“Sad but true, there is no more wild left in the world,” says Joe Fitting, deputy director of the San Francisco Zoo. “It’s true. There is no real wild place left on the planet. It’s all shared space now. Zootopia, this crazy Disney movie, it shows all of the different animals sharing the same city, the same spaces, the same world.
“So Disney got that much right,” he says with a laugh.
Acclaimed by critics and audiences as one of the best non-Pixar animated movies in years, Zootopia—directed by Byron Howard, Rich Moore and Jared Bush—has instantly become a gorilla-sized hit for Disney. But what does an actual zoologist have to say about it?
“Well, it’s a very entertaining movie,” says Fitting, a longtime animal enthusiast and veteran Zoo spokesperson. “But it’s a movie! It’s not reality! Don’t, in any form or fashion, think Zootopia—charming and funny though it may be—has anything to do with real animals!”
Imagine a fusion of Chinatown, Fort Apache, the Bronx and The Godfather—only with animals. In a vivid, animated world where predators and prey have learned to suppress their appetites and just get along (more or less), and where all animals have opposable thumbs and talk and dress just like human beings, one animal, a simple country rabbit (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) dreams of becoming a big city police officer. Fighting institutional bigotry and her own petty prejudices, she teams up with a con-artist fox (Jason Bateman) to solve a troubling “missing animal case,” which might just be the beginning of a massive city-wide “instinct regression,” turning the semi-peaceful citizens of Zootropolis against each other, once and for all.
“What? Animals can’t really talk? I’m crushed,” I remark.
“Hey! Wait! Animals can talk!” Fitting replies with a laugh. “They talk to each other all the time. Animals have very complex communication.”
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