I'm a librarian who loves anime, manga, and reading a wide variety of genres.
The first thing I did when I finished watching Zootopia for the second time was buy this. The story and characters were still in my system, and I wanted more. I knew that this book was aimed at kids and would probably only be a shadow of what I really wanted. Still, it seemed to be the best I could get as far as official fiction went. What with Zootopia being a kids' movie, there are no novelizations aimed at older teens or adults.
What I tend to hope for from novelizations is at least a little of whatever it was that made me love the original, plus extra stuff that couldn't be in the original for whatever reason – new scenes, info about the characters' thoughts and feelings, or expanded versions of events. Slight differences and alternative versions of scenes can be fun too. More often than not, this junior novelization felt like little more than a slightly more detailed version of the script.
Characters and places were rarely described. Judy's glorious first glimpses of Zootopia, for example, became this:
“As the train came around a bend, Judy gazed out the window at the incredible sight in the distance: Zootopia. She pressed her face against the glass and watched each borough of the city pass by.” (15)
That's it. Right after that, she got off the train and headed to her new apartment. I missed the movie's gorgeous visuals a lot. The book's bare bones writing also had a tendency to suck all the emotion out of some of the movie's most emotional scenes. On the plus side, I'd flipped through the novelization in the store and already had some idea of what to expect, so all of this was more a confirmation of my low expectations rather than a disappointment.
There were a few things I enjoyed noting: many of the minor characters were given names (the way one scene was written made it seem like Judy divined Finnick's name just by looking at him), some minor characters were a different species than they were in the movie, there were additional/changed jokes, and a couple scenes were noticeably different, although not in ways that affected the story at all. It was literary crumbs, but I took what I could get.
One thing that struck me was that Chief Bogo seemed even more like a character from a story for adults stuck in a story for kids. From a kid's viewpoint, the way he came down on Judy probably seemed overly harsh and unfair. As an adult, I could totally see where he was coming from.
It's tough reviewing this, since I'm very much aware that I'm not the target audience. I don't know any kids of the appropriate age that I could ask, but I could imagine younger fans of the movie enjoying it, and the familiarity of the story would probably be helpful for less confident readers. For me, this was a so-so read at best. I probably would have been better off hunting down a copy of The Art of Zootopia.
Eight pages of stills from the movie, for a total of 16 stills. I liked them, but unfortunately they didn't include anything past the DMV scene. I assume this was in an effort to avoid spoilers, since all the pictures were in the middle of the book, but I'd have loved one or two "Judy and Nick are friends" stills.
(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)