All manner of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed creatures prowl through the winning new Disney animation Zootopia, set in a metropolis that is an improved version of New York City. In this re-imagined version of Aesop’s Fables, animals of all species live in harmony and have left their savage pasts behind, so it’s not surprising that the highly energised bunny Judy (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) wants to make it her new home. Despite her small size, the violet-eyed rabbit wants to be a police officer. Though she tops her class, she is assigned to parking duty by her curmudgeonly rhino boss (voiced by Idris Elba).
Taught to distrust foxes, Judy’s worst fears are confirmed when she meets Nick (Jason Bateman), a sly hustler who has come up with an ingenious way to make ice popsicles. Nick, of course, is Judy’s only ally when the trainee investigator sets out to find a bunch of mammals that have gone missing from Zootopia, most recently, a bespectacled and mild-mannered otter. The investigation involves a tour of a rodent town in which everything is scaled down to match the needs of its diminutive residents, an encounter with the boss of the underworld, modelled on Vito Corleone from The Godfather, and a test of the friendship between Judy and Nick over the issue of biological predetermination.
Are foxes always sly and rabbits dumb, despite everything Aesop said? Directed by Bryon Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush, Zootopia tucks a message of tolerance for other species (and races and creeds) into a cheerfully anthropomorphised view of the animal kingdom. The vibrantly coloured animation does not neglect the details, such as the rail network that has three types of doors for animals of different sizes. There's also a yoga retreat where animals are in their “natural state” (without the clothes usually worn by humans) that causes Judy to cover her eyes in shame. The top-notch voice work includes Maurice LaMarche as underworld boss, Mr Big, and Nate Torrence as Clawhauser, a junk food-bingeing cheetah receptionist.
The fast-paced movie action slows down just once for a scene that is an absolute hoot. Judy goes to the Motor Vehicles Department in pursuit of a lead, only to find that the office is run by sloths.
Disney has been making animals talk, dance, sing and trade punches for as long as we can remember, and the pioneering animation studio believes most fervently in the movie’s suggestion that nature should no longer be divided into predators and prey. Rabbits look good in police uniform, sheep make fine mayors, and everybody knows that sloths have been running Motor Vehicles Departments the world over.