I’ve been seeing bits and pieces of Zootopia for over a year now and every little thing I saw got me even more excited for the release. Make sure you check out all my #Zootopia Event coverage so you can read interviews, fun facts, and everything we did during the event. PLUS, bonus articles from the past year that have all kinds of interesting info. The thing about both Byron and Rich is they believe in this project so much. Which is why I always say I enjoy talking to the filmmakers because of the passion they have and the time they have invested to bring an idea to life. Both Byron and Rich are just good guys who are extremely funny and down to earth. They sat down with us to chat about their passion project Zootopia:
Q: What is the experience like to know that you came here in the beginning and you’re finishing up here?
RM: The circle of life. It all works out, right? That was very on theme.
BH: That was very, very company specific. That was very good, thank you. This was one of the first places that we came. Like after we pitched the idea of the movie, what we start with is research. As we talk about in a lot of these presentations. The fact that this company has this amazing animal preserve, which is — honestly, it is the best in the world. Like if you look at the animals they’re in herds. They’re moving around these amazing environments that feel like a real African environments and Asian environments. The fact that we could take that real knowledge and these great animal experts and incorporate that knowledge into the film, it was amazing for us. We stopped here first. We went back to LA and told. John, Lassiter about our findings here. He said, that’s amazing. The next step you guys gotta do is actually go to real Africa and, we’re like, Africa? And he’s like, Africa. And he sent us. We took 14 of our leadership over there. It was one — a good compliment for this place is that we — when we landed in the Savannah of Africa we stepped out of these tiny bush planes. It felt like this. They did such a good job here in turning Florida into–
Then Africa was a life changing experience for us all. I think all of us came back honestly changed. We’re very fortunate with these jobs because they send us on terrific places all over Asia and Europe and South America. But Africa, for me, I had never been any place that kinda changed you down to your core. Because you’re stepping into an environment that has been the same for 40,000 years. I’d only been zoos where I’d seen like two zebra at a time. Then just, you know, 30 feet away from us were 200 zebra. Or 50,000 wildebeest. 100,000 wildebeest. Being as close to lions as we are to you guys in the front row. Just to see nature, like full on nature right there. It really made us feel like, okay, if we’re gonna do this movie, we’re gonna do it right. We came home just full of all this information and this great passion for what we’re gonna create with, uh, Zootopia. I think that’s why the crew dug in so much. We geeked out on all this stuff. It came across in the film because all our crew cared so much.
Q: Speaking of diversity, tolerance and acceptance. How do you tell that story so that it resonates with kids of all ages?
RM: Well,that was very important to us that this wasn’t just an adult movie. That it was playing on some kinda lofty level that a child would be like, I’m not getting this at all. I don’t relate to it. It was important to us that Judy’s kind of journey, and her as a character, a child could relate to her. We knew if this is a story about discrimination and being put in a box, by other people, then Judy has to have a moment where that happened to her. That’s why we chose that. It was at the hands of a bully when she was young. You know, as a little girl. And a little bunny, because, unfortunately, I think that adults and children can relate to those moments.Unfortunately, I think that all of us have had those moments. Some more than others, but it’s relatable. So, that’s why we chose to have that happen to her as a child. It kind of became very relatable to both a child and an adult of what this movie was about.
Q: Which animal was the hardest or the most difficult to anthropomorph?
BH: That’s a good question. There were a lot of them that were challenging. Even Judy’s landlord, who’s an armadillo. It was a question of how does that character get her clothes on? Over the shell?
RM: Did it have to go over the shell? Does it go over the shell? Does she just kinda look like a strange hunchback [LAUGHS]– We did a lot of animal research about a year. And we kind of went and kinda — well, the DMV is a good example.
BH: Well, we had a few story sessions where we were thinking like, well, what would be good jobs, you know, for animals—and, you know, should we go against type for some? Should some be very kinda on the nose? Our head of story, Jim Reardon, he kinda said, well, you just threw out this idea. Well, how about sloths working for DMV. That could be a funny scene. It was kinda one of these things where everyone was quiet for a moment. And thought like, has this been done before? You know, it seems like such an obvious joke or situation. We quickly went to the Internet and like, sloth at the DMV. No, no, no, no. Oh, my God. I think we found something that hasn’t been done yet. And it’s just so– and again, it’s like to keep it on a level of that a child could it. That to them they’re watching Judy who’s in a hurry at the mercy of a sloth Who’s slow. Then for the adult, it’s like, oh, yeah—I know the DMV. That’s happened to me. Then also we wondered, well, is this universal like around the world? Do they have like the DMV? Do they have any thing. And I am happy to report the frustration with red tape and bureaucracy is well known everywhere.Every place that we’ve screened this around the world they’ve said like that reminds me of our blank. You know, of a department just like that.
Q: Speaking about the sloths, how did you Kristen Bell knowing she–
RM: She loves sloths.
BH: She loves sloths.
RM: Did you see that clip from Ellen? Where she was like breaking down?
BH: No. No. We said like, we have one line from this…God, would it — do you think she would do it? And we were trying to figure out — like because it would be perfect if she did the voice. We’re talking with our casting director, James Roberts, and we were talking about, well, how do you go to someone like Kristen Bell and present like this idea, will you do one line that is literally words–
RM: Two words.
BH: Two words? You know? We’re thinking, like, okay, how do we approach Kristen with this idea and Jamie said, why don’t I just text her? Right now. I know her. You know? Forget this, we’re going about this the wrong — let me text her. Let me ask her. She literally kind of, you know, Kristen, would you like to play a sloth that has one line in the movie? Then five minutes lat — and we got talking about something else. And then Jamie said, oh, by the way, Kristen just texted back. She’s in.
A real — and a real quick story, ‘cause we’re talking about seeing that scene around the world, and we had a really nice experience in Belgium. ‘Cause they showed it in French, uh,Belgium French and also Belgium Flemish. When we were watching the Flemish audience watch the DMV scene and there was this father and this little boy. The father watching the Flemish movie was cracking up at the sloths and the DMV. His little boy was watching his dad and he’s smiling at it — seeing his dad crack up at this lady. So, even the little boy who was like four, didn’t get the scene. He was getting such a kick out of watching his dad crack up. It was just the sweetest thing.
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 rookie 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. Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Zootopia,” a comedy-adventure directed by Byron Howard (“Tangled,”“Bolt”) and Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph,” “The Simpsons”) and co-directed by Jared Bush (“Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero”), opens in theaters on March 4, 2016.
***Disclosure: I attended the #StarWarsEvent + #ZootopiaEvent My flight, lodgings, and expenses were covered by Disney All opinions are 100% mine. ***