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May 5, 2016

Disney's 'Zootopia,' large collection of bonus features to be released June 7

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Fans of Disney’s Zootopia don’t have much longer to wait until they can enjoy the animated movie at home. Walt Disney Animation Studios’ hit will be available on June 7 on Digital HD, Blu-ray, Disney Movies Anywhere, DVD and On-Demand platforms, and most versions come with a slew of bonus features.

My family and I loved the movie, and we vigorously recommend it to fellow movie-goers. Here’s an excerpt from my review:

Zootopia” is easily one of the most entertaining animated movies released recently. It offers – as clichéd as it sounds -- laughs for all ages, with the antics of a bunny and fox in a whodunit caper filled with pratfalls, slapstick and action comedy. But it also surprises adults with clever references to pop culture and film noir, as well as a few wry asides at even Disney, itself. And it offers important and timely messages about some serious real-world topics without a heavy-handed delivery.

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Certainly, the film itself is worth the purchase price, but Disney is giving consumers who purchase the movie on all platforms except DVD the following extra material:

** Zoology: The Roundtables – Ginnifer Goodwin hosts an in-depth look at the movie’s characters, animation, environments and more.

** The artists at Disney Animation give a rare and in-depth look at the complexities of bringing an all-animal world to life from the ground-breaking technology behind the characters’ fur and clothing to the varied and vast environments of Tundratown, Sahara Square and the Rainforest District as well as the deep thought and research given to bringing 64 unique animal species to life through animation.

** The Origin of an Animal Tale – Follow the story’s development from its origins to a big story shift that turned the film upside down. In this feature-length documentary, filmmakers give a candid look into the difficulties of creating the story of Zootopia and the bold decision to switch the main character late in the production process, putting one resolute rabbit center stage. (I wrote about this angle after participating in roundtable interviews with Directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore at Animal Kingdom Lodge.)

** Research: A True-Life Adventure – The filmmakers traveled the globe to find inspiration for the diverse characters and amazing city of Zootopia. They reflect on the importance of research and how a deep dive into animal behavior at Disney Animal Kingdom theme park and a deep immersion into animal society on the African savanna shaped and inspired the characters of Zootopia and changed the filmmakers’ lives forever.

** Z.P.D. Forensic Files – Find the movie’s hidden Easter Eggs. Every city has its hidden gems, especially when it has been created by the filmmakers of Disney Animation who love nothing more than sprinkling hidden references to some of Disney’s greatest animated features throughout the story.

** Scoretopia – Academy Award-winning composer, Michael Giacchino spotlights five of cinema’s greatest percussionists and how they brought an organic, animalistic sound to his powerful and emotional music score.

** Deleted Characters – Directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore introduce citizens of Zootopia who did not make the final cut.

** Deleted Scenes:

Alternate Opening – Young Judy Hopps rescues a fellow classmate and realizes she can reach beyond a life in carrot farming to a future in law enforcement.

Wild Times! Pitch – Nick desperately pitches the bankers of Zootopia on funding Wild Times!, an amusement park made exclusively for the predators of Zootopia and a sure-fire, money-making scheme for Nick and his friends.

Alternate Homesick Hopps – After a frustrating first day on the force, Judy has a conversation with her parents. See how this scene changed from a heartfelt conversation with her parents to tough love when her parents discover their daughter is only a meter maid and not a “real cop.”

Detective Work – Judy borrows a fellow police officer’s computer to conduct research, which turns out to be no small task.

Alternate Jumbo Pop – In this early version of the story where Nick was the main character, the filmmakers and Jason Bateman were able to take hustling to a new level.

Hopps’ Apartment – When Judy’s entire family pays her a surprise visit they are shocked to discover the company she’s keeping.

The Taming Party – In this emotional clip from an early version of “Zootopia,” Judy attends her first “taming party” and gains a deeper understanding of the plight of the predator.

