Zootopia, Zoolander or Zooply Chain?

Can watching movies optimize your supply chain?

Owen Wilson And Ben Stiller In 'Zoolander'
Paramount Pictures/Getty Images

Zootopia is set in a world where animals are more evolved than they are in real life.

Zoolander and the estimable Zoolander 2 are set in a world where humans are far less evolved than they are in real life.

Zooply Chain is set in a world... well, actually zooply chain is a term I made up.  I suppose that a zooply chain is a world where you deliver what your customer wants, when your customer wants it – and you do that by spending as little money as possible.

  A cartoon fantasy or farcical, pretend land of male models?  It doesn’t have to be. 

If supply chains were, in fact, zoos, they’d be the very humanitarian kind – where animals live in close approximations to their natural environments and hunt and eat as if they were in the wild.  That kind of zoo.  Not the “this place is a zoo!” kind of zoo that we humans tend to grumble about when teammates don’t cooperate. 

Animals, it seems, cooperate extremely well.  That’s how water buffalo survive predator attacks (by backing into an imposing, tight congregation - horns out) and how penguins survive vicious winter storms (by alternating who gets to stand on the subzero windward side of the huddle) and how a bunny cop and streetwise fox solve capers. 

But can supply chain lessons be learned from the highly evolved world of Zootopia and the somewhat less evolved world of Derek Zoolander?

Of course, they can.

In the city of Zootopia, predator and prey live side by side.  It’s more than just a land of make-believe – it’s a supply chain metaphor.

Have you ever been to a sales and operations planning meeting?  They can sometimes feel like predator and prey environments (where sales is feeding on the operational backpedaling of “We shipped late” or “We’re out of stock” or “We had to scrap the entire production lot”).


But just like in Zootopia, you, too, can live in an utopian land where the hunters and the hunted now work together.  If a bunny and a fox can pull off the buddy-cop partnership of the year, why can’t your sales folks learn to forecast and communicate sales goals and strategies with supply chain?  Sly foxes and dumb bunnies, indeed. 

In Derek Zoolander’s world, on-time delivery, inventory control and operational efficiency aren’t exactly the goals of every male model. Not when our hero has a walk-off against Hansel to prepare for.  Or to gain Hansel's trust in the sequel to stop Mugatu from killing the world's fashion designers.  Oops, sorry, spoiler alert.  However, Zoolander's supply chain incompetence works well as a counterpoint to Zootopia's supply chain excellence.

For example, no one in Derek Zoolander's world probably cares much about Supplier Relationship Management.  In fact, what we refer to as SRM would only confuse Derek.  He'd likely wonder why you'd put a "Relationship" between two letters that work perfectly together without that kind of commitment.  Think about it...  Okay, I'm not a comedy writer.  But the point is - SRM isn't something that can just be optimized with Derek's practiced Blue Steel gaze.


But in the urban jungle of Zootopia, supply chain optimization isn't just optimized - it's on display throughout the city's many climate-distinct districts.  And Zootopia is one of those rare supply chain movies that actually shows a working supply chain, in action.  If you haven't seen it, look away.  But for those of you have, you know what I'm talking about.

Nick Wilde, the sly fox, procures a jumbo ice pop.  His procurement process is not only innovative, but his cost of goods for the jumbo ice pop is zero.  He then manufactures his own miniature ice pops using a paw print and the local climate of the frozen part of Zootopia - again, no manufacturing costs.  He then sells his ice pops to lemmings.  And then in the sustainable supply chain move of the year, sells the discarded wooden sticks as lumber in the miniature Rodentia part of Zootopia.

  His daily revenue of $200 is nearly 100% gross margin. 

If you don't think that's not getting his customers what they want, when they want it and spending as little money as possible getting that done - well, then, you probably don't believe that because male models have chiseled abs and stunning features, it doesn't mean that they too can't not die in a freak gasoline fight accident.