5 Reasons Zootopia Is Different Than Any Animal Movie You’ve Seen

Disney has a long history of animated films starring animals that have captured our hearts including Bambi, The Jungle Book, Dumbo, Robin Hood, The Lady And The Tramp (currently playing at my house) and The Lion King. From the what I have seen of Zootopia, Disney’s newest animated animal film will rank with the best of them, but Zootopia is unlike any animal movie you have seen before, and it’s going to be great. 

Zootopia Poster
I met with Zootoipa producer Clark Spencer and directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore to learn more about Disney Animation’s new film coming out March 4, 2016. I knew very little about the film going into the interview, but after watching numberous clips I can’t wait to see more. The movie is full of great comedy for the whole family and a great message that parents will really appreciate for their children about how we define ourselves.

Byron Howard – The world may have an opinion of us but it is up to you to define who you are. The world does not define you, you do. 

Zootopia Clark Spencer Byron Howard Rich Moore

5 Reasons Zootopia Is Different 

What sets Zootopia apart from any other animal movie you’ve seen is that the world of Zootopia is really about how the animals interact with each other — as different species. 

Byron Howard – John Lasseter said from the very beginning if we were going to do a talking animal movie, it should be animals for animals not just people in animal costumes kind of acting like humans. It should really come from how animals relate to one another, and especially predator and prey

A World Of Scale

In the world of Zootopia animals come in all shapes and sizes, which presented many challenges when designing buildings, beds and even newspaper stands. Everything within the world had to accommodate animals of all sizes from large elephants and giraffe to tiny mice. 

Clark Spencer – Zootopia is a world created for and designed by animals not by humans. Because this city has animals of every shape and size from jumbo to itty bitty, from the elephant all the way down to the mouse, which you can see by this very scientific chart, this scale was going to be a very important ingredient. From the beginning, we all agreed we wanted to be able to have the true size of each animal. What’s interesting is in most animal movies just go to a generic size, it’s just simple. But we didn’t want to do that. We wanted to use the true size of the animals.

Rich Moore – You want the world to feel alive. And then you want to put scale in there. I think people don’t quite see how hard that is because think about where the camera has to get placed. You have that scene with Nick and that huge Elephant and that little teeny fennec fox and you think well, you can’t just do your normal over the shoulder with a camera because these characters are magnitudes different in terms of height. So where do you put that camera?

To figure out the true size of animals within the world, everything was compared to a scale of mice. 

The wildebeest is the same size as your average human. But the scale of a wildebeest to a mouse is 1:24. In other words, it’s the height of 24 mice as you see on the right side there to equal the same height as a wildebeest. And the height of a giraffe, that same mouse is 1:95. Which means we have to think about how these different animals of different sizes move and live within this world of Zootopia, that Zootopia had to be built for everyone.

Zootopia Scale
Four Worlds of Zootopia

Within the world of Zootopia there are four distinct neighborhoods with different climates and cultures – Sahara Square, Tundra Town, Rainforest District and Bunny Borough. The various neighborhoods allow animals from climates around the world to exist in one space with a very different climate, culture and temperature. 

Rich Moore – One of the coolest things about the city is how it’s designed. Zootopia has different neighborhoods that celebrate different climates and cultures. For the desert animals, there’s Sahara Square which is huge and hot and dry. It’s just this beautiful, beautiful area. And it’s this really kind of upscale area like Dubai or Monte Carlo, all kind of rolled into one. You’ve got these really high-end shots, these beautiful hotels. What’s the name of the game here? Very sunny.

The beautiful and chilly Tundra Town where the cold weather animals live like polar bears, moose and arctic shrews. And in Tundra Town, they have coolers under the sidewalk to keep everything frozen. And they’ve got what they call a 3:00 blizzard every day. 

Zootopia Posters
Animals Stereotype Too

At first glance the world of Zootopia looks like perfect harmony. But through the eyes of the main character, Judy Hopps, we see that the city isn’t perfect. 

Byron The animals are quick to put each other in a box, stereotype one another. Elephants remember. Weasels are sneaky.

This is particularly a problem for Judy Hopps because she doesn’t see herself in this box. She wants to do something completely outside of the box.

Byron – In Zootopia the cops are all large animals. They’re animals like buffalos or hippos or, rhinos. She’s [Judy] taking a huge step out of her box as a little bunny to become a cop, but she’s super determined. 

Disney Zootopia Judy Hoops
New Technology To Make The World Come Alive

In addition to perfecting the look of the animals and the neighborhoods, the team wanted to make the world feel alive. In order to do so they created a new wind simulation that allowed them to have individual leaves and branches move, it also affects the animals fur to give it a very realistic feel. 

Clark Spencer – I also wanted to make sure that the world of Zootopia, not just the characters in it, felt alive. To help accomplish that, we created technology that we call “Keep Alive” where the world always had some level of movement. We created a wind simulation that allows us to place vegetation into an environment and have the individual leaves and branches move. While the average viewer is not going to notice it, they will feel it.

But wind doesn’t just affect trees around these characters.  It has to affect the characters themselves, especially since all of them have fur. The world is gonna feel alive.

Disney Zootopia Yax
Walking On Two Legs

Not only are the animals of Zootopia clothed, they also walk around on two legs instead of four. Converting animals 

Clark Spencer – Here’s where imagination comes in. How do our animators create the same believable animal movement once that animal goes from walking around on four legs to up on two legs? When we were out in the wild observing the giraffes run, it actually looks like they’re moving in slow motion. It’s this beautiful graceful movement.

And we had seen how elephants utilized their trunks as an arm. We thought to ourselves, well how would an elephant serve you ice cream in the world of Zootopia?  But we still had one very important task we had to solve and that was how does a tiger dance?

Well, they solved the question of how a tiger dances just fine, but you will have to wait for the movie to see it.

Zootopia Shakira
My family is already looking forward to meeting the animals of Zootopia.

Zootopia charges into theaters March 4, 2016.

Learn more about the animals of Zootopia’s official website

This Zootopia interview with the producer and directors was part of my Disney press trip that included Star Wars. Don’t miss all of the coverage:

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