‘Zootopia’ Economy & ‘Alice In Wonderland’ Economics

Here’s another post about economics in movies, a more Disney fun and animated choice of movies. My first movie choice was Zootopia because I read an article by the Foundation for Economic Education which reviewed the movies similarities to politics, see here Zootopia Seems Strangely Familiar. Zootopia is an animated comedy adventure film. Produced and released by Walt Disney. The film follows the life of a rabbit named Judy Hopps from rural Bunnyburrow who fulfills her childhood dream of becoming the first rabbit police officer. Along the way she develops an unlikely partnership with a fox con artist. Despite graduating top of her class, Judy is not taken seriously and doubts in her potential at the police department, by being assigned to parking duties, when she meets Nick and blackmails him into assisting her with an investigation by covertly recording his tax evasion confession. They then uncover a conspiracy that involves the disappearance of predator civilians within the mammalian metropolis. 

Whenever I encounter a presentation of government in any idealized fiction, I want to know: what type of state is this? A minimalist state, a personal state, a nation-state, a technocratic state, or a dystopian total state? Zootopia is a classic big-city intrusive government, with permits for everything, regulations on everything, and an insatiable hunger for revenue. So it falls somewhere between technocratic and total, while still allowing some room for enterprise to flourish. What this state does for people — beyond divide them and waste their time — is not all that clear. (Tucker, 2016)

The politics in the film show how the unitary state is subject to corruption and capture, where society seeks solutions based on groups. Hopps starts with an ideal view of what she expects from the city however she is soon discouraged from the barriers of being a bunny in the professional setting. There is also a view that large predatory animals are more prone to crime. “The political elites in the city are not committed to solving the problem or finding better ways to help people get along.” (Tucker, 2016) These elites see this as beneficial for them and plan to turn animals against each other, to make the public depended upon the state.

Another critique of the public services in the film is when Hopps is portrayed as the government busy body. Given a quota job to tax people through parking fines, instead of putting her employment to protecting against crime. This is no public good when she is determined to enforce the law in making a number of parking fines on the day job, and even though she excels in her new job see causes public anger, when citizens say such lines as “my taxes already paid for this”. Capturing the pettiness that a high powered job has on people especially police officers where they will buck you for being a few seconds expired on a parking meter, or when she writes herself a ticket in the name of justice.

While, a funny scene is when Hopps and Nick tackle the inefficient use of time in the department for motor vehicle registration. Only Hopps is in such a rush to resolve the crime and find out the information from the department, which is staffed by sloths! Now, this would not happen in a private market. Everyone can understand the pain of waiting at any department of motor vehicles, and the disaster in government services. “And consider too that the DMV is one of the few almost universal points of contact between average citizens and their government.” (Tucker, 2016)

The business and entrepreneurial side to the movie is when Nick or Judy moreover purchases the large ice lolly. A classic example of entrepreneurship, in his ability to find a price discrepancy in one market and to transform/transport the resource to another market with higher demand. Reselling smaller lollies to mice after being over-worked from their business day and left wanting cool refreshments, additionally, he recycles the sticks and sells them on in bulk valued as lumber. Now, this may be seen as sly though how can you complain or interfere on justices side when he has satisfied and met peoples needs. Isn’t that what economics is about as trade creates wealth, and he has specialized in areas that mice could have not to bring new products to the marketplace. For more thoughts on the economics of different sized animals see this forum by Reddit. Another entrepreneurial scene is when a past bully of Judy’s had formed a mutually beneficial relationship with her parents carrot business.

For the happy ending everyone learns the dreadful but truth about governments, “[…] about the need to not let anything or anyone stand in the way of your dreams, and the capacity of all people to be peaceful and cooperative.” (Tucker, 2016) To conclude this movie for Libertarians the state is under constant fire while the makers wrapped their distaste for government on a number of occasions in a cute Disney bow, in which the political scope is greatly put by the story writers who have crafted multiple parts of liberty and individualism. 


For the second movie I say Alice In Wonderland and not the new Alice Through the Looking Glass, because they are similar to showing the economic principles. Alice In Wonderland is a fantasy film based on Lewis Carroll’s fantasy novels: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. This film like Zootopia is also a Disney production. The film follows the adventure of a 19 year old girl Alice Kingsleigh, who is told that she is the one who can restore the White Queen to her throne. As Alice is the only one that is said to be able to slay the Jabberwocky, which is a dragon creator controlled by the Red Queen and terrorizes Wonderland’s inhabitants.