** “Try Everything” Music Video by Shakira

The Digital HD version will include an exclusive extra – an International Character Reel in which viewers can see the variances in news reporters in Zootopia around the world. DVD buyers will only get the Scoretopia and Shakira music video bonus features.

In addition, various retailers have special offers, as well. If you pre-order “Zootopia” through DisneyStore.com, you will receive a complimentary set of four lithographs from the movie and a coupon good for $10 off a purchase of $40 or more during the period of June 7 to 19. Target buyers can get a retailer exclsuve wih special packaging and more than 15 minutes of content featuring interviews with the voice cast and first cuts of the film. Plus, each pre-order qualifies for a $5 Target gift card.

Visit our Amazon Store with all things Zootopia!



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March 4, 2016

Disney movie review: 'Zootopia'

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With far too many movies these days, the trailers showcase the films’ best moments. After you’re enticed into the theater, though, the movie usually cannot live up to the hype. Not so with Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 55th animated feature, “Zootopia.” If you’ve seen the hilarious “Zootopia” trailer that features Judy Hopps, Nick Wilde and the slow-moving sloth employee at the DMV, you’ve seen just a slice of the comedy in store for you.

“Zootopia” is easily one of the most entertaining animated movies released recently. It offers – as clichéd as it sounds -- laughs for all ages, with the antics of a bunny and fox in a whodunit caper filled with pratfalls, slapstick and action comedy. But it also surprises adults with clever references to pop culture and film noir, as well as a few wry asides at even Disney, itself. And it offers important and timely messages about some serious real-world topics without a heavy handed delivery.

We are first introduced to Judy (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), a glass-is-half-full, larger-than-life personality who is not willing to settle for being a carrot farmer like her parents and 275 brothers and sisters. Instead, she aspires to become the first bunny police officer, a job usually reserved for the larger animal species in the idealistic community of Zootopia.

Parents can’t help but laugh when Judy’s father, who doesn’t want his little girl to move far away, says, “Ever wonder how we got so happy? We gave up on our dreams and settled.” And later, “It’s great to have dreams as long as you don’t believe in them too much.”

But Judy presses forward and moves to Zootopia, home to 64 different species who mostly play to type. In other words, she encounters a brave lion as the mayor, an industrious otter, a weasel selling bootleg videos, a graceful gazelle as a sultry singer and, of course, a sly fox as a con artist. Through a series of encounters, the fox, Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman), becomes her friend and partner on a case that takes them into the underbelly of the mammal metropolis.

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This story-within-a-story is where “Zooptopia” pays homage to film noir with a surprising mobster boss and allusions to classics such as “The Godfather” and “Chinatown.” Adults will appreciate those particular plot references, and even if most kids are too young to understand that humor, they will laugh at the face value of the mini story.

There are lots of clever animal jokes along the way: “Let’s address the elephant in the room” – and the elephant stands up; a bunny says “we’re good at multiplying” while doing math; and a character wonders if sheep count themselves. And who doesn’t appreciate the self-deprecating humor of Walt Disney Animations Studios when Chief Bogo (voiced by Idris Elba) says, “Do you think that this is some cartoon musical where your insipid dreams come true? Well, let it go.”

“Zootopia” uses the humor to explore themes of sexism, racism and bigotry in the society of anthropomorphic animals, which we clearly are to understand is a metaphor for humanity. We see this early on when Judy explains that she’s “not just some token bunny” and rebuffs a new acquaintance, stating that only a bunny can call another bunny “cute.” But Judy reveals herself to have some deeply ingrained prejudices, too, when she succumbs to her fear that all predator animals cannot escape their need to hunt their prey. Her flaw illustrates for audiences that tolerance cannot be taken for granted.

“Zootopia” is directed by Byron Howard ("Bolt," "Tangled") and Rich Moore ("Wreck-It Ralph") whose commitment to making the movie the best it can be visually is evident everywhere from the richly detailed sets to the subtle yet clever likenesses of the characters to their voice actors. As Moore pointed out in a recent interview, the concept of the detailed animal habitats was rooted in the illustrations of the Richard Scarry books of his childhood, but he wanted to make them more realistic. For example, animators spent more than a year researching animals so they could create separate and accurate types of fur for each of the 64 species. And Disney’s new Hyperion production-rendering software made the creation of the individual strands of fur and other characteristics much easier to design and preview.

