While I was in Los Angeles recently, I had the opportunity to sit down in a small group setting with Directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore as well as Producer Clark Spencer of Zootopia, which is coming to DVD/Bluray/Digital on June 7!
Our discussion was fascinating, and I can’t wait to share it with you. This interview is part of the #ZootopiaBluray and #ThroughTheLookingGlassEvent press trip – all travel, accommodations and activities were provided by Disney, but all thoughts are my own. Affiliate links used in this post.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I saw Zootopia for the first time, but I quickly fell in love – with the characters, the story, and the message. Zootopia is a movie that sticks with you. And now, after chatting with the directors and the producer, I am even more impressed and in love with the movie.
Powerful, Timely messages
Zootopia is full of powerful messages and real-life parallels. One of those messages that we discussed was the universal dilemma of how to live together without killing each other (and we’re not just talking predator versus prey here).
I thought it was interesting, since Zootopia certainly had an impact on me and my family, that the team did not start out with the intention to make a statement movie…but it was very important to them to make a movie that had meaning. When they started the project, they had no idea how timely the message would be. The topics of race and prejudice and learning to live with our differences…and to look past our differences to notice more of our similarities…are complex and messy. The Zootopia production team was motivated to make a movie that was as real and authentic as possible. I think they hit the nail on the head with that one.
Director Byron Howard said, “We all had to work very hard together to figure out how to make the movie say what it needed to say. The fact that people find Judy so empowering was really inspiring to us.”
Director Rich Moore said, “People have said to us, ‘Did you guys have a crystal ball or something? Did you know like these things were going to happen?’ As we were making the film, these things would pop up in the news. (We said) what we’re making here is very relevant today. And that made us work even harder to make it the best it could be. That it didn’t come across as preachy. That it didn’t come across as ‘this is the message. This is how you cure these things.’ It inspired us to make the movie as genuine and real as possible. That it didn’t pull punches, but it also didn’t try to sugar coat this stuff.”
Real Animals Shaped Zootopia
Bryon, Rich, and Clark spoke about landing in Africa, where their team traveled in the initial research stage for Zootopia. I loved learning how actual wild animals – their habits, their personalities, and their social structure shaped the movie.
“I think our favorite part was…when you stepped out of the plane, everything was just quiet. The air feels different. It’s just open. And the places we visited in Africa haven’t changed in 40,000 years. The environment is the same. And the animals have a society that exists. These groups move together like human beings do. It’s like being in their version of a city. That’s where the whole bias idea came from – from us watching these animals around a watering hole.
One of our camps was about 30 feet from a watering hole where we’d watch these animals come in during the day in herds of anywhere from 20 to 500 animals. And we saw that antelope and lions would drink right next to each other at the watering hole. No funny business. No one was attacking each other, there was no aggression. They just got their water, they kinda looked at each other, and then they went their separate ways. And we thought, that’s very much like our own society. Groups don’t always get along.
We have these cities where we all have to figure out how to live together without killing each other. And it was a great experience. That first camp next to the watering hole was a real eye opener for all of us because we had no idea it was going to get into us that much. We had all our leadership on that trip. We had our lead animation. We had our art director. We had our character designer. And those folks all came back with this desire to make the movie so much better because of what we had learned.”
Bureaucracy is Universal
Jim Reardon, animation director and storyboard consultant and co-head of story for Zootopia, said to his fellow Zootopia team one day, “If there’s a DMV in Zootopia, it should be run by sloths.” He said it in fun, but the idea stuck…and it ended up being one of the most beloved scenes in the entire movie.
I loved learning that the DMV scene with Flash and his fellow sloths was the most universally loved scene across all markets. Despite the fact that the movie makers were worried about people outside the United States understanding the DMV, the humor ended up landing well with everyone. No matter where movie-goers lived in the world, whether they had a DMV in their country or not, everyone understood the concept of bureaucracy and painfully slow lines and processing times.
Flash was definitely one of my favorite characters and his DMV scene still cracks me up, despite the fact that I’ve seen it so many times. How can you NOT laugh with Flash?
Zootopia is coming to Disney DVD, Bluray, and Digital download on June 7, 2016, but you can preorder it HERE!
© 2016, Food Fun Family. All rights reserved.