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Karen Kay: Life lessons from the cinema

PUBLISHED: 16:21 26 May 2016 | UPDATED: 16:21 26 May 2016

That's what we need: role models who go the extra mile © 2015 Disney

That's what we need: role models who go the extra mile © 2015 Disney

©2015 Disney

Lessons in life – including how hard graft and determination can get you up the ladder – are a surprise find during a family trip to the cinema

Have you been to Zootropolis? If not, and you’re a parent of young children, I imagine you’ll soon venture there. We’ve been. And thousands of other families around the world have too.

What do you mean, you haven’t heard of it? Well, if I may, let me explain why I think you should pay a visit to Zootropolis. This fictional utopia is inhabited solely by animals. Ah yes, it’s Disney’s latest movie, did I mention that?

Disney will forever be known as the home of Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and the other princesses, once they’d been kidnapped from the Brothers Grimm and given glossy makeovers. But in their last few efforts the creatives charged with continuing Walt’s legacy have shaken things up a bit.

It started with Brave, released in 2012, testing the water with a Scottish princess who refused to be married off and was happier romping through the glens on horseback, shooting her arrows. Guess what? The world liked it. Since then, we’ve had Big Hero 6, Frozen and Inside Out, all refreshing takes on animated storytelling, without the predictable Princess-meets-Prince-and-is-swept-off-her-feet-formula.

So, back to Zootropolis. I’m not prone to laughing out loud watching the small or big screen, but there I was on my plush red velvet seat chuckling away like a toddler being tickled. My husband and daughter spend much of the film laughing too. And we weren’t alone, it seems the rest of the world was having fun. At the time of writing, it is the highest-grossing film of 2016.

And it will go on wooing us with its simple premise of the little guy (actually, a gal in the form of a cute bunny cop – Officer Judy Hopps) making it in a world of big bad guys. I won’t spoil the storyline, but suffice to say, it delivers a thoughtful, inclusive message in the midst of some incredible computer-generated animation and comic detail.

Officer Hopps went to Police School and graduated with flying colours thanks to hard graft. But she knew that was only the start. She joins the force in Zootropolis and lands herself a grim, sparse apartment and declares “greasy walls, rickety bed, crazy neighbours; I love it!”

And she works. She proves herself. She is a determined character who makes her mark by doing something good. And that is the lesson I love from this film.

We are inundated with TV talent shows, where mediocre singers are made into overnight stars with the aid of stylists and hype. Social media feeds are filled with images of a delusional perfect lifestyle where the instant gratification of a new pair of shoes or a beautifully styled living room brings fulfillment. We continue to be fed the myth that a fancy ring and a frothy wedding is the dream to which all little girls should aspire.

But little Officer Hopps is the role model for me. She has aspirations in life, and does everything in her power to pursue them. She won’t let the naysayers knock her, but uses their mocking as a springboard to motivate her. And though frustrated, she embraces starting out in her dream job, knowing she can work her way up the ladder.

While still at school I held part-time jobs in a pub kitchen and a local shop. I did a paper round and went on to clean offices and work in West End chain stores while at college, and understood that turning up on time, making the tea, helping customers, offering ideas, all of it would help me in future endeavours.

I had a strong CV on graduating, praising my work ethic, team skills, ability to deal with customers, diligence, initiative and more. I’m not sharing this to boast. I’m sharing it because all this is critical to success and fulfillment in our careers. It’s only whem you start at the bottom and earn your success that you really appreciate it. We must share this film with all the students graduating from university this summer who’ve never had a job, but expect to start a career. Officer Hopps can teach them all a thing or two. 


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