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“Zootopia” is a fast-paced, layered movie with elements that will appeal not just to children and Disney fans, but to parents and casual moviegoers, as well. Moreover, “Zootopia” leaves viewers of all ages with a collection of positive messages from a comedy-adventure movie that isn’t necessarily trying to lecture its audience. And Michael Ciacchino’s (“Inside Out”) film score and Shakira’s original song “Try Everything” add to the film’s upbeat energy.

“Zootopia” is rated PG for “for some thematic elements, rude humor and action.”

DISCLAIMER: I took part in a “Zootopia” press junket, during which I attended an advance screening of the movie, a party at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and round-table interviews with actors and filmmakers. Although coverage of the movie was expected, my opinions are completely my own.



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March 2, 2016

Animal kingdom in Disney's 'Zootopia' needed fresh perspective, filmmakers say

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It’s no industry secret that Hollywood films undergo test-audience trials during production to see what works and what doesn’t. With Disney’s latest animated feature film, a mid-production analysis really seems to have helped elevate the film creatively and help it better grapple with some serious topics.

Disney’s newest animated movie, “Zootopia,” wasn’t always going to be presented from the perspective of an optimistic bunny from a small town. Despite the years of research, set-building and character development that had been invested in the film, it wasn’t until halfway through the process that Judy Hopps became the leading lady, Director Byron Howard said.

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Filmmakers recently spoke to writers and bloggers, including me, about the development of “Zootopia” during roundtable interviews at Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. They each explained how critical it is that the audience’s introduction to the city of Zootopia – home to 64 species of animals who could “be anyone or anything” – be a positive one.

Originally, a slick con-artist fox named Nick Wilde was the main character. But the problem with that, Howard said, was that a test audience at Pixar Animation Studios couldn’t connect with the movie. “[One executive] said, ‘Because you’re introducing the city through Nick’s eyes, and Nick’s a cynic and he doesn’t like the city, I can’t like the city. I can’t root for it. I want to escape from it rather than see it healed.’ “

Even Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter encouraged the filmmakers to think of the city itself as a character, urging them to make it more vibrant than just a backdrop.

“We realized we had a major issue there, so we said ‘Let’s take a chance and just for a moment, see what happens if we flip the main characters’,” Howard said. “We put the more idealistic Judy in the driver’s seat so the audience learns about Zootopia through her more optimistic eyes and then bring in the cynicism and the challenge to her philosophy later. And that really did the trick.”

Zootopia is comprised of neighborhoods that celebrate different cultures and they co-exist peacefully. That’s vital to the plot of “Zootopia,” Howard said.

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Directors Byron Howard (left) and Rich Miller introduce 'Zootopia' at a press screening in Orlando.

“We never started with a political agenda. It all came from the research: Mammals are 90 percent prey animals and 10 percent predators. We thought that was a really interesting fact. That if mammals evolved and built this metropolis, would they leave the mistrust completely behind or does it lurk under the surface somewhere?” he said.

“We’ve seen animal worlds where they all live together in peace and harmony, but how did it get that way? Do they ever arrive at a place where a lion and a deer can live together side by side when we know a lion eats a deer? How did it happen? Even better they’ve come to a place of trusting each other and then the social contract is broken. What would happen to society if the fear of a predator was ignited?”

Those questions all lead to the exploration of the themes of bias, stereotypes, inclusiveness and diversity in “Zootopia.” And the themes are delivered in the animals’ actions, rather than an obvious message, which is more appealing to audiences.

“And it's the beauty of animation, I think, in that you can create fables that resonate on multiple levels, and in the case of this one, I think we're gonna have families talking and thinking about the world in a slightly different way or I hope so, anyway, after seeing the movie,” said screenwriter Phil Johnston. And that's really gratifying when that happens.”

