It's a jungle out there in the wild animated landscape of Zootopia.
Blending the anthropomorphism of classic cartoons such as Robin Hood with the buddy comedy vibe of 48 Hrs., the Disney movie (in theaters March 4, 2016) stars Jason Bateman as the voice of sly con-artist fox Nick Wilde and Ginnifer Goodwin as idealistic rookie rabbit cop Judy Hopps.
As in nature, the fox and the rabbit don't get along at first, but circumstances change when Nick needs her help to get out of a jam and Judy relies on him to help crack a big case.
Zootopia is ultimately a story of two animals "who would naturally never hang out or like one another in the beginning, but over the course of the movie develop a relationship and become friends," says Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph), who co-directs the film with Byron Howard (Tangled).
For Nick, whose sleepy eyes reflect his conniving nature, the filmmakers wanted a wily, dry-witted sort of voice, so choosing Bateman was a no-brainer. Plus, the actor could also bring "a funny yet heartfelt side" to the animated fox, Moore says.
"He's a crafty, sarcastic schemer, and that I've been doing in parts since I was 12," Bateman says of Nick. "I foolishly said, 'What kind of voice do you guys want me to do?' And they just looked at me like I was an idiot and said, 'Just do what you do. Just talk.' "
The mammal metropolis of Zootopia — which was hatched by filmmakers after months of behavioral research and even an African safari — includes places such as Tundratown and Sahara Square, but Judy hails from rural Bunny Burrows, where she leaves farm life to do some good as a big-city police officer.
Goodwin brings "very centered sweetness, tremendous heart and a great sense of humor" to Judy, Moore says, but the bunny can be a spitfire, too: She's "a little Pollyanna mixed with Furiosa," referring to Charlize Theron's no-nonsense Mad Max: Fury Road character.
And don't call Judy cute, Howard points out. "People have said that to her all her life. She's a little sensitive about that."
There are situations where Judy becomes unhinged and "she gets hoppity emotionally," Goodwin says. She also won't be underestimated. "People mistake kindness for naivete or stupidity, and she is a good girl through and through. But she's not a dumb bunny."
All the furry animals reflect their real-life counterparts — from Judy's twitchy nose to a sloth being slower than everybody else in town — and the world of Zootopia is "as fully immersive as though you walked into Disneyland," Goodwin says. "This movie is begging for an entire division of the theme park."
Bateman's daughter Francesca, 8, may be first in line. "I showed her the teaser the other day on my computer," he says. "And she looked at me like, 'Oh, so that's where you disappear to. … OK, you actually do something I like.' "