Little Judy Hopps (Della Saba) is performing in a carnival play discussing how their world used to live in a predator-dominated society, until now when predator and prey live together. Judy has dreams of becoming the first rabbit cop in Zootopia, but most people, including her own parents Stu and Bonnie (Don Lake and Bonnie Hunt), discourage her from pursuing this goal.
After the show, Judy, dressed in her police outfit, walks around the carnival and sees a group of kids getting picked on by a fox bully named Gideon Grey. He took their tickets, and Judy decides to make her very first bust. She kicks Gideon in the nose, leading to her getting clawed in the face. Gideon says Judy doesn't know when to quit. She then reveals that she got the tickets back for the kids. She stands up unfazed, saying she really doesn't know when to quit.
As an adult, Judy (now played by Ginnifer Goodwin) excels at the police academy and eventually becomes the first rabbit police officer in Zootopia. She leaves her parents and 275 siblings in Bunnyburrow and makes her move to Zootopia. As she arrives to the police department, she meets Officer Clawhauser (Nate Torrence), a cheetah that calls Judy cute (even though it's only okay for bunnies to call each other cute). She begins her job with Chief Bogo (Idris Elba) assigning her to parking duty. It is clear that nobody on the force thinks Judy is capable of anything else since she's a small rabbit, compared to the other larger predator animals.
Not ready to give up easily, Judy makes a goal to give 200 parking tickets before noon. She succeeds, and even has to give herself a parking ticket. Judy goes into an elephant ice cream shop and sees a fox named Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) with a smaller fox named Finnick (Tom Lister Jr.) that Nick says is his son. Nick asks for a gigantic popsicle, but the vendor refuses to sell to him. Judy sees Nick talking to Finnick with disappointment and steps in to defend them by stating that the elephants are unsanitary by having one elephant use his trunk to scoop ice cream and place sprinkles without proper protection. Judy buys the popsicle for Nick and Finnick, and they thank her.
Judy later comes across Nick and Finnick melting the popsicle and collecting the juice before taking it to Tundratown so they can use Finnick's paw prints to make smaller popsicles and sell to rodents. Judy confronts Nick over his deception, but the fox manages to evade her.
Feeling less upbeat, Judy gives more parking tickets the next day and is met with scorn from the other animals. The bigger cops are then called to chase after a crook named Duke Weaselton (Alan Tudyk), who has a bag with something stolen. Judy gives chase and follows him to Little Rodentia. A giant doughnut from a shop is knocked over and nearly crushes a shrew named Fru Fru (Leah Latham), but Judy catches the doughnut and saves Fru Fru, and then uses the doughnut to capture Duke.
Instead of praise, Judy is met with disdain by Bogo, who says she overstepped her authority and caused public endangerment for a thief that was carrying stolen plant bulbs. Moments later, Mrs. Otterton (Octavia Spencer) enters and asks Bogo for help in finding her husband, who is the latest in a series of missing animals. Judy volunteers to help on the case before Mrs. Otteron leaves, but Bogo fires her for being insubordinate. However, he opens the door to find Mrs. Otterton talking to Assistant Mayor Bellwether (Jenny Slate), who supports Judy being on the case. Bogo then gives Judy 48 hours to find Mr. Otterton, or she's off the force.
Judy looks over footage of the last time Mr. Otterton was seen, and she spots Nick. She finds him carrying Finnick in a stroller and approaches him to help her since he is her only lead. She pulls out a carrot pen that recorded Nick admitting to some of his crimes to blackmail him into helping her, leaving Finnick to ditch Nick.
Nick guides Judy to the last place he knows that Mr. Otterton went, a "naturalist" establishment. One of the heads, Yax (Tommy Chong), takes Judy and Nick to the yoga instructor, where they're told that Mr. Otterton was last seen getting in a big white car.
Judy and Nick go to the DMV (Department of Mammal Vehicles) to run a license plate number. Unfortunately, everyone that works there is a sloth. Nick goes to his buddy Flash (Raymond S. Persi) to get info, but Flash is, naturally, really slow. Judy gives him the number, but Nick interrupts Flash by telling him a joke. Flash then goes on to tell his co-worker Priscilla (Kristen Bell) the same joke, prolonging everything. By the time Judy and Nick get out, it's night time.
The two track the plate to a compound in Tundratown. The vehicle, however, belongs to the most feared crime boss in town, Mr. Big (Maurice Lamarche). Judy and Nick are taken by Mr. Big's polar bear bodyguards. Mr. Big has a bone to pick with Nick for the latter giving him a rug made from a skunk's butt. He is ready to have Judy and Nick iced until his daughter, Fru Fru, arrives. She manages to convince Mr. Big to spare them because Judy saved her life. Mr. Big then explains that he called for Mr. Otterton to be his florist, but when his driver, Manchas (Jesse Corti), went to pick him up, Mr. Otterton went "savage" (his natural wild otter instincts sprung out) and frightened Manchas.
