Who has fond memories of the Zoo? I don’t have that many at all to be honest, given I only went to the Greater Vancouver Zoo once (and most likely won’t do so again if the animal rights activists win the fight). But then, I can’t say I ever did get out too much back then. Anyways our story starts out when a young polar bear enjoys his life living in the Arctic where it’s all quiet and peaceful until his mother gets shot and he gets taken away by the unseen assailants to get dropped off in a local zoo. There it seems like every visitor has the most hollow and stiff expressions viewing the little guy in his unnatural habitat except for maybe a little Chinese boy who likes visiting the little bear cub. And so, the young boy visits year after year with his parents until finally, anyone in that family is no longer alive. The polar bear himself grows to a ripe old age with no other friends. Well, I can’t say whether or not he made friends with the other creatures but he does look sad when he sees them being carted away in cages out of the zoo. In fact, he’s the last one who can’t be relocated to his own home. While the zoo is being closed for good (good news for the activists) he is left alone in a cage and the only thing the workers can do is eat and wander what’s left of his habitat. Surprisingly, the Chinese boy who is now an old man still does come by once in a while, but is never really noticed by his old friend. So the elderly gentleman goes home to his apartment to live the last of his life. But he can’t sleep because the late night fireworks are keeping him up remind gin him of the bombs, so while he and the bear are rudely awakened, they find another way to enjoy the night together, yet still apart somehow.
It’s a beautiful concept, even if the animation looks a little robotic, and the outlines are a little thick at times. The story can be told well and show it has a lot of meaning, even if there’s barely any dialogue in the whole thing. It’s got great characters that you can relate to, a short simple story with strong feelings, and the use of the colours while most are dark and muted, still provide a lovely contrast which gets better and brighter towards the end. Not many people can connect or feel they relate to an animal in captivity, but they can definitely feel sorry for an animal who can never go home or be put in a place that just doesn’t feel like home. Julia Kwan’s little film The Zoo certainly proves that.