Each time I am in LA with Disney I am always amazed when interviewing directors and producers. I never fully understood how much work goes into creating a movie. They spend years researching and creating the characters, the months and months of editing and countless LONG day of doing the voice overs. Since I started working Disney I have a new appreciate for a great movie.
Some of my favorite movies are the Disney animated one such as their latest hit, Zootopia. While I was in Los Angeles last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore as well as Producer Clark Spencer of Zootopia to discuss the making of Zootopia.
Tell us about Africa
Byron Howard: “That was incredible. One of the best things about working here and what John Lasseter brought to the studio, is that John really believes that the best stories come from research. And so we really wanted to make sure that we were telling a story not just about cartoon animals, but what makes real animals amazing. We all love animals, but all of us had just been to zoos. I think we’d all grown up just going to zoos. I went to the Philadelphia zoo and it’s a great zoo but we really felt like we wanted to go there and see animals for real. And so they flew us into Nairobi, and they put us in these little tiny bush planes, and flew us way the heck out into the middle of nowhere and our guide said, “Look out the window.”
And I looked out the window, and there was this little spire of rock that was shaped like this down below us, and he said, “That’s Pride Rock.” That was in the Lion King as the Lion King research team had actually gone on the same tour. It really exists. But I think our favorite part was when you stepped out of the plane, everything was just quiet. It feels different. 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 actually exists. These groups move together just like human beings do. And so it’s like being in their version of a city. That’s where the whole bias idea came from was us watching these animals around this watering hole. One of our camps was about 30 feet from a watering hole where we would watch these animals kind of all come in during the day in herds of anywhere from 20 to 500 animals and the wildebeests came in and giraffes and we saw that antelope and lions would drink right next to each other at the watering hole.
And no funny business. No one was attacking each other, there’s no aggression. They just got their water, they kind of looked at each other, and then they went their separate ways. And we thought, that’s very much like our own society and much like the 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. It was like that and it was a great experience. But I think that out 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. So when we came back, we had all our leadership on that trip. We had our lead of animation and we had our art director and we had our character designer and all those folks all came back with this desire to make the movie so much better because of what we had learned.”
Unique details in the movie?
Byron Howard: “One of the things that I love about the movie is small details, like a lot of humor. There’s someone running on a treadmill but also eating a little donut at the same time. It’s kind of the ying and yang of life There’s, that when Judy’s wrapping the carrots in the newspaper at the vegetable stand. There’s a picture of like an old rabbit in the newspaper, and it’s something about local–I think it’s her great grandfather and so like kind of like small town newspaper. I can’t remember the exact caption of it, but every time I see that, it cracks me up because it reminds me of where I grew up, and we just had a very small newspaper, The Oxnard Press Courier and there’s just something about that, just the picture with the caption just always cracks me up.”
Clark Spencer: “For me, one of my favorites is the opening scene and I love this because someone in animation had to think about this is that in the opening sequence with the Judy on stage with the tiger and the, and the little sheep. The tiger’s there, he delivers his line, which is what you would expect. Now, the camera goes over to Judy, but you still see the tiger. The tiger moves, ‘cause he knows he’s supposed to move according to the director of the stage and then he looks down and realizes he’s not on the tape. While you’re watching Judy, he moves to the tape, and then he looks out to the audience and does this little wave to his parents. And looks for his parents and does that little thing just what a kid would do, right? They, they’ve done their part, they said their one line, they have to say the horrible part and now He’s off the hook. And he’s thinking to himself, “ Now I’m off the hook. Oh, I didn’t quite go to the right spot. Ah, gotta figure out where my parents are”. But that they would think about that, what the shot actually about is about is Judy and what she’s saying. I just love that kind of detail that people think about. What everyone needs to be doing in the shot, not just the main character. Well because Judy’s a very tough director.
Breakout star Flash?
“It came out of one of our brainstorming sessions when someone said, “You know, if there’s a DMV in Zootopia, it should be run by sloths. Ha, ha, ha.” And he thought he was just throwing a joke out into the room. He didn’t think it would land, and everyone just kind of went, “Oh.” That was such a brilliant idea and Bingo! Immediately there was something about the idea of a DMV run by sloths. And we all had to think if it had ever been done before? We’re just thinking, someone has to have done that. And we were looking around, it’s like no? I was like, oh, we should do that. So, we immediately got very excited about the idea. And there’s just sometimes that happens when, we all get together in groups.
It’s a very collaborative process where we bring other writers and directors and story artists into the room and, and we all talk for many, many, many meetings and all at the same time. Sometimes we listen. Sometimes, but not always but when we hear a good idea, the room kind of catches fire, and that really was one of those ideas that happened like that. Well, and it happened so fast- I mean, for a character that’s so slow, it’s like his creation, his genesis happened like a big bang.
Where it was like, oh my gosh, that’s really funny. And we literally the next day saw after talking about or it presenting itself we saw John Lasseter. Then next thing we’re like, “We got this idea about like a sloth running the DMV.” He’s like, “Oh my gosh.” So we spent the next 90 minutes acting it out, and like acting the beats. Almost beat for beat, exactly what’s in the movie. We must’ve gone through it four or five times, and, and it was locked in everyone’s head.
After our interview we had a drawing lesson of Judys head then Flash. Needless to say I am going to stick to blogging.
It was a great experience. I love seeing the passion behind the minds that created the movie. They did a fantastic job. Lets just hope they do a Zootopia 2!!
Zootopia is coming DVD/Bluray/Digital on June 7!
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