Judy and Nick go to Manchas' home for info. Manchas mentions Mr. Otterton talking about the "night howlers". Quickly, Manchas goes savage too. He chases after Judy and Nick. Nick holds onto Judy as they swing under a bridge to escape the panther. Later, the ZPD arrives, but Manchas isn't anywhere to be found. Chief Bogo orders Judy to turn in her badge, but Nick steps in and defends Judy, saying they have ten more hours in the investigation. Bogo reluctantly agrees.
Judy thanks Nick for sticking up for her. He mentions this reminding him of when he was a child and he wanted to be a ranger scout, but the other kids bullied him for being a fox, so he decided to spitefully act like a fox would (cunning and sneaky).
The two go to Bellwether to ask to view security footage. We see that Mayor Lionheart (JK Simmons) is mean to his assistant mayor and refers to her as "Smellwether". The pair see in the Rainforest District a couple of wolves howling, which are believed to be the "night howlers".
Judy and Nick go to a laboratory where they find not only Mr. Otterton, but also the other 14 missing mammals, all of whom have gone savage. Entering the room is Mayor Lionheart with a doctor. Judy films their conversation on her phone, in which Lionheart expresses worry over the fact that all the savage mammals are predators, and he could be in trouble. Judy's ringtone goes off, leading her and Nick to run away from the officials in the building. They escape through the drains.
Judy contacts Clawhauser to tell Bogo that she has found all the mammals. Lionheart is arrested for his possible involvement in the case. He proclaims his innocence and states he was trying to help them.
A press conference is held for Judy. Before she goes up, she thanks Nick for his help, and she gives him an application to join the police academy so he can be her partner. Judy goes up to speak. When asked how these incidents occurred, she recalls something she heard back at the lab from the doctor and says that it was biological instincts that led the predators to revert to their natural instincts. Nick overhears and is hurt, thinking Judy really only sees him as something to fear. He leaves her with the application, which he already filled out.
Prejudice against predators spreads through Zootopia. Clawhauser is demoted because he's told that people don't want to see a predator when they first walk in. Pop star Gazelle (Shakira) organizes a rally, but it is overwhelmed by predator hate. Mrs. Otterton is still unable to see her husband. Judy is brought in with Bogo to meet Bellwether (now officially mayor) to be the face of the ZPD, but she feels responsible for the predator hate spreading through the city, and she effectively resigns.
Judy returns to Bunnyburrow to work with her parents. To her surprise, they are now working with Gideon Grey. He apologizes to Judy for how he behaved when they were kids, and Judy forgives him. The little bunnies are playing in the garden when Stu tells them to stay away from the flowers, which Gideon refers to as "night howlers". Judy's parents explain how her uncle accidentally ate one once and went crazy. The realization hits Judy that this is what was causing the predators to go savage. She takes her parents' truck and rushes back to Zootopia.
Judy finds Finnick and asks him for help in finding Nick. When she does find him, she apologizes for what she said and how she made Nick feel. He forgives her.
Back on the case, Judy and Nick locate Duke Weaselton selling bootlegs. He has something to do with the night howlers, but he won't talk. Judy and Nick bring him to Mr. Big and prepare to have him iced until Duke admits he was collecting night howlers and he brought them to a laboratory.
Judy and Nick find the laboratory and see a sheep handing the night howlers to create a serum. The sheep is on the phone discussing how he shot the serum at the infected mammals, including Mr. Otterton. After creating a diversion, the pair try to collect the evidence, but are quickly pursued by rams. Judy and Nick hop on a train cart to escape, with the rams attacking them. On the outside, Judy derails the cart, causing most of the evidence to be destroyed, but luckily, Nick saved a case of the serum.
The two rush to the ZPD to get the evidence in, but they're found by Bellwether at the museum. She asks to see the evidence, but Judy is suspicious as to how Bellwether found them. It becomes clear that Bellwether is the true mastermind behind the case, and she has Judy and Nick thrown into a pit. Bellwether's plan is to turn everyone against the predator population, and she offers Judy a chance to join her, but she refuses. Bellwether shoots Nick with a dart to make him go savage as well. It appears as though Nick is ready to attack Judy, but they reveal their own sham and state that they replaced Bellwether's darts with blueberries from the farm. Bellwether, having already called the cops, vows to frame Judy and Nick like she did with Lionheart, but Judy recorded her confession with the carrot pen, which she plays back just as the cops arrive, leading to Bellwether's arrest.
With Bellwether behind bars, Lionheart returns to power. An antidote is created for the mammals infected with the night howler serum. The Ottertons are finally reunited. Things in Zootopia are back to normal, with predators and prey co-existing peacefully again. Clawhauser gets his old job back, and Judy rejoins the force. Nick graduates from the police academy and becomes the first fox officer on the force, and Judy's new partner. Their first assignment together is to track down a street racer. A car speeds past them on the street, and they chase after it. They discover that the perpetrator is none other than Flash.
The credits feature the characters watching a concert from Gazelle.
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