With excitement about the film “Zootopia” opening nationwide on March 4th, I got a plane to Florida to meet with Byron Howard and Rich Moore to talk about the creation of the new movie they have created – “Zootopia.”
“We hadn’t done one of these films in a long time. Byron Howard
They began with about six ideas for their next movie, and almost all had common ideas, and one was a space movie. “One was called The Island Of Dr. Meow. Which was a sort of cheesy B-movie version like a Roger Korman film, if you know what those are, from the 1960s,” said Howard. Then they pitched the story ideas to John Lasseter, who told them, “I will do anything to support a film that features animals running in tiny clothing.” Howard continued to tell us how much Lasseter loved the idea of them doing the film, “And he got so excited, he hugged me, he picked me up off the ground, and he held me in the air,” said Howard.
“The Circle of Life. That was the very theme.” Rich Moore
The research for the film began in Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and now the Howard and Moore were back at the resort at the end of their journey to do interviews with the press for the film. “We start with research. Then we could take that real knowledge and these great animal experts and incorporate that knowledge into the film; it was amazing for us,” said Howard. After the team had done their research at Disney’s Animal Kingdom, a team of fourteen flew to Africa where they continued their research. “A good compliment for this place (Disney’s Animal Kingdom) is that when we landed in the savanna of Africa, we stepped out of these tiny bush planes, and it felt like this. They did such a good job here is Florida recreating Africa,” said Howard.
“Africa was a life changing experience for us all. I think all of us came back honestly changed. I had never been any place that kind of changed you down to your core.” Byron Howard
While the team was in Africa, they were able to analyze the animals in their natural environment. “And just to see nature, like full on nature right there. Uh, it really made us feel like, okay, if we’re gonna do this movie, we’re gonna do it right,” said Howard. They got to get 30 feet away from zebras, witness thousands of wildebeest and got up close and personal with lions living in their natural environment.
Another thing that was important to Howard and Moore was to make a film that speaks to all ages. “It was very important to us that this wasn’t just an adult movie. It was important to us that Judy’s journey, and her character, that a child could relate to her,” said Moore. That is why they decided to include a scene where Judy is attacked by a bully, “Because, unfortunately, I think that adults and children can relate to those moments. Unfortunately, I think that all of us have had those moments. Um, some more than others. But it’s relatable. So, that’s why we chose to have that happen to her as a child,” said Moore.