This week Zootopia hits theaters and we recently got a chance to visit Walt Disney World to speak to directors Rich Moore and Byron Howard. It was a celebratory few days where we got the pleasure to experience the research that the Zootopia team underwent to create the world of the movie.
One of the first places that Moore and Bryon were sent by John Lassseter was WDW’s Animal Kingdom park to see animals in a habitat and get up close to study them. They participated in behind the scenes and the safari’s offered to get to know their habits and physicality. They later went to Kenya to get even more in depth knowledge of how different species interacted with others. It was so exciting to hear firsthand their enthusiasm for the project as we also were able to get on a real life safari at the park, the same one they did. We got a chance to talk to them about the process after our tours around the wildlife reserve and found out these amazing facts about Zootopia!
1) The directors of Zootopia did their initial research at animal preserves stateside, but were given the green light to visit the Savvannas of Africa to view the animals in their natural habitats for the film’s creation. They say the trip was life changing.
2) Prior to Zootopia, the technology behind animating animals for film made certain interactions difficult. For instance, to have the fur of an animal blowing in the wind or two furry animals hugging each other. So in older movies we just created story lines to avoid these sorts of activities. These challenges were overcome in Zootopia – we have animated animals that look like real-life animals that are hugging and touching each other.
3) The most difficult animal in Zootopia to anthropomorph was Judy’s landlord, the armadillo. We had to figure out how to dress he,r but not cover up her shell – one of the armadillo’s most distinguishing characteristics.
4) When one of our writers initially pitched the sloths working the DMV idea, there was silence. It seemed too good not to have been done before now. But upon a quick Internet search, we discovered we would be the first!
5) Remember the video of Kristen Bell on Ellen when she had a meltdown on her birthday over a sloth? Turns out her love for the critters was also known by Zootopia and Frozen director Rich Moore who made more of her dreams come true by making her a sloth in the movie. You can hear her voice Priscilla the sloth in the DMV scene for two lines. Moore revealed that it took her not even a minute to respond ‘YES’ to his text asking if she would lend her voice to her favorite animal!
Zootopia opens this Friday!