Zootopia DVD-Blu-ray is out June 7th

pre-order it here

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Renatos Dos Anjos and Chad Sellers worked on creating Zootopia for a long time…

I was on the show for two, two and a half years. – Renato

Yeah.  Two years for me. – Chad

During those 2+ years they got the opportunity to view animals up close and personal at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (Disney World), and got to Africa to really see animals in the wild.

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And we’ve been watching all sorts of documentaries and, and going to different facilities, uh, to see animals in person, but once, when, uh, Clark told us that we’re going on safari in Africa, I didn’t even expect to learn that much more because we had the access to everything that we could think of in here, but literally when we got there my perception for what the movie could be really changed.

Seeing the animals in their true natural habitat helped them understand how they move and the social behavior.

Zootopia In-Home Global Press Event
Zootopia In-Home Global Press Event

“This elephant that kind of passed us by”, Renato smiled as he though about the pivotal moment.  “There were several of them, but this one got really close to the truck and then kind of walked off. And it was a very gentle kind of sway to the movement of the head, and the way it was just kind of grazing and when I was working on an elephant test, then it just didn’t really quite look like that, so we worked really hard on trying to get that, that spirit of that movement because they’re animals, even though they’re on two legs.  We, we wanted them to feel like what we see in the wild, so this is actually the first test that I felt that we saw something that looked similar to what we were seeing in Africa”.

Of course, in Zootopia the animals are also wearing clothes (a notion that Disney’s Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter was downright giddy about and a main reason Zootopia was greenlit). So the animation team had to understand the body structure to support this idea.

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They also wanted to get basic mannerisms of animals into the characters.

“We looked a lot of funny, cute rabbits.  Some of the animators actually, they adopted rabbits which is cute and every once in a while, they would bring them into departments for us to see them. We wanted to test how much animal behavior we would add to these characters versus human behavior.  You probably have seen bunnies do this, but they do it when they play or when they fight, but they sort of like, jump up and kick their feet out kind of all crazy.  So we thought if Judy Hopps had to like do something where she opened a door, how can she do it like a rabbit which is thinking would be a good way to do it”.

Ginnifer Goodwin, the actress who plays Judy Hopps, seemed like a natural choice for that bunny-like sensibility.

photo: Disney
photo: Disney

Her voice just brings so much, so when she was cast she brought a whole new take to Judy.  Um, there’s sweetness, she does a lot of gesturing when she’s reading the lines, so we were trying to combine that animal along with the voice actor and then also what the animator wants to bring to it.”

As soon as they know who the actor is, they start studying them by watching films and interviews. by the time production starts the animators have an idea of the basic mannerisms of each character based on the personality of the actor.

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One of my personal favorite characters is Mr. Big, the elephant shew/mob boss.

Doing the research for that  didn’t feel like work. The crew watched mob movies, had Italian potlucks, and learned what gestures mean so they can use (and not use) them for Mr. Big.

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Clawhauser was another fun character to create.

We still wanted to study the way a real cheetah runs and moves.  We got to watch the cheetah run which was amazing.  Just the speed of these guys.  They’re usually in pretty good shape, but of course, Clawhauser isn’t in the best shape  but we still wanted to capture that kind of S curve thing that happens through their spine and their head locks onto their prey.

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Just looking at this image – everything is totally done for a reason. Nathan Curtis (production supervisor) saw cats do this thing  when they clean themselves (with paws curled up near the face), so he thought having the paws right here is very kitten like.

So much detail went into the making of the animals of Zootopia and it shows. You can see Zootopia at select theaters as well as DVD/Blu-ray June 7th. Be sure to check out the bonus material which includes clips on the creation of these characters!

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