Disney’s ZOOTOPIA hits theaters March 4, 2016! While I was in Los Angeles last month I had the opportunity to screen portions of the film and talk with the filmmakers about this movie. You guys, it’s HILARIOUS. Seriously, I cannot wait to take the kids to go see this. It’s just so smart, and so funny.
The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But when optimistic Officer Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman), to solve the mystery.
From left to right, I heard from Director Rich Moore, Director Byron Howard, and Producer Clark Spencer. You can tell by the picture above how much fun they are having making this film and how much they loved sharing it with us. I’m so excited to be able to see the entire thing, and I know you’re going to love it.
Here’s some of the inside scoop on how Zootopia came to be, some of the amazing research that went into making it ‘real’ (it really does feel real!), a bit about the story line, and the moral of the film.
On What Makes a Disney Animation Film…
Clark Spencer, Producer: 10 years ago today, John Lasseter and Ed Catmull joined Disney Animation and everything changed. One of the first things they did was they put film making where it belongs. They put it back into the hands of the filmmakers and not into the hands of executives. So John had created what we call the Story Trust. Today it’s a mix of veterans and young talent. It’s Directors, it’s Writers, it’s Story Artists, who each and every day challenge each other and push our films to a new level of excellence.
We tell modern stories, we tell fairy tales, animal films and human films and animals and humans. There are all types of stories which always has 4 key ingredients. One, we strive to tell timeless stories for today’s audiences. Two, we make these movies to be entertaining for people of all ages around the world. Three, our films must contain both a combination of great humor and deep emotion. And four, these films have to live up to the standard of Walt Disney. After all, his name is on each and every one of these films.
In my 25 years at the studio, I’ve seen some good times and I’ve seen some not so good times, and I can tell you right now, we’re experiencing a renaissance at Disney Animation. And when I think about the films recently and films that are coming up, I really feel like I’m one of the luckiest people alive, at the heart of this place right now.
On Researching for ZOOTOPIA…
Clark Spencer, Producer: Our films, they always begin at the same place. It begins with research and with Zootopia, the Director spent 15 months studying animals. Our research took us incredible places starting with our own Animal Kingdom down at Walt Disney World where they have a huge array of animals and some of the best animal experts in the world.
But once we’d seen the animals in a man made facility, we wanted to see them in the wild as well. So we went to Africa. We went to Kenya to study animals on a savannah, get a sense of their movement and their natural environment.
On Making the Animals Believable…
Clark Spencer, Producer: We were inspired by these trips to make our characters feel like the animals they are, and capture what makes them so amazing. And we wanted everything from the big City of Zootopia to the individual strands of fur, each animal character to feel believable. So that led us back to research again, literally researching fur at a microscopic level. For example, an individual strand of fox fur is dark at the root and it gets lighter as it goes to the tip. Polar bears’ fur is not actually white. The individual strands of fur are clear and hollow.
Our Look team created millions of strands of clear hair to create our polar bear. We also had to tackle the natural dreadlocks of the yak and the filthy wool of your average sheep. Animals in Zootopia have completely different fur groomed based on their actual individual strands of fur.
Zootopia is a world created for and designed by Animals not by Humans. And because this city has animals of every shape and size from jumbo to itty bitty, from the elephant all the way down to the Mouse. We wanted to be able to have the true size of each Animal.
Wait until you see the fur on the animals in this movie. It’s SO real! This fur research really intrigued me, so I asked a follow-up question:
Lindsay @SeeMomClick: I love hearing about how you did research at the microscopic level of the fur on all of the animals and you can reallysee it in the film, it’s very believable. You said there are 50 different species in the film so that seems like a huge undertaking. Were there any of them that were really challenging for you to get right more so than others?
Rich Moore, Director: The sheep play a big part in the movie and early on, they did sort of this standard looking CG sheep fur which kind of looks like a carpet. It looked kind of like a sheep but that was one of the first characters that we did where we were like OK, it’s not good enough. We need to go and actually look at the real animals. So we sent our groomers to a petting zoo where they photographed sheep up close and they’re really filthy. If you look at sheep, they’re very dirty, very dirty animals.
It’s yucky. It’s got twigs mixed in. After we did that, they came back in a couple of weeks and what they had, what winded up in the movie, was this beautifully filthy fur that came out, and it looked exactly like sheep. And we said, OK, well that’s what we need to do for the rest of the characters because if we can get that, that amazing sense of what an animal looks like and feels like but put it over top of this great Disney character design, this appeal that we all expect from these movies, then we’ve got something really great.
On Zootopia’s Neighborhoods…
Rich Moore, Director: One of the coolest things about the city is how it’s designed. Zootopia has different neighborhoods that celebrate different climates and cultures. At first glance, this all seems great. Zootopia seems like a Utopia but like our own world, the city isn’t perfect. Under this beautiful exterior, Zootopia has its own problems.
Byron Howard, Director: The Animals are, they’re quick to put each other in a box. Elephants always remember. Weasels are sneaky.
On Our Favorite Bunny Cop, Judy Hopps…
Byron Howard, Director: Judy Hopps is taking a huge step out of her box as a little bunny to become a cop but she’s super determined. She is an optimist. She lives by the mantra, in Zootopia, anyone can be anything. But when she arrives to the Zootopia Police Department, she’s hit by the reality of the world and that is, while all the other big strong cops get the really cool assignments, she gets parking duty.
On The Sly Fox, Nick Wilde…
Rich Moore, Director: Nick Wilde, played by the incredible Jason Bateman, is a quick witted con-animal. Sly, an actual fox and Jason plays it well. And unlike Judy who believes that anyone can be anything Nick believes that we are what we are. In his mind, he will always be a sly fox and she will always be a dumb bunny who will never, ever be a real cop.
On The Moral of the Story…
Byron Howard, Director: Judy and Nick have to learn to trust each other now and look past their stereotypes if they have any chance of preventing the city that we’ve come to love from being torn apart.
Rich Moore, Director: And ultimately, these two natural enemies, a bunny and a fox heal the city and make their most important discovery of all. Yes, like Nick says, we are what we are but maybe if we can learn to look past that, we might just discover who we could be.
Let’s Talk About Shakira Real Quick…
Grammy®-winning international superstar Shakira voices Zootopia’s biggest pop star Gazelle, who is a socially conscious celebrity with equal parts talent and heart. In the movie, we’re treated to a all-new original song “Try Everything,” written by singer-songwriter Sia and songwriting duo Stargate, and performed by Shakira. We got the hear the song during our interview and it’s SO good! Just makes you want to take on the world.
Byron Howard, Director: We pitched the story and she fell in love with the movie and we fell in love with her. She’s amazing. She speaks 6 languages, she’s very socially active, very smart woman, very talented and we knew had our Gazelle as soon as we met her.
We just came back about 2 months ago from Barcelona. Rich and Clark and I got to go over and spend time with Shakira and her lovely family and she recorded the final version of that song and in this beautiful studio in Barcelona in her home. And to hear this song being performed on something that you’ve worked on. It was really unreal.
Have a look at the latest ZOOTOPIA trailer to hear some of “Try Everything”!
Zootopia Official US Trailer #2
The world may have an opinion of us but it is up to you to define who you are. The world does not define you, you do, and that’s the theme
that I went away with.
– Byron Howard, ZOOTOPIA Director
ZOOTOPIA comes out March 4, 2016
Retweet and tell your friends! 😀
— Lindsay (@SeeMomClick) January 6, 2016