“Idris Elba is a beast with a nation.
Elba voices Chief Bogo, the cape buffalo who heads the Zootopia Police Department — serving and protecting the modern mammal metropolis created in the animated “Zootopia” (in theaters March 4).
Even the British tough-guy actor is jealous of his beefy 2,000-pound character. “I’ve definitely got some shoulder envy,” says Elba. “I can’t say I ever even dreamed of being a buffalo before. But now that I am one, I’m very excited about it. And I grabbed the part by the horns.”
The cast of characters in Disney’s film also includes a doughnut-loving police receptionist cheetah, Benjamin Clawhauser (Nate Torrence), and Mrs. Otterton (Octavia Spencer), a desperate otter who turns to the police to help find her missing husband.
Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), the first bunny on the police force, joins forces with shady fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) to crack the missing-mammal case before a 48-hour deadline. Like each of the voice actors working with directors Byron Howard (“Tangled”) and Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph”), Elba’s Chief Bogo evolved during the year-long voicing process, with Elba recording in various studio locations while jetting around the world to shoot projects such as “Star Trek Beyond.”
The directors knew Elba could handle Bogo’s larger-than-life personality and toughness and allowed him to use his own East London accent. But they were surprised to discover Elba’s sense of humor.
“Bogo started out pretty straight, this tough boss. We thought, perfect, Idris is a dramatic character,” says Howard. “But Idris is so funny — people would be surprised how funny. It was like, ‘We have to get some of this in the movie…”