Stripes the baby zebra (voiced by Muniz) is accidentally left behind by the circus and adopted by a widower farmer (Greenwood) and his daughter (Panettiere). Growing up, Stripes longs to race like his neighbouring horses and finds his way onto the track.
Babe meets the ugly Duckling in a family caper with one distinguishing feature: its protagonist is a talking zebra. Lonely and abandoned, little Stripes must come to terms with being different from the thoroughbreds, with the help of a goat and a horse (as with Babe, all animals can talk to each other and the only Dr. Doolittle is the audience). Horses are the everyman - 'Step right up if you're horse enough', goes one line, should we be in doubt, and Stripes just doesn't fit in.
Visually, it's competent enough, blending CG-enhanced live-action beasts with the occasional animated comedy fly. But while the narrative stays close to Stripes' coming-of-age experience, it's at the cost of the age-old bond between child and animal. Although the farmer's daughter Panettiere claims to know Stripes better than anyone, he sees her merely as a route to acceptance, even tricking her into riding him, not the only time sabotage is used by these cynical critters.
A romantic storyline is dropped like a hot potato and, while there's a flicker of human emotion as the family comes to terms with Mom's fatal riding accident, it's been done before, and better. With pigs.
If this film were as good at manipulation as its animal characters, it'd be more than just burping zebras and shit-eating flies. Sadly it's not.