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50 Things You Need To Know About Disney’s ‘Zootopia’
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Zootopia Header

Zootopia marks the return of Disney using animals who can walk and talk. While this isn’t be the first time we have seen such a film where no humans are involved, the film has a more contemporary feel to it, with the world of Zootopia drawing inspiration from real-world based architecture, vehicles, and government agencies like a police force and the DMV. The film comes from Bryon Howard (Tangled, Bolt) and Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph).

You have already seen what it takes to make a movie that has never been seen be-fur, what it takes to design an animal metropolis that has been designed by animals, figuring out the story, and the animation process. Now its time for some fun facts. Little fun tid bits that we learned with our fellow journalists during this fun event. Below are 50 things you need to know about Zootopia which includes how the directors and producers are continuing Disney’s legacy, the amount of research that went into the film, the new animation technology that was used in the film, the recording process, how many leaves are on a tree, and so much more. Check it all out below.

Zootopia

The Producers And Directors Continuing Disney’s Legacy

1 – Producer Clark Spencer has been with the animation studio for the past 20 years, and has been through all the ups and downs, but he believes that right now the studio is going through a renaissance. He feels incredibly lucky to be a part of this team at such a time.

2 – Director Bryon Howard first started working with Disney, not as a someone at the studio, but as a tour guide at Disney World. His dreams of working in animation came true when he worked as a cleanup artist on Pocahontas. He then animated Lilo and Stitch. He made his feature directorial debut on the Oscar-nominated hit Bolt, and also worked on the worldwide hit Tangled.

3 – Rich Moore started to work with Disney in 2006. He’s had a long history in television, working on some of the most memorable and notorious episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama. He made his directorial debut with the Oscar nominated Wreck-It Ralph.

4 – John Lasseter and Ed Catmull joined Disney, and put filmmaking back into the hands of filmmakers. Essentially they brought the story trust formula from Pixar over to Disney. This story trust is a mix of veterans in the industry, writers, directors, young talent, and story artists who challenge each other every day to push their films to a new level of excellence.

5 – The studio’s goal each and every day is to make contemporary and groundbreaking films that are inspired by their long legacy of innovation and storytelling.

6 – To continue the legacy of making a wide array of films, there are four key ingredients they consider:

  • They strive to tell timeless stories for audiences.
  • They make movies entertaining for audiences of all ages around the world.
  • Their films must contain great humor and deep emotion.
  • These films have to live up to the standards of Walt Disney, after all his name is on each and every one of these movies.
  • Zootopia

    Researching The World Of Zootopia

    7 – After working on Tangled, Howard was thinking about what was the next story to tell. During this process he kept coming back to the world of talking animal films like Bambi, The Jungle Book, Dumbo, Robin Hood, and The Lion King.

    8 – Like most of the films that came before Zootopia when Lasseter first started to run Disney Animation, the film did some major research before heading into production. So they started researching animals at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Florida, where the animal experts helped give them a great foundation.

    9 – But their research did not stop there. Once they saw animals in a man-made facility, they went to the wild, which took the research team all the way to Kenya, where they studied animals on the savannah, where they got a sense of their movement and natural environment. The purpose of this was also to find out what a real-life animal society was like in the wild.

    10 – To make Zootopia and its civilians believable, the research team took their research even further by studying the individual strands of fur on animals on a microscopic level. Spencer reveals that a fox’s fur is dark at the root and gets lighter as it gets to the tip. To show how different these furs are, he adds that a polar bear’s fur is not white, but clear almost like fiberglass, and that the light that reflects of the polar bear’s fur that make it look white. All the animals you will see in Zootopia have a different fur groom.

    11 – To make the actual city of Zootopia believable, the team developed a new technology called keep alive, where the world always has some level of movement in it.

    12 – They also created a wind simulation system that allows animators to place vegetation into an environment, and have the individual leaves and branches moving. While the viewer may not notice this at first, the simple act of just adding movement to a tree as a wind blows makes the world feel that much more alive. They would also utilize this technology on the characters themselves. Since most of them have fur, and no two animals are the same shape and size, the effects of wind on these animals will differ, but still give a very realistic result.

    13 – To help the animators understand the structure and textures of fur, they visited Natural History Museum of Los Angeles where they were able to get a better understanding of each species of fur.

    Zootopia

    How Animators Anim(al)ated Zootopia

    14 – Designers talk to directors and writers to help get the most of the characters. Since there are a lot of them, there would be a lot of different types of personalities and animal behaviors. That’s when the discussion turned into what they loved about all the animal Disney films.

    15 – Walk cycles are what defines a character in animated films. The animators use this process as a basis to help design how a four-legged animal would walk on twos. Circling back to the research, they observed how Giraffes would run, the team noticed that it looked like they were running in slow-motion. So the animators took that into account, and would make the giraffes in the film move the same exact way. So elephants utilize their trunks as a way to help them eat. Using that piece of research, the animators put an imaginative spin on it by having the elephants scoop ice cream in the same manner.

