In anticipation of the upcoming release of Disney’s Zootopia on Blu-Ray/DVD on June 7th, we talked to the directors shortly before the film passed 1 billion in it’s global gross for the U.S. home release of the sweeping animated picture hitting stores and digital platforms.The incredible success of the film, not just here in the states but around the world, is truly a testament to the power of storytelling during a time that needs Zootopia the most: our present.
Since it’s release, audiences immediately connected to Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), the confident bunny determined to be a cop against all odds and Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a charismatic Fox doing what it takes to thrive in the big city.
Their big adventure to not only work together but also work through their differences resonated in a way that even caught the film’s directors by surprise when it made such a deep impact. Co-director Rich Moore (Frozen) talked about it’s unintentional reflection of today’s social climate during the filmmaking process, “It’s really awesome to be a co-director on a movie that was not afraid to go into some territories that you wouldn’t really see in an animated film. We started with this feeling of predators and prey kind of not trusting one another and it really influenced the story that’s about the fear of the other.” It wasn’t until the press tour, that the director began to realize the film’s growing positive effect. “The fact that everywhere that we went when we were promoting it through Europe, through Asia, that really was ringing a bell with the audiences there meant that this is a really special movie.” he continued.
While the film deals with a number of very human experiences, it’s long production process predated many of the current events that the film has sparked dialogue about in social media. Moore explained, “As we were making the film, we were never saying, ‘We’re trying to make a message movie. I want to say something about this and get up on a soapbox.’ We didn’t wanna try and sugarcoat something. We wanted to talk about it honestly. And it was weird to see as we were making the movie too that so much of these things were happening in the news. To the point where as we were promoting it and we were taking it around the United States and around the world, people would say, ‘Did you guys have like a crystal ball or something? How did you know that this stuff is going on in our world right now?’ This is so topical and we never started that way, it wasn’t supposed to be a reflection of the world today but unfortunately it was.”
Originally Zootopia was going to center on Nick Wilde’s perspective of a city that treated others quite differently, it was a bit darker and ultimately didn’t work until they switched the film’s lead to Judy. Her optimistic point of view of a newcomer to the big city with hopes and dreams led the directors to the story they wanted to tell. One of hope despite all how all the challenges in the world could be perceived.”Because it’s parallel to what human beings are like there’s so much of what human beings are that are key to what makes Zootopia work as a movie.” added Byron Howard (Tangled), Zootopia’s co-director. All the experiences Judy and Nick go through are easy to identify with, he continues, “It’s so funny. Even the Sloth scene, we have this common experience between us of being frustrated with lines and bureaucracy. Europe, Asia, it’s not just America, they get it.”
Moore described how through Judy and Nick’s relationship he and Byron Howard were able to tap into the aspirations and imperfections of humans consciousness. “We kinda wanted to talk about this in an animal milieu where you can kind of take on issues like this and it doesn’t feel like preaching. I think animation has the ability to talk about sensitive subject matter in a way that live action can’t.”
Byron elaborated on how they realized that by openly approaching the film’s themes, there was so much more that could be told in the world they created. “We tried to really use the benefit of having an animal world to talk about the subject and not limit it to one type of bias but have it speak to as many people as possible. It’s everywhere. Lots of people experience it in lots of different ways. It’s not always as blatant as people might think. I think we would all love to see it grow beyond the movie. This one has so many ways to go and there’s so much fun to had.”, he said about their animal world not too far unlike our own.
Both directors agreed that it could work as a television show but that no definite plans were set in place. “Entertainment-wise it’s so ripe for other stories and characters and different places in the world.” Moore clarified about the possibilities but with the release of the film coming up admitted that he felt very affected by the response. “It makes me sad that a story like this would be so topical.”
The reality that Zootopia reveals, however sad, ultimately proved to be very necessary. It’s not something lost on Moore who shared, “If this is how the world is right now, I’m glad that the movie exists. Because there are some ugly scenes in the movie and when people are saying ‘I can really relate to that’, it’s like really? Is that where we are as a people? But thank god we have the movie. If that’s where we are as a people then I am beyond humbled to be part of something that feels like a bit of a antidote.”
More than anything the film has proven to be a huge positive force filled with emotional, funny and heartfelt truths that has put out into the world a message of understanding. It’s something Moore is very proud of. As an avid twitter user, he often engages with fans who want to share art and talk about the film. “It’s very, very humbling to be a part of a film that has created conversation and begun conversations about empathy and fear and why one group looks at another differently.” he beamed, “I’m glad in a world right now that’s so loud with the rancor of fear. It’s very, very nice that a little animated film can kind of rise above that and say well what about this way? Maybe we’re looking at this wrong.”
Make sure to share Zootopia with family and friends, it’s out on Blu-ray and available digitally everywhere Tuesday, June 7th.