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March 14, 2016

"Zootopia" at the El Capitan Theatre

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People looking for the complete "Zootopia" viewing experience can head towards Disney's El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood for some charming extras.

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As usual, House Organist Rob Richards starts off every show with a rousing Disney medley.

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After the trailers, a Wild Animal Encounter show takes place, in which audiences are given a glimpse of some of the prominent animals seen in the film, along with some short but informative presentations.

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Subsequently, Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde take the stage and dance up a storm to the tune of Shakira's "Try Everything."

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The movie itself is presented in Dolby Vision™ and Dolby Atmos® and looks and sounds as great as you'd expect. (AllEars Blogger Kristin Ford reviewed it here.) Afterwards, moviegoers can enjoy a exhibit downstairs detailing some of the research and concept art that went into the making of "Zootopia."

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On your way out, "Zootopia" photo ops are available, as is a wide variety of merchandise in the adjoining Disney Studio Store and Ghirardelli Soda Fountain.

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So if it's your first time seeing it, or even your seventh (it's really good, you guys,) head on over to the El Capitan Theatre for a full night of "Zootopia."

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"Zootopia" is currently playing at the El Capitan Theatre until April 10, 2016. On select dates, El Capitan guests may enjoy breakfast, meet Judy Hopps and receive a commemorative photo before seeing the 10 a.m. movie. Seating is limited and advanced reservations are required with purchase of movie ticket. El Capitan guests may also enjoy a Dave & Busters Movie & a Meal Offer, which includes a reserved seat for “Zootopia,” choice of entrée from the Dave & Busters Eat & Play menu and a $10 Dave & Busters game card. Reservations required 24 hours in advance with movie ticket. The El Capitan Theatre will also host a special Tiny Tot Tuesday every Tuesday at 10 a.m. during the run of “Zootopia.” During these screenings, parents and small children may enjoy the movie with lights dimmed and reduced sound levels.

March 1, 2016

"Zootopia" Press Day, Part 4

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So as you might recall from our first, second, and third installments, we took a visit to the Walt Disney Animation Studios Tujunga Campus to get some exciting details on their upcoming 55th animated feature, "Zootopia."

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[Photos provided by Disney.]

The next department to speak to us was Animation with Head of Animation Renato dos Anjos and Animation Supervisors Kira Lehtomaki (Judy Hopps,) Nathan Engelhardt (Clawhauser, Gazelle,) Jennifer Hager (Chief Bogo, Gazelle,) and Chad Sellers (Mr. Big.)

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"Our great challenge was that our guys were walking around on two legs, and the real animals are walking around on four legs...We did a lot of testing, a lot of trying/figuring things out and we kind of figured that if you could capture, like, the movement of their head or the cadence of their walk then it really felt like the animal, even though it didn't really look like the animal."

--Although they looked at some of the classic Disney animated films, they wanted most of their animal modeling to reflect real life.
--While they had some animals come into the studios, they also went on a research trip to Kenya.
--An effort was made to reflect how prey animals tend to move in herds, almost like one large organism.
--Wildebeest turn out to be not the brightest animals on the Savannah.

"The African Cape Buffalo...we learned that these guys are one of the scariest, meanest animals in Africa. They're really nasty. They have a horrible temper, and we learned that if they see somebody coming...they'll just stop and turn and stare you down. It's very creepy."

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--Cheetah have strong, piston-like legs and keep their heads relatively stationary as they run...which was a challenge to implement into the less-than-athletic Clawhauser.

"Another animal found in Zootopia is the weasel...You can see in the reference...this really erratic quality to the movement style and it's almost like it's very broken, too. We have a weasel in Zootopia and he's a thief, and so you see him running with this duffel bag over his head and really found fun areas to pepper in that erratic, ropy quality into his lower torso/hip area. You can see him bouncing all around while his upper torso is remaining isolated."

--John Lasseter, in order to illustrate something specific he wants in a scene, will occasionally film reference material of himself.
--Rabbits turn out to be relatively athletic, with a specific jump mechanism called "binky" in which they jump in the air and flick their head around. This was incorporated into Judy's movements as part of her police officer physicality.
--The character of Judy Hopps changed when Ginnifer Goodwin was cast, from a more seasoned, sarcastic, disillutioned police veteran to an optimistic, genuine personality.

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After the main presentation, Renato dos Anjos and Kira Lehtomaki gave us a few minutes for some individual discussion.

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On what was some of their biggest challenges to animate:

"Nick was a challenge with his long muzzle, because we're used to having human characters with the mouths more on the front of the face, but then suddenly we had this character that had this big long muzzle...and I think that's where "Robin Hood" came into it as a big help, looking back at it because you'll see as he opens up his mouth, his jaw is receded back because you don't want this kind of crocodile-look...where it's just hinged here and it just opens. But it was really tricky to kind of design all the mouth shapes around that long muzzle because it's so different from what we've got."

