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Walt Disney Animation, the unit that's recently brought us the likes of Wreck-It Ralph and Tangled, has announced its next big animated project… and it sounds stranger than anything the studio has done since, uh, Treasure Planet maybe? During a presentation at the ongoing D23 convention Disney Animation head John Lasseter announced that the studio's 2016 release will be Zootopia, a story set in a world in which humans never existed, and the entire planet has been shaped around animals, who wear clothes and talk like those in classics like The Wind in the Willows.
Though Lasseter admits the 1949 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad as an inspiration, Zootopia will be an original story, a buddy action comedy between Nick Wilde, a fox, and Lieutenant Hop, a rabbit. The main conflict in this world is between the herbivores and the carnivores, which would put the rabbit and the fox directly in the middle of that divide. And though Zootopia takes place in a world where humans never existed, and where instead of cities there are places like Sahara Square (for the desert-loving animals) and Burrow Burough, where all the rabbits live. But there are still nods to what we might recognize as our own culture, including a palm tree that becomes a thousand-unit apartment building and a paper called the Wall Street Gerbil. Gotta love puns!
Tangled director Bryan Howard will be taking over Zootopia, and he says that after Tangled wrapped he asked Lasseter for permission to make a film inspired by a different Disney classic, Robin Hood. It's been a long time since the studio attempted another movie about animals dressed up in clothes and acting like humans-- 1990's The Rescuers Down Under seems like the last example-- but hey, everything eventually comes back around for a revival. Check out this scene from Disney's classic Robin Hood for a taste of what's in store, and look for Zootopia in 2016.
UPDATE: Disney has released the first concept art from the film! Check it out below.