racism (or, in this case, species-ism), sexism and mistrust loom.
If it sounds all too familiar, it's because portions of the script almost appear to carry echoes of presidential candidate Donald Trump’s call to bar Muslims from entering the U.S. and the fiery politician’s promise to deport 11 million undocumented immigrants from the country if elected.
To Goodwin, the film’s breakout voice star, the parallels to the current news cycle are unmistakable, even though the movie's screenplay, by Jared Bush and Phil Johnston, was written five years ago.
“I can't speak to Disney's stance because Disney is an unbiased storytelling entity, but I can say [the plot], of course, brings those recent political statements to mind for me personally,” says Goodwin, who voices the earnest bunny cop Judy Hopps. “I didn't really understand the power of the picture until I saw it in completion because I only was very narrowly focused on my piece. But every time I've seen it, and I've seen it several times now, it has stunned me because of how relevant it is to the news cycle and the election.”
In the film, Goodwin’s Hopps partners with a cynical fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) on a case that serves up a metaphor for how stereotypes take hold in a society and are fanned by politicians and the media. In Zootopia, after a few predators “go savage," profiling ensues. In one scene, a mother pulls her baby closer on a subway when she spots a nearby tiger, who then looks hurt. A well-meaning feline is moved from a visible post on the police force so as not to scare the majority population. And the city’s lion mayor (J.K. Simmons) is promptly arrested.
“I love [the message] that Judy is so self-righteous about not having these biases and these preconceived notions and doesn't realize the irony that she carries fox repellent spray,” says the Once Upon a Time star of her character, who gets caught up in the vortex of suspicion. “She really doesn't understand fully who she is, even though she's so cocky about that self-awareness. And there's more subtle moments like in the scene where she apologizes to Nick and takes responsibility [for stoking the fear]. She's like, ‘I am flawed.’ And she ends that monologue with the line, ‘I'm just a dumb bunn,’ and stereotypes herself.”
Ultimately, the message in Zootopia is "let’s not let fear divide us." And that line, though spoken by enlightened furry creatures, could easily be ripped from a Hillary Clinton speech as the Trump rhetoric kicks up a notch on the presidential trail.
For Goodwin, who hasn’t let her 2-year-old son see the animated movie yet because of some frightening sequences, the fact that Zootopia’s themes of bias and scare-mongering are timeless is, perhaps, the most frightening aspect of the film.
“I joined the cast two and a half years ago and it seemed relevant then,” she says. “The fact that it can appear so specific now is what kinda scares the shit out of me.”