Interviews With ‘Zootopia’ Directors & Producers!


Directors Rich Moore & Byron Howard and Producer Clark Spencer

I had such a cool experience when I was out in Los Angeles with Disney. I had the pleasure of interviewing Directors Rich Moore & Byron Howard and Producer Clark Spencer of the animated film Zootopia! The movie has done HUGE numbers and I saw it twice already and really LOVED it! Its definitely a must see and great for the kiddos. So while out at Disney Studios, we got a chance to chat with them on the making of the movie, the extensive research they did by traveling to Africa and so much more, it was so interesting. Read all about it inside… 



The creative process for making the film?

Rich Moore: “I think part of it is our style and I could talk for an hour on this one, you know? But it’s a weird, the process is a weird thing. It’s a weird beast. You can’t tell it like, “Today we’re going to be creative, ” you know? You know it’s going to come and the ideas are going to flow but you can’t can’t control it to where and when it happens. Sometimes it just takes off and it does what it, it wants. It’s almost like a living organism. I’ve said to people, “It’s kind of like an acorn growing into like an oak tree,” In that you can plant it, and you can kind of fertilize it, and tend the seed, but it’s going to grow kind of at its own pace. You’re not going to say , “Okay tree, grow faster today.” It’s going do what it wants to do. The way I keep my sanity is just remembering that’s what I’m dealing with.

I’m dealing with a force of nature here that’s bigger than me. The movie is more than me, it’s more than Byron, it’s more than Clark. It’s kind of a collective living organism that we’re there to kind of shepherd and some days it can be really frustrating, “Why won’t it grow faster?” And then other days it’s like, “Oh my gosh, this is, this is amazing.” We’re watching it in real time kind of come to life. It is my favorite thing about this job that it’s one of those things as an artist you kind of hope for. I hope to work in a place where there’s a creative family and that all appreciate the process the same way that I do. And it’s real here. I’m thankful every day that I’m finally working at a place where that’s foremost in everyone’s mind.”

ZOOTOPIA (Working Title)

What it’s like in the world of animation?

Byron Howard: “There’s a different way of thinking with people who are in animation. I feel like they just think of silly things and fun things. It’s very freeing. A lot of it comes from what was said earlier. We sit in a room and we go, “What if?” And we try not to shoot each other down. We try to build. We try to get excited about ideas, rather than saying, “Well that’s a terrible idea.” We go, “Oh well, that’s good, but what if we added this? And what if we keep that?” And that’s how it sort of build- we build on each other rather than knock each other down”


Doing research in Africa? 

Byron Howard: “That was incredible. One of the best things about working here and what John Lasseter brought to the studio, is that John really believes that the best stories come from research. And so we really wanted to make sure that we were telling a story not just about cartoon animals, but what makes real animals amazing. We all love animals, but all of us had just been to zoos. I think we’d all grown up just going to zoos. I went to the Philadelphia zoo and it’s a great zoo but we really felt like we wanted to go there and see animals for real. And so they flew us into Nairobi, and they put us in these little tiny bush planes, and flew us way the heck out into the middle of nowhere and our guide said, “Look out the window.”

And I looked out the window, and there was this little spire of rock that was shaped like this down below us, and he said, “That’s Pride Rock.” That was in the Lion King as the Lion King research team had actually gone on the same tour. It really exists. But I think our favorite part was when you stepped out of the plane, everything was just quiet. It feels different. The air feels different. It’s just open. And the places we visited in Africa haven’t changed in 40,000 years. The environment is the same. And the animals have a society that actually exists. These groups move together just like human beings do. And so it’s like being in their version of a city. That’s where the whole bias idea came from was us watching these animals around this watering hole. One of our camps was about 30 feet from a watering hole where we would watch these animals kind of all come in during the day in herds of anywhere from 20 to 500 animals and the wildebeests came in and giraffes and we saw that antelope and lions would drink right next to each other at the watering hole.