DISCLAIMER: I took part in a “Zootopia” press junket, during which I attended an advance screening of the movie, a party at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and round-table interviews with actors and filmmakers. Although coverage of the movie was expected, my opinions are completely my own.



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February 29, 2016

Actors Bateman, Goodwin discuss their roles as Nick and Judy in Disney's 'Zootopia'

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If you’ve got kids, or you’re a Disney fan, you already know that “Zootopia,” the entertainment studio’s 55th animated feature film, comes out on Friday (March 4). What you might not know, however, is that it’s a richly layered movie with elements that will appeal not just to children and Disney fans, but to parents and casual moviegoers, as well. It offers laughs for all ages with the antics of a bunny and fox, but it also surprises adults with clever references to pop culture and film noir. Moreover, “Zootopia” leaves viewers of all ages with a collection of positive messages from a comedy-adventure movie that isn’t necessarily trying to lecture its audience.

Given all the nuances of this film, it’s no surprise that when I was invited to join a group of writers for roundtable interviews with the actors who voice the lead characters, we had a wide range of questions. Ginnifer Goodwin voices Judy Hopps, a bunny determined to move to Zootopia where “anyone can be anything” so she can join the police force. Jason Bateman voices Nick Wilde, a slick city fox who opens Judy’s eyes to the real world and ultimately helps her solve a crime mystery. Bateman spoke to our group of ten writers at Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World, while Goodwin chatted with us via video-conferencing from Disney Studios in Los Angeles.

Both actors are parents: Bateman has two daughters, ages 4 and 9, and Goodwin has a 2-year-old son and is pregnant with her second son. Naturally, we were interested in how those familial relationships helped shape the actors’ interest in being a part of “Zootopia,” their characters’ development, and the messages they hope children and adults take away from the movie. Here are some of the questions we asked Bateman and Goodwin.

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What was it like to play an animated character when most of your roles have been live-action parts?

Bateman: It is an interesting process. … I don’t know what those pictures are where you stare at a pattern and after a while your eyes start to see three-dimension and then you can never see it the other way. There’s that kind of a process when you recognize somebody’s voice behind an animated character. For the first few minutes, all you can do is see that actor’s face and then after a few minutes you only see that character and you can’t imagine them sounding any other way. There’s a transition there. It’s going to be interesting to see if my 4-year-old has that at all. I wonder if she’s going to hear me. I wonder if she’s going to know that’s me. … The two screenings I’ve had access to started well after her bedtime, and she’s not much to be with after she gets tired so she’s going to have to wait.

Do you see a lot of yourself in the animated performance?

Bateman: They captured the half-interested eyelids, you know. I can see that. He’s a real smart-ass and he’s always got his fist on his hip and he kind of wants to get on with it. So there’s a lot of body language in it that is similar to me. The facial characteristics, I think they’re beautifully subtle and sort of those caricature elements. There were two cameras inside the booth the whole time and that’s what they do so they can give the animators a guideline if they need it or want it at certain times. It really is just sort of for facial tics because you’re hidden by that script. You’re not asked [to] “give us some body movements” so they know what to animate.

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What did your older daughter think of watching you on screen?

Bateman: [She] has seen the film and gave it real high marks. All she sees are these films [animated movies] so she’s got a real fine opinion about them. She loved it, and I really tried to drill down a bit to see if she was trying to be nice. … She came by the studio while we were recording a couple of times. She’s a big, big fan of animated movies … so for her to look behind the curtain and see that you sit in a booth and there’s a microphone and you only do four scenes at a time and it’s a two-hour session every few months. … For her it was really a cool window into how these things she loves so much get done.

Did your older daughter have questions about some of the more serious themes of “Zootopia,” such as prejudice and inclusiveness?