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On whether the acting in animation is different for a more contemporary story:

"I think Disney always, regardless of whether it's more contemporary or classic...there's always sincerity, and there's always heart and that's always present so that's always what we're trying to communicate through our characters."
"What drives me, as an animator, is making our characters believable. My hope is, when people watch the film, they're not thinking 'oh, that's an animated movie," I want them to just enjoy the movie for what it is and the characters for the situations they're going through..."
"We want them to think it's all real."
"Because it is in my head!"

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The last department was Story, with Writer and Co-Director Jared Bush, Writer Phil Johnston, Story Artist Marc Smith and Head of Editorial Fabienne Rawley.

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The panel illustrated the process they go through revising the movie by showing both an older version of a scene and then the scene as it plays in the finished film.

--They took us through a scene at the end of the first act where Judy faces disappointment and showed how the initial pitch would have been acted, and then the fully animated and voiced track.
--Then they said they threw the whole thing in the toilet, because the movie had developed so that Judy was a stronger character and the scene didn't work anymore.
--They reworked it to be funnier to give it more energy as the story flows into the second act.
--New small actions give Judy more agency.

An example of the progression of a scene from a different part of the movie:

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On what drew them to the project:

"I...was really attracted to the comedy...and then the themes of the movie. While it's not, in no instance...it's not a message movie, it's not preachy--it's a comedy, but it is about something. It deals with bias and the way we prejudge each other and I like that I'm going to be able to talk to my kids about that, using this as a tool to do that. And that to me was very attractive."

Finally, the day ended with Producer Clark Spencer giving us a few minutes to discuss how he came to be involved with "Zootopia."

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"So what happens is, when you finish a film (I finished 'Wreck-it Ralph') you come off and there are lots of projects in development and they always want a team of people who are going to work well together. I had worked with Byron on 'Bolt,' and I love him. I had worked with Byron all the way back on 'Lilo and Stitch' when he was a supervising animator and I was producing that movie and I have always thought that I wanted to be able to work with him again because of the fact that he is so talented. He's got such a great sense of humor and a real warm heart so I know every story he tells is going to have all those elements in it, and a real sense of appeal because there is nobody who draws like Byron. His designs are unbelievable.

"Then he pitched me this story and when I thought about this incredible mammal world and this incredible city I was immediately drawn to it. But the most important thing was I loved the message of the film. I thought 'how bold to go out there and tell a story about predator and prey, two groups that assume something about each other and then realize that they're actually wrong.' I thought, in today's world, that was a really profound thing to tackle. And I knew it would be super hard--very hard to figure out the balance of it throughout the film--but I thought it was a really important idea that I wanted to be a part of."

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"Zootopia" opens in general release March 4, 2016.

February 22, 2016

"Countdown to Zootopia," at the El Capitan Theatre

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For seven days, the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood is having a special movie series called "Countdown to Zootopia."

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Building up to the general release of "Zootopia" on March 4th, each night will feature a different movie from Disney's Second Renaissance/Revival period complete with giveaways, raffles, and appearances by special guests from the films' cast and crew at the 7pm showings.

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In the lobby there is a display of concept art and maquettes from all the films, along with a variety of photo-ops.

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People were calling him "Olaf." Just NO.

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THIS is Olaf.

Everyone attending the 7pm shows will get a special piece of artwork designed from that particular film, with the first 75 people in line getting the chance to have it signed by the filmmakers!

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"Wreck-It Ralph" director Rich Moore

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"Frozen" Co-Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

After the traditional Wurlitzer Organ pre-show performance, the filmmakers take the stage for a short presentation and raffle.

Having attended the first two nights, I can say that it's a treat to see these animation classics (and their accompanying shorts) up on the big screen again--they look gorgeous and have all the beauty and cleverness you'd expect from Walt Disney Animation Studios. Some of the older films have not been seen in the theaters since their original release, and others may have failed to get the full reception they deserved, considering Pixar was coming strong out of the gate, co-releasing such films as "Up" and "Toy Story 3" at the time.

For the price of the ticket, which includes the giveaways, potential autographs, presentations, and popcorn and soda, "Countdown to Zootopia" is a great way to pass the time while waiting for WDAS to release their next classic.

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Tickets for "Countdown to Zootopia" are available at www.elcapitantickets.com Prices: Single reserved seat admission -- $10 includes small popcorn and drink; Single VIP preferred reserved seat -- $20 includes VIP popcorn and drink. The El Capitan Theatre is located at 6838 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood CA 90028


January 20, 2016

"Zootopia" Press Day, Part 3

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So as you might recall from our last installment, we took a visit to the Walt Disney Animation Studios Tujunga Campus to get some exciting details on their upcoming 55th animated feature, "Zootopia."

