Walt Disney Animation Presents Zootopia

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The animation department at Walt Disney Studios shared some of the exciting process involved in the making of Zootopia at a recent Press Event.

Zootopia is Walt Disney Pictures upcoming film about Officer Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) whose first day as the first bunny on the police force takes her into a less than ideal experience, until she is teamed up with con-artist, Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman) and together they join forces to solve a mystery and clear Nick’s name.  To tell the story, Director, Bryon Howard and his crew spent “18 months of solid research into animals.”   This gave the animators a true perspective to be able to combine animals with the magic of Disney storytelling. Learning how animals interacted provided the base for Zootopia’s various neighborhoods, as well as how they might all live and work alongside each other.

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To bring the characters to life, Character Design Supervisor Cory Loftis and Character CG Supervisor Dave Komorowski showed us the challenges creating over 1,000 unique animals brought them.  Using a line up of all the animals in the film, they had to take into account the huge different in shapes and sizes of each from the tallest (giraffe) to the smallest (mouse).  Each needed to be framed in a way that would work with their size and the background as well  as other characters in the scene.  From the star of the film, Officer Hopps to my favorite, Flash, the sloth, the distinct characteristics including the various shapes, sizes and patterns of the animals were a huge process.  Taking a combination of animal and human anatomy, the team added emotions allowing them to move, talk and interact as humans but still maintain their animal qualities.  Along with designing each animal was also the need to add specifics like clothing.  What did one dress a giraffe in?  Did the chief of police need a full uniform?  What did mice wear? All these details and more were part of the careful planning.
Next up were neighborhoods.  The metropolis of Zootopia is comprised of habitat neighborhoods – from the Sahara Square to the frigid Tundratown where animals from every environment live together including background sights and sounds.  For example adding weather, scenery and attitude to each neighborhood involved everything from how the fur blew in the wind to how a drop of rain fell.

The Art Director of Environments, Matthias Lechner along with Environment Look Supervisor, Lance Summersv shared the work that went into creating the different neighborhoods. Each one consisted of the need to create the look and feel of the natural habitats of the animals living in that area but still have it be seen as a typical neighborhood. From the smallest details of the rain forest to the icy grounds of the Frigid Tundra, each concept was given not only the look and feel but also the attention to details depending on the inhabitants of the neighborhood. Larger streets and areas were needed for the bigger animals.  One important question was – How would each area be separated?  Each neighborhood had to blend into the next yet maintain the division.  The materials used to build the neighborhoods, each building, street lamp and ground covering was mapped out and incorporated  to give the film the feel of a natural habitat while still maintaining the fun and carefree theme of the film.   A central  hub area where everyone meets called the downtown area and neighborhoods which connect but each one also connects side by side was created..  So the downtown area can have heat on one side from the Sahara and icy cold on the other side from the Tundra.

Originally the studios started out just making an animal movie but quickly moved into a direction where stereotype casting of the main characters developed.   Officer Hopps for example is the only female and small animal on the force. Therefore she is given the duties of meter maid. Nick Wilde is a fox and portrayed as a slick con artist. (sly as a fox).  The use of  sloths (the slowest creatures) as “employees” at the DMV brings to light the frustrations and delays we have all experienced, yet at the same time, the characters were also given a human quality to them that will make viewers instantly attach to them and learn to that in Zootopia, nothing is what it seems.

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Zootopia,” a comedy-adventure directed by Byron Howard and Rich Moore and opens in theaters on March 4, 2016.


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