Bateman: You know, not yet. The central message of Judy’s sense of optimism and enthusiasm and “I’m going to go to the big city and make it” kind of thread is a great one for young girls to see. She immediately runs into this pessimistic and cynical character who is saying life’s not all cherries and ice cream and she kind of proves him wrong. So that part she really loves. The other stuff, I’m sure on future viewings, will start to kind of permeate, but until then I’m going to let her take her own time with it. It’s nice with these Disney films that parents have this tool to kind of hit pause and start referencing these friendly animals that are carrying some of the heavier water for us parents. You can kind of draw the parallels there when you broach these types of subjects.

Do you think when one of the characters says “fear always works” it’s going to get across to anyone?

Bateman: It hit me and it hit you, and I would hope that that hits a lot of people because, as you said, it’s extremely relevant and topical. That would be the one that I hope lands the most because that’s a real dangerous thing as far as using fear-mongering to either gather or hold onto power. It’s a real dangerous slope. There was no way they could have known that four years ago when they started writing all this stuff, but I’m glad that they timing has worked out for them.

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Goodwin, too, expressed an appreciation for how the characters in this film could appeal to youngsters and adults alike, and how the movie’s messages come across along with its humor.

Did you relate to Judy and her goals?

Goodwin: I feel like they just animated me. There are qualities Judy has that I wish I had, but then there are a lot of overlapping things. I feel like we’re both fiercely optimistic and ambitious, but I think we also are idealistic and a bit self-righteous. I would like to think I take as much responsibility for my actions as she does, but I’m sure I don’t. I wish I were as fearless as Judy, and I know I’m not. But we’re both triers, and I know that how we express ourselves is exactly the same because after I even tried to act with a voice I thought they would want me to portray Judy, they said, we actually would love for you to bring yourself to the character. So I feel like it really was just me animated.

Can you talk about the complex themes in the movie?

Goodwin: That’s what makes this movie so special. It’s a comedy, it’s an action-movie, it’s a buddy cop movie, it’s about friendship, it’s about an homage to film noir in Hollywood and, yes, there are overlying themes and underlying themes that I hope are the things that people really leave carrying with them. Most articulated is the idea that either you are what you are or anyone can be anything, and that’s the first thing I would hope my kids would pick up on and discuss it afterward when they’re finally old enough to see the movie. And then there are ideas about taking responsibility for our actions and there is great social commentary and it’s really, creepily timely right now. It could be really political but to realize this movie was written years ago is also to realize that these issues are timeless, unfortunately. I think it’s a really ballsy move for Disney to make the statements that they’re making and that they’re not doing it in a message movie. … They’re just actively asking questions and then leaving it for the audience to make their own decisions about.

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Are you excited for your children to see “Zootopia”?

Goodwin: No. My husband and I decided very recently that we’re not going to let our kids see “Zootopia” for quite a while because – it has nothing do with the content – we just showed our son his first movie about a month ago. We’ve kept him away from all screens of all kinds – he’s almost 2 -- and he had the flu about a month ago and we let him watch “Winnie the Pooh” and he thinks that Winnie the Pooh is real. He thinks that character exists in the world, and, by the way, he thinks that animated character is the same one he saw walking around at Disneyland a couple weeks later. And the last thing I want to do is shatter that illusion by having him understand at all what acting is. And so I don’t want him to recognize Mommy’s voice. Therefore, I’ll keep him from those things until he really gets the concept of how entertainment is made.

How would you feel about Judy and Nick getting together in a sequel?

Goodwin: I’m not all about the animal husbandry. … One of the things I love most about the movie honestly … it’s so rare that we really can just celebrate a platonic friendship of a male and female character. There’s no sexuality there, and I think that’s maybe what makes it so brilliant. You can actually have such a gorgeous relationship and not bring sex into it. … I would like to see Nick have to prove to Judy that the world is worth saving. I’d like their roles to flip flop. I’d like to see her go to her darker place and have Nick be the one that pulls her out of it.

DISCLAIMER: I took part in a “Zootopia” press junket, during which I attended an advance screening of the movie, a party at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and round-table interviews with actors and filmmakers. Although coverage of the movie was expected, my opinions are completely my own.



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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the Zootopia category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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