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– by Joseph Jammer Medina

This year’s ZOOTOPIA was quite the pleasant surprise. Yes, in the past eight years or so, with the involvement of John Lasseter, Disney has been upping their animated game tremendously. From films like BOLT and THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG to WRECK-IT RALPH and TANGLED, they’ve certainly managed to make an amazing comeback. With that in mind, I went into ZOOTOPIA with a certain expectation of quality: I expected great characters, a tight script, some funny jokes, a decent amount of heart, and beautiful animation.

The movie more than delivered on those expectations without breaking a sweat. But what I did not expect was for ZOOTOPIA to be a well-told social commentary that brings awareness to racial stereotyping. From the get-go, that’s what the movie set itself up as, and as I got deeper and deeper into the runtime, it became all the more clear that this was a bona fide classic. In my humble opinion, I may actually say ZOOTOPIA is the best animated film Disney has ever created in its decades-long history.

As with any successful film, one of the big questions coming out of this entire ordeal is whether or not it will get a sequel. With ZOOTOPIA, the filmmakers created an immense and bustling world that’s ripe for exploring. As such, it seems like a natural fit for a sequel. In fact, in a recent interview with Collider, directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore went into detail about what directions they could go in for said sequel.

“Howard: There are so many ways you could go. It’s interesting to see, especially with Disney, once you finish one of these films, if it does land in a big way, it becomes so much bigger than us. It takes on a life of its own. A nice thing about being at Disney is that these movies can develop into a presence in theme parks and become something real, or maybe get a sequel, or tell other stories. The film is only 90 minutes long, and we only could fit so much in the film. There were so many environments we talked about, and animals we talked about. The fact that there are no reptiles or birds in the film was something we talked about.

Moore: That bugs some fans. They really want to know about that. They’re like, ‘Where are the frogs, man?!’ And, ‘What is Bogo’s first name?’ Or, ‘Does it naturally rain in Zootopia? I need to know if it rains or snows, naturally!’ I guess it rains. I don’t know. They really care, and that just means that they embraced it so much that they want to know everything they can about it. They just love the world. So, it would be nice to revisit it again.”

Indeed the world was one of the great highlights of the film. In the train sequence early on, the filmmakers did a wonderful job of showing just how vast and diverse it was, which laid the groundwork for any potential sequels they’d want to make. But the directors didn’t stop there. Not only is there a great deal for them to explore in the world they’ve created, but there’s a lot in terms of characters as well.

“Howard: I’m particularly fond of Clawhauser. He’s funny. Nate Torrence, the guy who performs him, has such a richness. We have so many hours of him being hilarious and fun. If it was affordable to do a TV show that was the same quality as the movie, I would watch The Clawhauser Show, every week. I’d want to see what that dude got into. I could imagine that. I wish the technology was there. We would totally do that.

Moore: Or you could do an Orange is the New Black for Bellwether. That would be so cool. What is she doing now? Is she running the place? Did she become the Queen Bee? Is she Crazy Eyes? That would be so great. It would be great, if there was another story where Judy has to go to Bellwether like Hannibal Lector. There’s just so much you could do.”

Now, all of that sounds absolutely fantastic. There’s a lot of fun to be had in all of these scenarios, and if there’s anyone who could make it work, it would be Disney. However, there is one part of the film that makes creating a sequel inherently impossible. I say “impossible” in the broadest of terms. Of course they can make a sequel, but is there any way it can live up to the first one? I don’t believe so.

The predator-prey relationship in ZOOTOPIA was a great allegory for racial tensions present around the world today. 

The predator-prey relationship in ZOOTOPIA was a great allegory for racial tensions present around the world today. 

As mentioned above, there are plenty of directions the story could go in, and if that’s all the original ZOOTOPIA was — a good story — I think I’d be able to buy it. But that isn’t all ZOOTOPIA was. It wasn’t just a living, breathing world with memorable characters. It wasn’t just a tightly-written script with great twists and turns. It was a moral tale with a very relatable social commentary. This was a social commentary that was embedded deeply in the DNA of the story itself, and sequel could only cheapen it…right?

Let’s take a look at some scenarios. Here are three ways a sequel could be made.

  1. There could be no social commentary. There will only be strong characters and a compelling plot.
  2. There can be a continuation of the social commentary given in the original film.
  3. There can be brand new social commentary.

Each of these ways of their own pitfalls.

The first approach will inevitably fall short. While it may still be a good movie, the absence of relatable substance will likely place it far below its predecessor. T

he second approach will run the risk of beating a dead horse. How many times do we need the same idea beaten into our heads.

The third seems like the way to go, but it still has its risks. What if this social commentary isn’t as compelling? What if its seen merely as a cheap imitation of the first film? No matter what, the idea of a ZOOTOPIA 2 seems like a lose-lose situation, which is really sad, because the world is such a place that is begging for further exploration.

While I do adore ZOOTOPIA for what it is, there is a part of me that almost wished the social commentary were not a part of the narrative. If it weren’t, then we’d be able to have sequels up the wazoo without any feeling of overkill. As it stands, a part of me isn’t sure if I do want to see a sequel, no matter how good the story. It’s one thing to continuously make great characters and a compelling plot, but it’s another to revisit or rehash a specific message.

But at the end of the day, what’s really lost by creating an inferior sequel? Why is it such a bad thing if the second film is only pretty great instead of amazing? Why does my ass have the need every film to outdo its predecessor? Why can’t I just appreciate a film for what it is rather than what I want it to be?

What do you think? Can there be a great ZOOTOPIA sequel? If so, how would you like to see it done? Also, have we become too entitled as fans? Should we occasionally just let a sequel be a separate film experience from its predecessor? Let us know your thoughts down below?

ZOOTOPIA is available digitallynow!

SOURCES: Collider

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.