    16 – Scale was important in this film, since Zootopia features mammals of all shapes and sizes. They wanted to avoid the idea where animals sizes were pretty similar and generic. So to get feel the true size of each animal, it was decided that they would add a real world scale to the film. For instance, Spencer says that a wildebeest standing on twos would have the same height as an average human. But a wildebeest to a mouse is 1:24, meaning that it would take 24 mice standing on each other to match the height of a Zootopian wildebeest. Using the height of a giraffe, that same mouse it is a scale of 1:97. If you were to put Judy and an elephant standing next to each other, this would mean that the Elephant’s foot would occupy 50% of the screen space. This scale would help give an idea of how these animals would co-exist with each other in the world of Zootopia.

    17 – Hyperion is a renderer that is able to handle several million light rays at a time by sorting and bundling them together according to their directions. The renderer was first used in Big Hero 6, where the Hyperion team had to figure out how to simulate realistic lighting in the fictional metropolitan city of San Fransokyo. The Hyperion renderer also helped influence how light bounced off characters like Baymax, and how they might be seen in other situations. Some of the fur was difficult to animated, so what the Hyperion team did was a principally based-real world solution, where they were following the light as it bounces through each hair, bounces off each hair, and it picks up color, light, and saturation through each bounce. A you let the light bounce more, the image becomes richer, softer, and more real.

    18 – Another tool that was used to help simulate the realism of fur was the iGroom. Just as its name would suggest, the iGroom is a program what would allow the animators to comb the characters’ CG fur and give each animal its own unique hair patterns and textures.

    19 – Actors who record their voices for their roles do so much more than speak into a mic, they actually get physical. Meaning their physical performances of their furry counterparts end up being on the screen.

    20 – There are about 400 different kinds of animal species from each continent were represented in the film. Characters have their own personalities and quirks that make them unique, but they still retain their animal behavior that their real-life counterparts are based on. But animators needed to find the right balance to pepper in this qualities or they run the risk of it being too much, which would be too distracting.

    ZOOTOPIA crosswalk

    Designing A Mega Mammal Metropolis

    21 – Zootopia has different neighborhoods to help celebrate cultures and climates. Saraha Square is like an upscale Monte Carlo with lots of casinos and shopping centers. Director Byron Howard joked that they took a research trip to Las Vegas to help design Sahara Square. Tundra Town is the polar opposite of that, which in inhabited by polar bears and arctic shrews. The Rainforest district is hot and humid.

    22 – To be sure that these individual neighborhoods like a desert and a tundra to coexist with each other. Moore explains that they interview air conditioning experts who said they could build a massive air conditioning heating wall that would stretch across Zootopia. That is where hot air would heat Saraha Square portion of the city, and snow blowers would keep the Tundra Town side cool. But as that snow melts, it would feed the water misters in the rain forest district. Other neighborhoods include Little Rodentia, which is home to tiny mice; and the Bunny Burrows, where the population doesn’t ever seem to go down, but increase at an exponential rate. The idea was that you could go on one massive international tour within a city.

    23 – Scale was important for the art director Matthais Lencher and look supervisor Lancer Summers. For them they needed to have different buildings to accommodate the different animals of Zootopia. So there would certain buildings like train stations, police departments, and DMV would be buildings animals of all sizes would use. But there would be other buildings specifically designed for certain animals of a certain size.

    24 – The designers and animators would also take size and scale into account when they created vehicles for the animals. When you see the train, you’ll notice there will be certain sections where animals can sit. So in one passenger car, you’ll see a row of windows for the bigger animals, and another row of windows on the lower portion of the car for the rodent-sized animals. And of course, domes for giraffes and other large animals. Even some of Lencher’s German background helped influence locations like the train station.

    25 – Designers experimented with 10 to 15 different layouts before deciding on the one used in the film, which was inspired by a Disneyland Map. At the center, is the main hub, with surrounding zones representing different geological zones like the cold Tundra Town, or the hot Sahara Square, the humid Rain Forest District, and the suburbs of Bunny Burrows.

    26 – About 80% of the designs that were created, do not get used in the movie. This is a strategy to find the right thing, and to use what feels right for the film, and what works best for the story.

    27 – The look development basically works with Lencher to translate their vision and the directors vision into the CG world. They created all of the shaders, what’s shiny, or what’s metallic, etc. They purposefully want little tiny bits of grunge and little tiny bits of gradations that would help increase the value of the image.

    28 – Trees in Zootopia have about 30,000 leaves on them. What the look development team did to make sure that these trees look alive was they developed a new technology called Keep Alive. So this technology, no plants are still. This helps add depth and image to the scene.

    Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) in Zootpia

    Jason Bateman & Ginnifer Goodwin As Predator Prey Buddy Cops

    29 – Directors Bryon Howard and Rich Moore say that they had a very short list of actors they were considering for the roles of Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde. They would start off with archetypes and see what kind of actor would fit the role. For the role of Nick Wilde, they wanted to find someone “Who could be charming, who could be smart and not be totally off-putting, and a total a-hole?”

