Will, once again, you are on target with your analysis. Prejudice. Trust. Change. These are all very much in play in the story. In fact, hearkening back to Judy’s monologue in the Denouement, she touches on all three:
“I thought this city would be a perfect place where everyone got along and anyone could be anything. Turns out, life’s a little bit more complicated than a slogan on a bumper sticker. Real life is messy. We all have limitations. We all make mistakes. Which means, hey, glass half full, we all have a lot in common. And the more we try to understand one another, the more exceptional each of us will be. But we have to try. So no matter what kind of person you are, I implore you: Try. Try to make the world a better place. Look inside yourself and recognize that change starts with you.”
“We all have a lot in common”: This is the antithesis of prejudice and now Judy can say that with conviction based on experience, not some idealized assertion based on some gauzy view of Zootopia being a “perfect place”.
“The more we try to understand one another… we have to try”: That implies trust. An individual cannot try unless they trust in The Other. Again, this is a lesson Judy has learned through her experiences in the story.
“Look inside yourself and recognize that change starts with you”: An on the nose affirmation of the potential each of us has to change.
Of course, the dark subtext through all of these themes is FEAR. Fear of The Other. Fear our trust will be misplaced. Fear that we won’t change or change for the worse. That’s one reason the movie is so relevant in today’s climate because there is so much fear and prejudice rising up. Everybody would do well to watch the movie!
An interesting note raised by Paul L in a previous thread is how Zootopia manages to get across some pretty heavy thematic content without coming off as preachy. Part of that is it’s so damned entertaining and fun. But part of it is that this central theme about prejudice is grounded in the story’s central conceit — predators and prey living side-by-side. Their biases are right there for all to see so the subject matter is naturally in play through character interactions and dynamics.
Good work, Will, and thanks for your observations!