The Animal Crossing series portrays an idyllic world quite unlike our own. Food is plentiful, work is optional, and everyone can afford a home thanks to Tom Nook’s forgiving payment plans. The latest entry, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, is more of the same, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t mysteries hiding beneath the surface of this cutesy life simulator.

Is Bunny Day mascot Zipper T. Bunny really who he says he is?

What exactly is the inscrutable brown liquid Isabelle drinks at her desk?

What sets the anthropomorphic villagers apart from the regular animals we see elsewhere?

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Join us as we dive deep into the wild world of Animal Crossing conspiracy theories. The full transcript follows below.


Zipper T. Bunny’s appearance signals the beginning of spring and the arrival of Bunny Day, Animal Crossing’s secular version of Easter. For some players, New Horizons is their first encounter with this cute-yet-creepy mascot. Zipper insists he’s a real rabbit, but many players have drawn attention to hints that the Zipper façade might actually be a costume.

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But if that’s the case, who’s watching us behind those huge, glassy eyes?

Zipper T. Bunny debuted in 2008’s Animal Crossing: City Folk for the Nintendo Wii. It was clear from the outset there was something not quite right about this rabbit. Speaking to villagers while Zipper was visiting your town would reveal that some were scared of him, while others gossiped about him being someone in a suit rather than a real bunny.

Zipper himself would mumble about being “hot and sweaty” under his breath. He even mentioned having a hard time breathing in “this thing,” possibly meaning he was wearing a bunny suit. He reacts negatively to anyone sneaking behind him to check out the zipper on the back of his overalls.

Several prominent fan theories regarding Zipper T. Bunny’s true identity have come and gone since City Folk’s release. Some argued the “T” in his name stands for Tortimer, the elderly turtle who acted as mayor in the original Animal Crossing on Nintendo GameCube. This was disproven, as you can find Tortimer in either City Hall or on an Island Tour while Zipper was in town in 2005's Animal Crossing: Wild World and 2012's Animal Crossing: New Leaf.

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Another strong theory pointed to Phyllis, the disgruntled pelican who covered late-night post office shifts in some games. This was again contradicted in the earlier games, since Phyllis would still man her post during Zipper’s visits.

Zipper T. Bunny is scheduled to return to New Horizons on April 12 to wrap up Bunny Day. Might he have a special reveal in store for players as a way to wrap up the event?

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Since being introduced in 2013’s Animal Crossing: New Leaf for the Nintendo 3DS, Isabelle has endeared herself to fans of the series thanks to her cute appearance and helpful demeanor. But just because she appears innocent doesn’t mean she can’t relax with a nice alcoholic beverage from time to time.

The first inklings of Isabelle’s fondness for, let’s say, “spirited” drinks came via fan headcanon spurred by the series’ mobile spin-off, 2017’s Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp. During a special event, Pocket Camp players were able to make an item called “Vacation Juice,” which looks a whole lot like a fancy mixed cocktail.

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While players and their villagers weren’t able to partake in this Vacation Juice, social media took the opportunity to combine its existence with footage of Isabelle getting her groove on in a different Animal Crossing spin-off, 2015’s Happy Home Designer, for an excellent shitpost.

When it was first revealed that Isabelle would be in New Horizons, fans latched onto the glass of brown liquid on her desk. Was this several fingers of whiskey? Was Isabelle getting loose on her new island home? This caused a split in the Animal Crossing community. Some hoped their queen was living her best life, while others claimed the liquid was most likely barley tea, a popular summertime drink in Japan.

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Fans in the former group got a big boost to their theory when a photo of an Animal Crossing advertisement made its way online. On some train lines in Japan, Isabelle shared interesting facts and trivia through in-cabin video monitors in the lead up to New Horizons’ release. One such segment saw the adorable shih tzu explain the difference between whiskey with an ‘E,’ which is how the alcohol’s name is spelled in Ireland and the United States, and whisky without an ‘E,’ which is how it’s spelled in Scotland.

Isabelle has been known to talk about other things in these promotional videos, such as why yen coins have holes and distinctions in evaluating gems and gold. But it’s easy to see why fans would latch onto the whiskey lesson, especially in the midst of a debate on what Isabelle likes to drink.

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Is this definitive proof? Not necessarily. Some have pointed out that the presence of alcohol would affect New Horizons’ ESRB rating. And truth be told, that’s a lot of whiskey for one glass, even for a supposed aficionado like Isabelle. I guess where you land on the issue is entirely a matter of perspective, kind of like the different regional spellings for whiskey itself.

Animal Crossing’s core conceit is living in a village full of, well, animals. These cats, dogs, eagles, pigs, octopi, and more are anthropomorphized with human personalities and customs, but there still exists a few examples of the kinds of animals we’re used to seeing in the real world.

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Take, for example, the yellow birds that indicate a new message has been posted on the town bulletin board. A regular sight in our lives, perhaps, but a distressing one in the world of Animal Crossing. All kinds of birds live in your town, except they walk, talk, and live their lives like humans. What sets an ostrich like Blanche apart from these little yellow birds?

This disparity is mirrored in the appearance of white owls that take the place of the yellow birds at night. Blathers, the museum curator, is an owl; what makes him different than his wild brethren?

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Things get even weirder when furniture is brought into the mix.

Several games in the Animal Crossing series allow the player to decorate their homes with bird and hamster cages, complete with living pets inside them. New Horizons only expanded on these unsettling themes. The laptop item can be customized with several screens, one of which displays a cat video on the Animal Crossing universe’s version of YouTube. It also introduces a litter box, although unlike the cages, it doesn’t come with a real animal.

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We have a real Pluto and Goofy situation on our hands here. What sets these different kinds of animals apart? Is it a Biblical thing? Were some given the knowledge of good and evil while their wild counterparts were left to live short lives of mindless survival? Has evolution benefited some animals while leaving the rest behind? I’m giving myself a headache just thinking about it.

Animal Crossing is an incredible series, deftly mixing real world concepts like creating a life for yourself in an unfamiliar environment with fantasy elements that make the journey fun. Playing these games as adults, however, has shown us the cracks that exist in the dark corners of this utopian universe.

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But mysteries add to the fun and lore of what is otherwise a pretty simple escape from reality. Sometimes answers are less important than the act of searching for meaning, especially when you have an entire community of fellow truth-seekers by your side for the journey.

Staff Writer, Kotaku

Video Producer, Kotaku. Fluent in Spanglish. Tetris Master. Streamer. Host of The Optional Podcast.

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DISCUSSION

Indoril Nerevar

All kinds of birds live in your town, except they walk, talk, and live their lives like humans. What sets an ostrich like Blanche apart from these little yellow birds?

This disparity is mirrored in the appearance of white owls that take the place of the yellow birds at night. Blathers, the museum curator, is an owl; what makes him different than his wild brethren?

Let’s go even deeper into the rabbit (heh) hole. You can have several frog villagers on your island. Then you can go up to a river/lake and fish a tadpole.

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