If you asked me who I’d rather spend a day with – Leonardo DiCaprio or Byron Howard and Rich Moore, the answer might not be exactly what you expect. You see, in a previous life (from 1972 – 1980) I worked as an actress. I toured and did Broadway, so while I understand how hard actors work, I also know that the REAL talent behind a show are the directors. Yes, there are extremely talented actors (I was not one of those), but it is the director’s vision that creates the art, chooses the proper actors for their roles, and is the driving force behind every movie, stage show, and video.
#FanGirl – directors and chefs
I married a man who was a chef…it was a total fan girl move on my part (little did I know that he would stop cooking at home), and while I could sit and talk to Todd English for hours on end, I go gaga over the force BEHIND the scenes in movies & theater – the director(s).
So, it was no surprise
That I was excited to ask Byron Howard and Rich Moore about their vision and how it came to fruition in Zootopia.
On being at Animal Kingdom
What is the experience like to know that you came here in the beginning and you’re finishing up here?
BH: It’s a lot like a bookend. ‘Cause this is the circle of life. It all works out, right? I finally understand it now.
RM: That was very on theme.
BH: This was one of the first places that we came. After we pitched the idea of the movie, what we start with is research. The fact that this company has this amazing animal preserve, which is honestly, the best in the world. If you look at the animals they’re in herds. They’re moving around these amazing environments that feel like a real African environments and Asian environments.
The fact that we could take that real knowledge and these great animal experts and incorporate that knowledge into the film was amazing for us. So, we stopped here first, we went back to LA and told John Lassiter about our findings here. He said, that’s amazing. But the next step you guys gotta do is actually go to real Africa, and we took 14 of our leadership over there. When we landed in the Savannah of Africa we stepped out of these tiny bush planes. It felt like they did such a good job here in turning Florida into an African environment.
OK, so tell me about the drawing you started with. How did you end up from that original concept to Zootopia?
BH: When we first pitched these movies to John, Ed and to the story trust, John’s suggestion was not to put all your eggs in one basket…not to just pitch one idea. I think it’s because he wants to find out who you are as a filmmaker. He wants to find out what you’re passionate about.
We pitched the beginnings of what this movie became right after we finished Tango. We had about six ideas and the one thing that almost all these ideas had in common-
- One was a space movie. It was called Pug, The Bounty Hunter, that had a space rabbit. A rabbit in a space suit.
- One was called The Island Of Dr. Meow. Which was a sort of cheesy B movie version – like a Roger Korman film. Where there kind of teenagers went to this island and there was this six-foot tall cat that was turning these people into animals.
John saw that a lot of these films had these anthropomorphic animals in common. He said, I will do anything to support a film that features animals running in tiny clothing, because he loved the idea of doing this. He got so excited, he hugged me and he picked me up off the ground and he held me in the air.
Which animal was the hardest or the most difficult to morph?
BH: There were a lot of them that were challenging. Judy’s landlord, who’s an armadillo. It was a question of how does that character get her clothes on? Over the shell?
RM: Does it go over the shell? Does she just kinda look like a strange hunchback?
On deciding what animals play which roles in society
RM: A lot of that came from research. We did a lot of animal research for about a year. The DMV is a good example.
BH: We had a few story sessions where we were thinking, what would be good jobs for animals to perform? Should we go against “type” for some, or should some be kind of “on the nose?” Our head of story, Jim Reardon said, how about sloths working for DMV?
That could be a funny scene. It was one of these things where everyone was quiet for a moment and thought, has this been done before? It seems like such an obvious joke. We quickly went to the Internet and typed “Sloth at the DMV.”
I think we found something that hasn’t been done yet, and again, we keep it on a level of that a child could enjoy. To them they’re watching Judy who’s in a hurry at the mercy of a sloth, who’s slow. But, for the adult…I know the DMV. That’s happened to me. We also wondered if this is universal around the world? Do they have like the DMV? Do they have any thing like this, and I am happy to report the frustration with red tape and bureaucracy is well known everywhere. Every place that we’ve screened this around the world they’ve said like that reminds me of our blank.
Disney’s Zootopia opens nationwide on March 4th!
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