And no funny business. No one was attacking each other, there’s no aggression. They just got their water, they kind of looked at each other, and then they went their separate ways. And we thought, that’s very much like our own society and much like the groups don’t always get along. We have these cities where we all have to figure out how to live together without killing each other. It was like that and it was a great experience. But I think that out first camp next to the watering hole was a real eye opener for all of us because we had no idea it was going to get into us that much. So when we came back, we had all our leadership on that trip. We had our lead of animation and we had our art director and we had our character designer and all those folks all came back with this desire to make the movie so much better because of what we had learned.”



Unique details in the movie?

Byron Howard: “One of the things that I love about the movie is small details, like a lot of humor. There’s someone running on a treadmill but also eating a little donut at the same time. It’s kind of the ying and yang of life There’s, that when Judy’s wrapping the carrots in the newspaper at the vegetable stand. There’s a picture of like an old rabbit in the newspaper, and it’s something about local–I think it’s her great grandfather and so like kind of like small town newspaper. I can’t remember the exact caption of it, but every time I see that, it cracks me up because it reminds me of where I grew up, and we just had a very small newspaper, The Oxnard Press Courier and there’s just something about that, just the picture with the caption just always cracks me up.”

Clark Spencer: “For me, one of my favorites is the opening scene and I love this because someone in animation had to think about this is that in the opening sequence with the Judy on stage with the tiger and the, and the little sheep. The tiger’s there, he delivers his line, which is what you would expect. Now, the camera goes over to Judy, but you still see the tiger. The tiger moves, ‘cause he knows he’s supposed to move according to the director of the stage and then he looks down and realizes he’s not on the tape. While you’re watching Judy, he moves to the tape, and then he looks out to the audience and does this little wave to his parents. And looks for his parents and does that little thing just what a kid would do, right? They, they’ve done their part, they said their one line, they have to say the horrible part and now He’s off the hook. And he’s thinking to himself, “ Now I’m off the hook. Oh, I didn’t quite go to the right spot. Ah, gotta figure out where my parents are”. But that they would think about that, what the shot actually about is about is Judy and what she’s saying. I just love that kind of detail that people think about. What everyone needs to be doing in the shot, not just the main character. Well because Judy’s a very tough director.


Yummy donuts from the movie!


Breakout star Flash? 

“It came out of one of our brainstorming sessions when someone said, “You know, if there’s a DMV in Zootopia, it should be run by sloths. Ha, ha, ha.” And he thought he was just throwing a joke out into the room. He didn’t think it would land, and everyone just kind of went, “Oh.” That was such a brilliant idea and Bingo! Immediately there was something about the idea of a DMV run by sloths. And we all had to think if it had ever been done before? We’re just thinking, someone has to have done that. And we were looking around, it’s like no? I was like, oh, we should do that. So, we immediately got very excited about the idea. And there’s just sometimes that happens when, we all get together in groups.

It’s a very collaborative process where we bring other writers and directors and story artists into the room and, and we all talk for many, many, many meetings and all at the same time. Sometimes we listen. Sometimes but not always but when we hear a good idea, the room kind of catches fire, and that really was one of those ideas that happened like that. Well, and it happened so fast- I mean, for a character that’s so slow, it’s like his creation, his genesis happened like a big bang.

Where it was like, oh my gosh, that’s really funny. And we literally the next day saw after talking about or it presenting itself we saw John Lasseter. Then next thing we’re like, “We got this idea about like a sloth running the DMV.” He’s like, “Oh my gosh.” So we spent the next 90 minutes acting it out, and like acting the beats. Almost beat for beat, exactly what’s in the movie. We must’ve gone through it four or five times, and, and it was locked in everyone’s head.

Later on, we had a lil drawing session with Byron



Our group shot



From the largest elephant to the smallest shrew, the city of Zootopia is a mammal metropolis where various animals live and thrive. When Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) becomes the first rabbit to join the police force, she quickly learns how tough it is to enforce the law. Determined to prove herself, Judy jumps at the opportunity to solve a mysterious case. Unfortunately, that means working with Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), a wily fox who makes her job even harder.


Zootopia -available on Blu-ray and Digital HD on June 7

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