You might refer to this movie when you hear the sayings ‘Alice In Wonderland Economics’ or ‘mad as a hatter’. ‘Alice In Wonderland Economics’ is a common saying that means a world in which investors pay to lend to governments which cannot escape from their large amount of debt. Or the phrase ‘mad as a hatter’ can be often applied in referring to bad economics, however it rely refers to the 19th century use of mercuric nitrate for making felt mats, where long-term exposure to mercury caused hat makers to experience mood swings or emotional imbalances that made them appear mad. Here’s an example to its use “[money] printing—today’s mercury—has poisoned the whole financial system.” (Morley, 2015)

“Upon reading John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty (1859), I oftentimes found myself envisioning scenes from the chaotic authoritarian society of Lewis Caroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), in which law and social structure combine and threaten to eliminate individuality.” (Amoils, 2013) Now, for my review of this film I will comment upon the system of monarchy, the Queen of Hearts sort of represents the literary character of a tyrannical leader, or in the contrast between the Red Queen and the White Queen. The films slant is toward the way Alice slays the dragon, as good triumphs over evil. This could be referring to that even the laws of nature (dragon) can restrict the government. While, the Red Queen is drawn negatively with traits such as selfishness, corruption, and greed which take the image of tyrannical behaviour (exercising power in a cruel or arbitrary way). “Her authoritarian regime illuminates itself in the Knave of Hearts’ trial, as she twists legal procedure to the ends of her absolute power.” (Amoils, 2013) In the way this Queen treats all in her kingdom and the fact that she wants to behead anyone who crosses her, whether for trivial reasons or not. This tyrannical and oppressive and controlling nature is referring to the system of government or monarchy today.

In addition, colour in the film also developed upon the way the corruption were presented in the Underland. The tone in the film is whimsical and dramatic in defending justice through the good against evil. Everything is upside down and a race against time. An example is the constant time ticking sounds, and the ability of the Cheshire Cat to become invisible and then appear somewhere else in the frame. The narrative is a formalistic one, in which time is scrambled. “In America especially, it’s as if the whole economic system fell down a rabbit hole into a world where up is down, debt is good, and people exuberantly celebrate unbirthday parties every day of the year but one.” (Morley, 2015) One could draw upon the social tyranny as something that is hard to escape from as such the Wonderland and its Queen is hard for Alice escape from. “Furthermore, [Mill] states the “tendency of society to impose … its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and if possible, prevent the formation of individuality, […]”” (Amoils, 2013).

As Alice enters the randomness and chaos of Wonderland, she sways between order and disorder, justice and arbitrariness, logic and illogic. Seeking to make sense of this world in which she has found herself, Alice endures lectures and insults from nearly every creature that she meets. The Mouse in the caucus-Race lectures her for not understanding its antipathy to cats and dogs, while the Caterpillar, the Duchess and her cook, and the Mad Hatter and the March Hare echo similar complaints of Alice’s misconduct and lack of knowledge. (Amoils, 2013)

At the story’s close, Alice defeats the regime, recognizing its ultimate arbitrariness as she declares to the Queen, “You’re nothing but a pack of cards!” (Caroll 108 in Amoils, 2013). As such even the little mouse thought that it could defeat anyone no matter their size difference. While the Mad Hatter is a brave and loyal character in the film, and looks up to and protects Alice from the bad authority leaders, as she is the change he sees for Wonderland. At her waking up from the dream of Wonderland, it is as if no time has passed and Alice falls back into daily life and obeys her sister’s command. At the chance of breaking free from political tyranny Alice returns to the social tyranny, that the film’s story line presents. Now, besides the politics the film doesn’t explicitly link economics that much, however if we instead apply the film to real life then there are connections to real economic problems. “In 2008, when the financial crisis struck, commentators thought consumers had finally eaten one too many cupcakes.” (Morley, 2015)

Reference List

Amoils, G. (2013). Tyranny beyond the law, tyranny beyond wonderland. Retrieved [27/05/16] from <https://blogs.commons.georgetown.edu/engl-355-fall2013/2013/10/03/tyranny-beyond-the-law-tyranny-beyond-wonderland/>.

Tucker, J. (2016). Zootopia seems strangely familiar. FEE. Retrieved [27/05/16] from <https://fee.org/articles/zootopia-seems-strangely-familiar/>.

Morley, R. (2015). America’s Alice-in-wonderland economy. The Trumpet. Retrieved [27/05/16] from <https://www.thetrumpet.com/article/12513.2.0.0/economy/americas-alice-in-wonderland-economy>.

Featured image supplied from Pixabay, and here (edited).

Copyright © 2016 Zoë-Marie Beesley

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