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[Photos provided by Disney]

Different departments took turns revealing some of the process involved in creating a big animation project like Zootopia. The first subject was "Characters: Creating the Citizens of Zootopia," with Character Design Supervisor Cory Loftis, Character Look Supervisor Michelle Robinson, Character CG Supervisor Dave Komorowski and Simulation Supervisor Claudia Chung Sanii.

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"Early on in the film, we partnered with Cory and Cory has drawn us this lineup of the kinds of characters we wanted to place in Zootopia...we quickly found that scale was going to be a big issue because our smallest critter is our mouse, over there, and our largest character is our giraffe and actually the discrepancy is such that it would be...you'd have to stack 97 of those mice head to toe in order to reach the top of the giraffe's head."

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Other considerations:
--Shots had to be framed so that Judy Hopps, the protagonist, is visible and on the same level with animals both much larger and smaller than she is.
--Each habitat had to have representation, so animals from all ecosystems needed to be developed in both male and female varieties, using color and shape.
--Clothing specific and appropriate to each animal and environment had to designed.
--Quadruped animals required adaptation to bipedal movement, without losing their distinctive animalness.

"One of the things we discussed were all the classic Disney animal movies...we ultimately decided that it was the personalities that were so memorable about them. We wanted to make sure those personalities came across in the characters of Zootopia, and that's not necessarily through the design, but you have to give the animators all those dials to push so that they can get the performance to get that character across."

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--Pants proved a specific problem, as animal and human anatomy had to be blended to make them look like they fit right.
--Some animals couldn't wear pants because their legs were too short, so they were kept in shorts.
--The hardest part was getting the cloth of the clothes to move believably, given the different anatomy and movement of each species.
--Designs for both Nick and Judy evolved throughout development to accommodate the changes made in their characters.
--Research started at Animal Kingdom Lodge and San Diego Wild Animal Park.
--A small team went on a two-week safari to Kenya.
--The differences in fur became apparent after many trips to the Natural History Museum: Texture, light refraction/reflection/transmission, etc.
--At the time, there were around 400 unique species and costumes that dress the world of Zootopia.

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Afterwards, Loftis gave AllEars a few minutes to talk about differences he noted working on video game-related animation ("Wreck-it Ralph") versus actual video games ("Wildstar.")

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"The work itself is actually very similar...what we spend our time focusing on is very different...When you're running around in a game, you're always thinking about the player, right? And they're doing all the action, they're making their own story, so you're trying to put as much cool stuff in front of them as possible. Give them the coolest armor and the coolest creatures to kill and the coolest environments to be in and the coolest stuff to ride--you're always doing that. But when you go to film, you're trying to create the same things, except all those things are in service to the story. So if that cool thing is distracting from the performance happening on the screen--it's no good, right? Everything is in service to that acting, that performance, that scene, and that's the biggest thing it took to get used to, is trying to make stuff not too cool and not too distracting in the background and have it add to the story instead of distract from it."

The next panel was "Production Design/Environments: Building a Magnificent Mammal Metropolis," with Art Director of Environments Matthias Lechner and Environment Look Supervisor Lance Summers.

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"When we designed the city of Zootopia, we wanted to make it feel like a real city. Not just some typical future city, but with dirt...buildings from different eras, some better kept up, some falling down...all the stuff that you find in a real city."

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--On arranging the various habitats of Tundratown, the Rainforest District, etc., around the downtown of Zootopia where all the animals mix, the layout ended up slightly resembling that of a Disney park with a central hub and surrounding lands.
--Sahara Square is the first part of the city Judy Hopps encounters--a ritzy area with beaches and lots of nightlife, given that most of the animals are nocturnal.

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--A surrounding wall radiates heat from one side for Sahara Square, and cold from the other, to create Tundratown: An city covered with ice and snow, and influenced heavily by Russian architecture.

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--The Rainforest District is marked by constant rainfall and moist vegetation. With a preponderance of vertical structures, aerial forms of transportation are necessary.

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--Little Rodentia is designed to be a perfect tiny town that's set off so it won't get trampled by larger animals.
--Of course it gets trampled by larger animals in a madcap chase.
--Elements of the city appear to be repurposed elements from larger structures. Vegetation is strategically placed to reinforce scale.

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On whether the hub-and-spoke transportation system of Zootopia was influenced by the Progress City models: "Well, it's Zootopia with utopia in it, so yes, that's part of what you were supposed to see when you look at that city. It's also a very green city...it's a nice environment. You get a chance to make a city, you might as well make a nice one."

Next time with "Zootopia:" We hear from the Animation and Story departments.

