Zootopia sparks sloth, fox mania in China
THE Disney buddy-cop comedy Zootopia continued its domination at the Chinese box office - earning more than 824 million yuan (S$173 million) last week as of Friday - and in social media, where Flash, the three-toed sloth, and a pair of foxes have captured the public's imagination.
Depicted as an inefficient government worker in the movie, Flash shot to stardom in China's online communities.
Netizens mimicked the sloth's speaking style and dubbed the character's lines in their own dialects.
Clips of Flash speaking at least nine Chinese dialects can be found online, and animated GIFs, known as "stickers", featuring the character have been shared across instant messaging app WeChat.
"Flash the sloth has stolen the spotlight from the film's two main characters!" wrote LeleTiantian on microblog Sina Weibo, Xinhua reported.
The animated film also has turned two featured foxes into hot pets, driving searches on e-commerce platforms for the red fox, con artist Nick Wilde, and the fennec fox, grumbly accomplice Finnick.
The latter's fetching "toddler" image helped him win many fans, reported West China Metropolitan Daily.
"After watching Zootopia, my daughter became crazy about fennec foxes and wants one for a pet," said a Beijing parent.
Pet traders are reportedly peddling the nocturnal fennec foxes on some shopping sites, with prices ranging from 25,000 yuan to 40,000 yuan for one.
The fennec fox, whose indigenous home is North Africa, is listed as a threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The import and sale of the animal in China require approval from the authorities, said West China Metropolitan Daily.
According to a Huaxi Metropolis Daily report, one online trader said he sold a pair of the small North African desert foxes on Tuesday. The seller said he had a permit to sell the vaccinated foxes, known for their large ears and fluffy coats.
Red foxes are easily found on the shopping sites and fetch a price of about 2,000 yuan.
Some animal protectionists have expressed concern about the trend. Li Hui, an expert at Chengdu Changle Wildlife Breeding and Rescue Center, told China Daily that most foxes found on the pet market were captured in the wild or raised for their fur at the country's fox breeding farms, mainly in North China.
"Red foxes and silver foxes are among the most important furbearing animals harvested by the fur trade," the expert said. "They are not commercially domesticated, often not vaccinated and can be dangerous."