Disney’s Zootopia – Filmmaker Interview

The latest from Disney Animation Studios hits theaters this spring – and it’s sure to be a wildly good time! 😉 Zootopia (March 4, 2016) is one that we’re really excited about! So, while on our #StarWarsEvent press trip, I was thrilled to get a chance to head to the animation studios to talk with the filmmakers and see how they brought this animal world to life!
zootopiaFor our first chat about the film, we sat down with filmmakers Byron Howard (Director), Rich Moore (Director), and Producer Clark Spencer. Together, these guys have quite an impressive resume – working on films like Pocahantas, Tangled, Wreck It Ralph, Lilo & Stitch, and Bolt! When working on ANY films like this (whether animals, humans, fairytales, etc), they shared that there are 4 key goals/components:

  1. Tell timeless stories for today’s audiences.
  2. Be entertaining for people of all ages around the world.
  3. Contain both a combination of great humor and deep emotion.
  4. Have to live up to the standard of Walt Disney.

Zootopia InterviewThe team shared what an exciting time it is at the studio (and has been since John Lasseter and Ed Catmull took over things). They also shared that John is VERY excited about a new animal movie!!

Byron was thinking about what kind of story he wanted to tell next, and he kept coming back to these great animal films, and kept drawing animals over and over again.  You  can see some of his early visual development art.

And we finally came up with this idea of an Animal City called “Zootopia”. John loved the idea so much, he literally got fired up and he hugged him because John is also a huge fan of talking Animal Films so for him, John was just very excited, we’d be going back into this realm.  And he charged everyone on the team with creating an animal movie that no one has ever seen before.

Zootopia PosterAnd, I can tell you that without a doubt- this is an animal movie like you’ve NEVER seen before. The characterizations, the comedy, the whole Zootopia world…and OH the details!!! The details are SO good because of all the incredible research that goes into these movies (how I would LOVE their jobs)!!!!

So 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.  And we were able to get right up to the Animals and observe their behavior up close and Animal Kingdom and their experts, they really taught us so very much about these Animals.

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 the Savannah, get a sense of their movement and their natural environment. Now to find out what a real animal society is like, we needed to go there, see them all around us. And when we got out of that plane, we saw huge birds and giraffes and zebras way out in the distance. Ss we got closer to the animals, the animals got closer to us. And when we left Africa, our lives did change. They truly changed. 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 strains of fur, each animal character to feel believable. So that led us back to research again, literally researching fur at a microscopic level.

You will absolutely notice and see all that incredible research and detail in the film! There is one sequence where we see the main character traveling on the train through the different worlds – and it’s just breathtaking! SO many perfect details!!

Here’s a sneak peek (with the awesome new Shakira “Try Everything” song for it playing in the background):

I LOVED the new Shakira song for the film – and yes, she is in the movie as the pop star character, Gazelle! Here’s what the filmmakers had to say about working with Shakira:

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, very talented and we knew had our Gazelle as soon as we met her. So she’s Zootopia’s biggest Pop Star. 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 inal version of that song and that is unreal to be in this beautiful Studio in Barcelona in her home…a very kind down to earth artist to work with.  A real pleasure.

The song works SO well in the sequence we saw, but I’m excited to see her character in the movie (we didn’t get to see that part of the movie).

Disney's ZootopiaThis will be a GREAT family film! And I absolutely LOVE what the filmmakers say they think one of the biggest takeaways is:

“the theme that we define ourselves… 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.”

What a great message for kids…and EVERYONE really!!!!

Be sure to follow ZOOTOPIA for updates – Facebook, Twitter, and the ZOOTOPIA website!!!

Make plans to see it on March 4th!!! We are SO excited!

Disclosure: I was invited and hosted by Disney/ABC to cover the #StarWarsEvent & #ABCTVEvent as part of an all-expenses paid press trip. As always, all opinions are entirely my own. 

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