December 12, 2015

"Zootopia" Press Day, Part 2

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So this last October, Walt Disney Animation Studios invited us in to their studios to see and hear about their upcoming 55th animated feature, "Zootopia."

[Photos provided by Disney.]

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The day started off with a presentation of some footage by Directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore, and Producer Clark Spencer.

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Clark Spencer: [On the four ingredients in every movie WDAS makes] "First, we strive to tell timeless stories for today's audiences. Second, we make these movies to be entertaining for all ages around the world. Third, our films must contain a combination of both great humor and deep emotion; and fourth, these films must live up to the standard of Walt Disney--after all, his name is on each and every one of these movies."

[On the genesis of Byron Howard's concept for Zootopia] "...One day he came up with the idea of an all-animal city named "Zootopia." When he pitched it to John Lasseter, John literally picked Byron up and hugged him--true story. John had always wanted to do a talking animal film and he was so excited to return to this great legacy. But he charged Byron and the team with one very important thing: He said we have to make an animal movie that no one has seen before. And that's been our mantra on this film as we've been making it."

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Byron Howard & Rich Moore
: [On the construction of Zootopia] "Zootopia had to be built for every size animal and safety was a big concern for us--mice had to be able to cross the street safely near elephants and rhinoceroses...hotel beds have to safely and comfortably accomodate a rhino, an elephant, a fox or a mouse or a shrew..."

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"...For desert animals, this is Sahara Square, a huge desert area which is hot and dry. It's kind of like an upscale Dubai or Monte Carlo with lots of casinos and high-end shops--just glitz through the roof. We actually took a research trip to Vegas..."

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"...Tundra Town, where the cold weather animals live like polar bears, moose, and arctic shrews, and the cool thing about this is that they have coolers and refrigerated coolant under the sidewalks to keep it cold, they have something called a 3 o'clock blizzard...and lucky for us, we get to reuse a lot of that snow from 'Frozen!'"


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"And then there's the Rainforest District...where it's wet and humid....And the question was, and this all goes back to research, how do you get a Tundra and a Desert into one city?...We talked to people who were experts in air conditioning and they said if you had enough money and determination, and these animals do, you could build a massive air conditioning and heating wall that stretches across the city."

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"And there's also in town a little itty bitty neighborhood called 'Little Rodentia'...and there is Bunny Burrows which has millions and millions and millions of adorable super-cute bunnies."

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[On casting Shakira as Gazelle] "...(After the pitch) she walked up and said 'I love it guys, I hope you guys keep me on the list and I hope you call me,' we're all like 'NO NO NO, IT'S JUST YOU, THERE'S NO ONE ELSE ON THE LIST,' and so she said 'oh, well then I'm in,' and it was like the shortest meeting, the shortest deal in Hollywood history."

[On having a moral vs. becoming preachy] "We never want to preach...what we like to do is to take an issue and examine it, and not try to beat it over the audience's head...What I take away from this film, if there's a message, a moral, or a theme to it, it's that you define you. The world has opinions, of who you are, but you ultimately define yourself, not the world....What we always discussed in creating this story is...we're going to give Judy this mantra, that "anyone can be anything," and we are going to test it for three acts of a film, and how are we going to have her walk away from this thing?...Personally, that's what I take away from this film."

Next time: We hear from the specific animation departments involved in creating the world and denizens of Zootopia.

December 1, 2015

"Zootopia" Press Day, Part 1

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Earlier this year, Walt Disney Animation Studios gave us a sneak peek at some of the work they've been doing on their 55th animated feature, "Zootopia."

[All photos and video provided by Disney]

"Zootopia" tells the story of Judy (Ginnifer Goodwin) Hopps--a bunny from out-of-town, whose dream is to come to the big city of Zootopia and become the first bunny on the police force. Unfortunately, this proves more difficult than she anticipated, when the larger, more predatory animals on the force relegate her to the position of meter maid.

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Still determined to do the best job she can, Hopps pursues her job with enthusiasm until she runs afowl of Nick (Jason Bateman) Wilde: A con artist fox with more angles than a dodecahedron.

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When Judy's big (and only) chance to become a real police officer ends up depending on getting Nick's cooperation to solve a dangerous case, Judy's determination and Nick's wits will be tested to the utmost.

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On the way to untangling Judy's case, the two unwilling allies also abut ideologies--Nick's fatalistic view that each animal's position in the natural order of things is immutable, and Judy's optimistic belief that in Zootopia, no matter what you are, you can be anything.

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In the next installment, we'll look at the Walt Disney Animation Studios Tujunga Campus, where filmmakers Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush, Clark Spencer, and many other talented animators shared insight into the detailed research and development they did for "Zootopia."

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About Zootopia

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Salute to All Things Disney but Mostly Disneyland in the Zootopia category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Tomorrowland is the previous category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.