Walt Disney Animation Studios opened up their panel on Friday at the D23 Expo with Zootopia, the anamorphic film that brings back talking animals to the Disney animation studios, but with a buddy cop twist.
Disney Animation’s Zootopia is set in a sprawling metropolis built, run, and populated by non-human animals. We’ve already got a hint at what is to come from the film, but no real story.
For Zootopia, directors Rich Moore and Byron Howard went to the Animal Kingdom theme park at Disney World in Orlando, FL, to do research, and and were sent to Kenya to get a real sense of animal movement and their behavior in a natural environment. They soon developed an idea of how these animals would move without thumbs or hands. For instance, if a camel were to walk on hind legs, it would be more of a wonky walking stance due to their leg structure. And for an elephant to grab a scoop of ice cream, they would roll it using their trunks.
There are thousands of animals living in Zootopia. They wanted a city that felt designed for animals, by animals, with neighborhood for every species. So there’s Sahara Square, which was built for desert animals, and Tundra Town, snowy and cold structures for cold animals. The Rainforest District is humid forrest. The Bunny District has millions of rabbits living in bunny-shaped houses, with an ever growing population.
The panel introduces us to Ginnifer Goodwin who voices Judy Hopps, a bunny from the burrows who dreams of becoming the first bunny cop of Zootopia. While her ambitions are high, the department doesn’t have any respect for her, and give her menial assignments like Parking Meter duty. But she doesn’t mind that at all, and becomes one of the top meter maids in the city.
In a clip, D23 audiences saw Judy treat herself to some sweet treats at the local elephant-run ice cream parlor. Of course everything there is tailored to the size of the large animal, and she contemplates what size to get. There, she meets Nick Wilde, a sly fox (Jason Bateman), who is there with a boy who suffers from an identity crisis. You see, Nick has everyone believe the “blind” “orphan” “kid” is an elephant, when he clearly is a tiny white fox. Failing to get the jumbo pop, which is not for tiny animals, Judy believes in Nick’s story, and purchases the jumbo pop for him. Little does she know that she has been swindled, and Bateman’s character promptly breaks up pop to sell as many little smaller pops, and then uses the popsicle sticks to sell as building material.
Realizing she has been duped, Judy tries to bring him into custody, but is finally assigned the case that she has been waiting for. Unfortunately, the case of the missing otter forces her to work with Nick, and the film turns to tamer 48 Hours of Disney animated proportions.
In a second clip, the pair are shown racing against the clock to get paperwork… which unfortunately has to come from the DMV (for which the film calls it the Department of Mammal Vechicles). Everyone who is employed at the DMV happens to be sloths, and just like sloths (and those who work at the DMV) they work incredibly slow, frustrating Judy as her impatience starts to show. The sloths work and speak in an incredibly slow pace which makes things worse, and by the time our heroes get the paperwork, it is already nightfall.
Disney announced Shakira’s role in the movie, as Gazaelle, the world of Zootopia’s biggest pop star. They then gave us a sample of her song titled “Try Everything” (written written by singer-songwriter Sia and songwriting duo Stargate), as well as a first look at her character (see image at top).
The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But when optimistic Officer Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman), to solve the mystery.
Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph) and Byron Howard (Tangled, Bolt) direct Zootopia, which hits theaters on March 4, 2016.