I was invited as media to cover the Zootopia press event. All opinions are my own.
Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with the great minds behind Disney’s Zootopia film at Animal Kingdom Lodge in Orlando, Fl. The roundtable press coverage included Directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore, Producer Clark Spencer, Co-Director & Writer Jared Bush, and Co-Writer Phil Johnston.
Byron Howard & Rich Moore
Byron’s animation credits include a long list of Disney films including Bolt, Tangled and Lilo & Stitch, while Rich’s directing credits include The Simpson’s and Wreck-it Ralph, among other work. Both filmmakers were really excited to be in Orlando. Rich even mentioned that this was his first time visiting the Disney World parks and how blown away he was. Also adding that he wished he hadn’t discovered it so late in life.
When asked about having multiple directors on board and how that worked, Byron described the team as a community bringing everything they have to the table so the film can be its’ best. Of course because this was a film about animals, the team had to do extensive background information. They spoke of visiting Kenya and taking the same research trip as the team from Lion King so many years ago. They also visited Disney’s Animal Kingdom to do a Backstage Tour and Wild Africa Trek for up-close experiences with the wildlife. Interesting fact: during a tour of the tiger enclosures, the filmmakers learned that the researchers use “cheap 80’s perfume” as a pheromone of sorts to entice the tigers. Seriously – tigers like White Diamond, Polo and Axe scents!
Zootopia has an impressive amount of artistry and detail that help bring this incredible film to life. When asked about the “worlds within the city” Byron mentioned they had many more, but ultimately they had to shorten the film’s time and cut certain scenes. One in particular was “Outback Island” which the filmmakers brought in and out of the movie several times, but they just couldn’t make it work. Hopefully if there’s a second film, that something they can include in the next one.
Speaking of details – Byron shared that there were “sixty four different species of animals, all with different fur. Of those sixty four we have male, female and child. Do all the multiplying and you have like that times three and then you have of those maybe like twenty variants clothing and color wise first. So by the time you’re done you have tens of thousands of images.”
Disney did an excellent job of weaving in some really sensitive topics, like bullying and racial profiling while still bringing a lightheartedness to the movie. When asked about that, Byron shared that they “were very careful in that sense,” while Rich added that they found the right balance to not make fun or be too serious about those topics.
When asked what message they hope people take away from the film, they spoke of identifying with Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin). They described her character as having a “superman core” and appreciated her ability to own up to her mistakes and become a more mature character. Byron added, “that although there are not a lot of easy answers in the world, looking within yourself for that first bit of change is the closest thing you can come to an answer.”
Phil Johnston, Clark Spencer, Jared Bush
When asked about their favorite characters in Zootopia, Phil shared that Gideon Grey because he voiced the character, adding “I’d like a doll made so I can get some residuals on that.” He also favored Judy Hopp’s parents. Clark connected with Clawhouser because he’s an important symbol for the film, and Jared favored Nick and Judy because of their journey together as characters.
The guys also discussed the scenes that unfortunately had to be cut due to timing. Fun fact: Zootopia is the 2nd longest Disney film! As mentioned previously by the directors, Outback Island was cut from the film, as well as the Nocturnal District. Clark Spencer adds, “the problem with the movie and what makes it great is there are so many great places to visit, but at some point you just have to focus and narrow it down.”
They also mentioned that a Zootopia app will soon be released (sometime within the next few days). The interactive app will allow you to put your face on a character and make it dance. So look out for that soon!
Another fun fact: the voice of Duke Weaselton, who’s of course a weasel in Zootopia, is non other than Alan Tudyk, who played the Duke of Weselton in Frozen. The filmmakers joked that, “Alan is contractually obligated to be in every Disney movie.”
A few nights before the interviews, we were invited along with our families to a private screening of Zootopia. I’ll have more on that review coverage later this week! 🙂
Are you and your family excited to see Disney’s Zootopia Film? See it in theaters this Friday 3/4/16.