    30 – Judy Hopps voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin (Big Love, Once Upon A Time). Judy is a bunny from Bunny Burrows who moves to the big city with dreams of becoming the first bunny cop in Zootopia, which is a big deal because all the police officers are large intimidating animals. She is an optimist who lives by the Zootopia mantra, anyone can be anything.

    31 – Nick is a quick-witted con fox played by Jason Bateman (Arrested Development, The Gift). He’s clever, intelligent, and sly. He believes we are who we are.

    32 – Judy’s hopes of becoming a city police officer are crushed when she is assigned to be a meter maid, an officer who hands out tickets for expired parking tickets. While she is very good at it, she clearly can be more than just a meter maid.

    33 – Getting the entire cast to voice their roles is nearly impossible. A lot of the time actors would have individual recording sessions, with no real chance to build chemistry opposite their costars. But Zootopia is one of those rare exceptions. Even though Goodwin shoots Once Upon A Time in Vancouver, and Bateman is busy with films here in the states, both made the time to record their voices together to have natural chemistry.

    Zootopia

    Going On A Story Safari

    34 – Both Bateman and Goodwin have been with the project for almost two years, and have seen the project evolve and be experimented with from a Nick-centric film to what it is now. They have been through the entire process.

    35 – An early version of the story saw Zootopia as a broken city, where it was a utopia on the surface, but a dystopia underneath. However, the directors felt that wasn’t right for the film. To Moore, the settings are also characters, and they wanted to make Zootopia “a place we would love to visit, something that revokes feelings real place even though it is fantastical in its design.”

    36 – The mantra of Zootopia, where anyone can be anything. Since Judy believes in that mantra, it is Howard and Moore’s goal to test her belief in that throughout the three acts of the film.

    37 – Storyboards are essential to animation as it helps dictate how the film progresses. To help get a sense of that, the story board artist act out the scene – they even make the sounds. If the team agrees that it is as good as it is going to get, they move on to add actual dialogue, sound mixing, music. Once they have received all the notes, it is all a matter of figuring out the pacing, adding the music to hit the right emotional notes, and adjusting to the scene appropriately by adding or taking out boards.

    38 – Screenwriter Phil Johnston said sometimes it comes down to a DIY style filmmaking like they did in film school to figure out how a story progresses.

    39 – The biggest theme in the film is that “it’s that you define you.” Howard says “The world has an opinion of who you are, but you ultimately define yourself, not the world.”

    Zootopia Try Everything

    Shakira, Her Character Gazelle, And The Movie’s Song “Try Everything”

    40 – Shakira became involved with the project about two years ago.

    41 – Gazelle represents the epitome of what the city is all about, which is the idealized acceptance.

    42 – The singer had some influence on character’s personality as well, as Gazelle is described as someone who is very socially minded.

    43 – “Try Everything,” written by singer-songwriter Sia and songwriting duo Stargate.

    Zootopia

    Fun Trivia

    44 – Well, for those who weren’t at D23, we were treated to a funny bit that showed how the animals would move while on two legs. What we were shown is a tiger in nothing but boxers dancing to club music. It’s fun, and is a tiny glimpse at the humor of the film. Moore promises us that we will definitely see more of the dancing tiger in the film.

    45 – Directors Bryon Howard and Rich Moore are in the film as nosy neighbors who eavesdrop on Judy.

    46 – Early on, the citizens of Zootopia wore collars that prevented them from doing their natural behavior. This idea was scrapped.

    47 – Bogo (voice of Idris Elba) is a very muscular water buffalo and police chief of the Zootopia Police Department. However, when it came to putting his uniform on, something just didn’t feel right. So the Visual Development Artist Cory Loftis did was look at some of the body builders and the more muscular police officers. What they notice was that none of them could button the top button of their uniforms. So that little bit of research ended up in the final design of the police officers of Zootopia.

    48 – A mouse in Zootopia has about 400,000 hairs. To put that into perspective that’s about as much hair has Elsa, from Frozen, has. In comparison, a giraffe in Zootopia has 9.2 million hairs.

    49 – Sometimes Disney Animation Studios’ John Lasseter would stop by to see the progress of a film. In this case he stopped by to see how Zootopia was going. At this time, Character CG Supervisor Dave Komorowski revealed to us that Lasseter had seen a moment in the film where Nick was trying to eat a “tiny tiny” piece of cake, and that he wanted to see Nick’s reaction and struggle with eating it. So to film reference for it, the animators filmed Lasseter trying to eat a little piece of cake that sat on top of a nickel.

    50 – Michael Giacchino will compose the music for Zootopia. While the Oscar-winning composer is behind incredible scores such as The Incredibles, Up, Inside Out, Star Trek, and TV shows like Lost, and even Disneyland’s attractions like Space Mountain, Zootopia marks the first time that he was collaborated on a Walt Disney Animation Studios project.

    Zootopia opens in theaters on March 4, 2016.

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