Zootopia

*Walt Disney Animation Studios’ comedy-adventure, “Zootopia” has broken records worldwide earning more than $900 million at the global box office to date. Critics and audiences around the world have fallen in love with the innovative animal metropolis and the comedic chemistry of rookie rabbit officer Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) and scam-artist fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman).

The runaway hit arrives home on Digital HD, Blu-ray™, Disney Movies Anywhere, DVD and On-Demand (does not include bonus) platforms June 7, 2016, and viewers will enjoy a plethora of Bonus features including: deleted scenes, deleted characters and Ginnifer Goodwin hosts an in-depth look at the movie’s characters, animation, environments and more.

Directed by Byron Howard (“Tangled,” “Bolt”) and Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph,” “The Simpsons”) and produced by Clark Spencer (“Wreck-It-Ralph,” “Lilo & Stitch”), the filmmakers traveled the globe to find inspiration for the diverse characters and amazing city of Zootopia. EUR/Electronic Urban Report spent a day at DisneyToon Studios in Glendale, CA., chatting with the filmmakers, animators and Raymond Persi, the voice of Flash the Sloth, about their deep immersion into animal society on the African savanna that shaped and inspired the 980 different types of animals featured in the animated adventure.

“The interesting thing is, none of the animals look the same,” Spencer said.

“In the old days, if we had said, ‘We’re going to make a movie with 900 different kinds of animals,’ they would have laughed,” Rich noted.

“We tried to avoid domesticated animals in the movie because we gave ourselves rules when we start these worlds, like humans never existed to interbreed dogs and domestic cats. We tried to stay away from farm animals as much as possible too. There are pigs and sheep,” said Byron, but Rich added: “But the Twitterverse was like, ‘If there are no dogs and cats then how can there be pigs?’

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With “Zootopia” you decided to explore how bias shapes and influences our personal beliefs and politics. Why was it important for you to explore these themes through animals?

Byron: That trip to Africa for us was really key in figuring out that animals have groups just like we have groups and the fact that not all the groups, human being wise and animal wise, see each other eye-to-eye. I think when we started playing around with that idea, we thought what a great thing for a film to be able to speak to subjects like that deeply because I think at Disney particularly, there’s a great history of films like Lion King or Bambi that deal with real heavy subjects, even Pinocchio is very dark subject matter, but the fact that it’s presented as a family film in a way that people can view it together without a limitation of what age is watching the film, and can have that deep resonance with people as human beings, I think is pretty unique to Disney.

I think there’s the desire to have Disney films have entertainment and fun but also to have empathy and pathos and passion. I think people want a deep, emotional experience, and the fact that, even in hindsight, when we look back at this film, and the long journey that it took to get there, we’re really proud of the fact that people got the message. As we were making the film all these stories kept coming up in the news that really re-enforced that something in the movie community needed to speak to these issues, and the fact that we can actually speak broadly about bias to many different people from all over the world, no matter where you’re from, someone can find themselves in this movie and find their own experiences and challenges, was a really rewarding thing for us. It was tough. As we were going we asked each other, ‘Are we doing the right thing? Are we saying the right thing in this movie?’ But I think that it feels very good.”

EUR EXTRA COVERAGE
EUR associate Ny MaGee chatted with Flash Slothmore, the so-called fastest sloth who works at the the DMV in the city of Zootopia. Folks, these two are a team. They need to take it on the road! They’re naturals together! 🙂  OK, we may be over exaggerating by a mile, but do check out  the clip below.

READ RELATED STORY: ‘Zootopia’ Review: Overcoming Based Instincts

There were some reviewers who blasted the film for what they believe was Hollywood pushing an agenda on kids with the themes of this film.

Rich: We tried so hard not to make a message film. We didn’t say, ‘Here’s a theory or a political stance that we believe in and gonna kind of promote that throughout the story.’ I think what we did was presented a character who believes the world is one way, and finds that it works different than she thought and kind of finds her way in it. If presenting a story where a fox and a rabbit can become best friends after being natural enemies is an agenda…(laughs). If a person can go to a movie about a fox and a bunny becoming friends and they see it as an agenda, instead of just a hopeful vision of satisfying life, then I don’t what to say to that. If that feels like an agenda that’s being shoved down people’s throats it was not the intention.

Byron: One of the things that we’re proud of about the movie is the way it ends. The way Judy comes to terms with what she’s experienced. We never wanted the movie to be this rosy, perfect ending where everything was solved and all the problems have gone away because it’s not true to lite. And the fact that Judy admits that life is complicated at the end, and you can’t expect these problems to go away, but through this compassion and empathy for each other we can make it easier for each other and help each other.

Rich: And personal introspection that she kind of finds, and admitting to the faults that she didn’t realize that she had within her. If personal introspection is an agenda…(laughs).

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It is interesting that when you explore such themes in animation, humans respond to it better than they do in real life. Why do you suppose that is?

Rich: I think that goes back to as old as Asop’s Fables. He was able to tell stories of some of the less desirable aspects of character. Just speaking as a kid, I remember reading The Fox and the Grapes, the fox wanting the grapes and can’t reach them and walking around like, “they’re probably sour anyway.”

Byron: Bitterness.

Rich: Yeah, I remember as a kid reading that and kinda feeling like, ‘I can relate to that fox. I’ve felt like that before.’ If it had been about a boy, or kid or a human being acting the same way, it may have distanced me. But something about it being about an animal and being able to insert who I am into this proxy, something about this kind of storytelling works well as metaphors for parts of ourselves that are not very appetizing to look at in live action or with animated human characters. It’s a paradox because it seems like, wouldn’t that be difficult for a human being to put himself in the mind of a cartoon animal, but I think it’s easy for us somehow.

Byron: Yeah because it’s symbols. We work in archetypes and symbols and things that people relate to and even the way the characters are designed to help you empathize with them or fear them or respect their size and strength, even the shapes that we use and colors that we use, it’s all purposeful.

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from left-to-right: Rich Moore, Byron Howard, Clark Spencer.

We are witnessing the changes in animation technically, but what are your thoughts about the narrative future of animation? Do you think storytellers are moving toward exploring themes that reflect our society, (racism, socialism, police state)?

Rich: I think that they will be exploring things that are important to them. Going back to my school, where I went to college, Cal Arts, I got to give a little presentation at the school and give a speech at their producer’s show, and when I was there my class was 30 people. It was 25 guys and five girls. It was way out of balance as far as gender, and it was 25 white guys. And going back now, it’s 60% female and 40% male – somewhere around there. And you are seeing people from all over the world there. And in looking at the student films that they have, they’’re bringing stories and issues from all different places than just here. And it’s seen through the prism of the individuals, ya know – how do they see the world? To me, as those people graduate and come into the workforce, it’s going to change animation. There’s a lot of articles that are written right now, “Where are the female directors? and “Where’s the diversity?”. It’s coming. It’s going to take a few years for it to happen but it’s coming. I think you’re going to see more of a bigger, diverse group of people coming into this industry and it’s going to change the storytelling.