December 26, 2023, 4:35 PM ·
Welcome to your first day, recruits! As the latest members of the Zootopia Police Force, get ready to hop in your cruiser and take to the streets, doing what it takes to keep your city safe, even while a certain cloven-hooved criminal is now on the loose. Welcome to Zootopia: Hot Pursuit, Disney’s latest dark ride and the centerpiece of the newly opened land in Shanghai Disneyland.
While perhaps not groundbreaking, it does offer Disney’s first trackless system in mainland China, taking guests on a fun romp through a combination of screens, Audio Animatronics and practical sets, on a ride-along mission with Nick and Judy.
Officer Officer Clawhauser greets visitors to the Zootopia Police DepartmentThe story starts, of course, in the queue. You enter the Zootopia police department to be greeted by the fan-favourite Officer Clawhauser sitting behind is desk, surrounded by snacks and Gazelle merchandise. The Audio Animatronics here are impressive, although I found their faintly glowing “screen eyes” a little disconcerting. He gives a haunting retelling of the “before times,” when predators still ate prey, helping to contextualize the land for anyone unfamiliar with the movie. He alternates that tale to take the time to gush about mega pop star Gazelle, who will be hosting a Unity Concert that night to celebrate Zootopia Day.From here, we wind through the rest of the precinct, followed by the Zootopia prison, passing Bellwether’s old cell, where it appears she has chiseled her way to freedom a la Shawshank Redemption. (In fact, is that her climbing in the vents?)Just before boarding we’re greeted by a second Audio Animatronic, this time Chief Bogo, who briefs us fully on the situation. Bellwether has kidnapped Gazelle in order to prevent the Zootopia Unity Concert, and it’s our job to join Officers Nick and Judy, who are hot on Bellwether’s tail. This isn’t the sweet-faced manipulator from the movie though – Bellwether has turned hard in prison, complete with earrings and a purple mohawk. As lead Imagineer of the land Dustin Schofield noted earnestly, “prison changes a sheep.”The ride itself reminded me of “plussed” version of Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure – I also heard others drawing a lot of comparisons with Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, although that’s a ride I haven’t experienced myself. Imagineers took full advantage of Zootopia’s rich and varied ecosystem “neighborhoods,” starting in Tundra Town, moving on through Sahara Square, the Rainforest District, and culminating downtown as we chase down our woolly villain.
The first half of the ride relies mostly on physical sets and multiple Audio Animatronics. Much like the rest of the land, the experience is full of jokes and gags, including getting sidetracked through the naturist colony and spotting what I suspect might be Disney’s first drag-performing Audio Animatronic “Gurlzelle.” The latter half of the ride relies more heavily on large wrap-around screens, as our sleuthing evolves into a high-speed chase after Bellwether. Ultimately, thanks to an elephant-sized ice cream and giant donut (both available for purchase just outside…) Gazelle is rescued, justice is restored, and all is right again in Zootopia. The experience ends as we head to the Unity Concert for one more Audio Animatronic, this time Gazelle performing her trademark song from the films “Try Everything,” which has been a staple of Chinese classrooms and KTVs for years and is sure to be stuck in your head for the rest of the day. Bellwether, meanwhile, is presumably headed back for her life behind bars.Nice work, rookie.Previously: Disney’s ‘Crazy Animal City’ comes alive in Shanghai’s Zootopia (Includes walking tours of the new land.)* * *
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