I just saw the new Disney movie Zootopia, a wacky retelling of 48 Hours but with more racism. It was enjoyable!
But it was also confusing in some regards, and when you start probing deeper, they all tie together in creepy ways.
Be warned: there are plenty of spoilers below.
The basic premise of the movie is that wild animals essentially gained self awareness. Sometime after that, they decided to work together–predator and prey living together in harmony.
There are different communities, as this is a worldwide event, but the heart of society is presented to us as the titular Zootopia, a thriving metropolis where animals of all sizes and background live together.
The movie starts, though, in the home of the main character when she’s a child. Judy Hopps is a bunny in a large farm family of bunnies. It’s also shown that not all is perfect between the species.
She’s tormented by a fox child who’s the bully, and when she grows up enough to travel to Zootopia to fulfill her lifelong dream to be a cop there, her father freaks out, telling her especially to watch out for foxes.
But she gets to Zootopia and it seems different. Even though the populace is reportedly 90% former prey animals, the mayor is a lion. So all of the prey animals trust the gregarious lion enough to elect him to be mayor.
But while all of the animals seem to get along, there are some noticeable absences.
Where are all the people?
This is very presumably Earth. While it’s conceivable this event happened on another planet, all of the animals shown are animals we have here. The technology largely mimics or is what we have here–cars, elevators, ice cream, trains, and cell phones. They even wear human clothes. The city has a wide variety of zones where the climate is controlled to match regions found on Earth, and are even named after Earth regions.
So this is Earth. And human technology has been used. So where are all the humans?
The animals clearly didn’t have a use for them. But this goes deeper than the absence of people, because…
Where are all the domesticated animals?
We see a very wide variety of animals in Zootopia. All of them were wild.
There are no house cats or dogs–just lions, tigers, cheetahs, wolves, and so on. There also aren’t any horses, cows, or chickens, animals almost entirely in the domain of humans now.
There is one exception to this: sheep.
Sheep are largely kept by people now, herded and sheared and used, in ways that would be similar to horses or cows perhaps, but they’re the only ones welcomed into Zootopia.
Naturally, they’re the villains.
Both people and animals that were closely associated with people are either not welcome in Zootopia, or they shouldn’t be. The sheep betrayed what was probably a hard-earned trust.
Which terrifyingly ties into the final question…
What do the predators eat?
In the film, we’re shown some instances of eating. Hopps the bunny eats (or plans to eat) a carrot. Nick the fox eats blueberries. Lemmings eat popsicles and elephants eat ice cream. And the hilariously fat cheetah eats donuts and other pastries.
But predators, true predators, can’t survive without meat.
Now, there are some options.
This super advanced society could have come up with meat alternatives, much like our vegetarians and vegans eat tofu and beans and such to get enough protein. While the possibility cannot be dismissed, it seems unlikely–humans are omnivores and can survive on a wide-ranging diet. Large cats, for instance, don’t have that kind of digestive system. And why would the predators have agreed to the system in the first place if they had to completely change everything they’ve ever known when it came to eating?
They could feed on the animals that die of natural causes. With a 9:1 ratio of prey animals to predator animals, there’d be a constant source of Soylent Green materials. But with the civilization as it was shown, this seems extremely unlikely. These animals are basically people, with all of the love of family, and they wouldn’t want their loved ones to be turned into meat once they pass. Plus, that would keep everyone even more on edge about the predators, knowing that they were still eating animals like them.
Another possibility is they feed on non-mammals. I lied a bit at the top when I said all animals came together in Zootopia. It seems only mammals were given the gift of self-awareness. Birds, fish, and insects presumably are still as we know them, just dumb ol’ animals doing dumb ol’ animal stuff. The Zootopians could have their own farms where those animals are raised and slaughtered and fed to the predators.
But of course, you’ve probably guess the most likely response.
People are clearly widely despised. It’s so bad that even the animals associated with people aren’t allowed into Zootopia.
It’s understandable! From a newly sentient animal’s perspective, people are the great evil–taking over habitat, locking them up in zoos (was the city’s name a reclaiming of the word?), and basically making life miserable for animals everywhere.
Of course, once animals displayed their new mental facilities, people wouldn’t want to give up their way of life. There would be a fight. A fight the humans clearly lost.
The domesticated animals must have sided with the humans. They met the same fate.
The predators of Zootopia are likely fed by farms, but not the non-sentient animals. It’s all the missing creatures that sate their hunger.
So, Disney, what I’m saying is call me. I have some ideas for a prequel.