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‘Zootopia’ Directors Bryon Howard, Rich Moore Talk Research, Building The World, ‘Wreck-It Ralph 2’
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Zootopia directors Rich Moore and Byron Howard

Disney’s Zootopia is the number one animated film of the year, grossing nearly $1 billion worldwide, a number suited for the king of the beasts. Now with the film finally arriving on Blu-ray, you can take that same joyful experience you had watching the film on the big screen to your house, where you can watch it over and over and over again. To help promote the film’s home entertainment release, we sat down with the directors of Zootopia, Bryon Howard (Bolt, Tangled) and Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph 2, The Simpsons and Futurama) to talk about what their biggest takeaway was since the release of the film, how their research trips from other zoos and Kenya helped shaped the film to what it is now, and the progress on Wreck-It Ralph 2 and the new Tangled animated series.

Check it all out below.

Geeks Of Doom: What is your biggest takeaway from this film?

Rich Moore: Let’s see. I would say that this film really kind of hammered home to me that we as a people are more similar than we are different. You know, we spend a lot of time, I think in life, looking for differences in the people around us, when really there’s more similarities than differences. Even just talking about the animal world, all the research that was done of animals that kind of influenced and inspired this movie, even the differences between us an animals, it’s so close. There’s so much of us in them that I think we, or I should I say speaking personally, would like to kind of think what makes me different than other people, that a lot of times is spent thinking that, when there really is a lot to be benefited from when I am looking for what makes me similar to that person.

Geeks Of Doom: So talking about the research, how much fun was it to do all of that in places like Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Keyna?

Bryon Howard: It was pretty awesome. That is one of the great things about working here is that we put such a huge priority on that period of research, where we really go into the places we need to go to figure this stuff out. We visited many zoos and stuff. We went to San Diego, of course. Animal Kingdom is an amazing zoological animal park that Disney runs in Florida. It’s probably the best in the world where you can see animals that are in an artificial environment. But we knew we needed to go someplace where animal society had existed for real for a long time.

Rich Moore: San Diego!

Bryon Howard: San Diego! Gaslamp District.

Rich Moore: The airplanes come in so low. Comic-Con.

Byron Howard: But Kenya was a life changing experience for all of us. Most of our leadership with us – we had our character designers, our lighters, our art directors. Everyone was looking for something different. The animators are looking at it like “How do those animals movie and interact?” The lighters were looking for “How does the light look when it comes up as you are looking over the Savanna, or when it gets really cold, and how does the light color change?” I think one of the things that really steered the film in the direction was where we wound up, watching animals at the watering hole where we saw zebras drinking right next to lions who normally are attacking. Well, the zebras were like, “Oh well, everyone’s behaving, no one’s killing each other.” They come in because they all need water and there’s sort of a truce. We can’t be messing with each other. So we thought two groups, or multiple groups, who don’t always see eye to eye but have to learn how to live together is very much like a city. Cities are made of groups of different people who have different philosophies and different backgrounds. Ultimately, we have to learn to appreciate each other and have enough compassion for each other to want to survive and be happy, and there’s where the core of Zootopia came from, it was that research trip. If we had never gone on that trip, the film might have been about something completely different and that’s the value of research. It’s those critical and key ideas you get nowhere else. You can’t get it from the internet or doing research in books. I think everyone coming back from that trip had this insane desire when they came back, to make the film really really deep and much more detailed than we thought. The animals, there was something there that we felt like this has been an environment that’s been around for 40,000 years and I am a part of this now, I kind of stepped into this for a moment, and now I want to bring this back to the film.

Geeks of Doom: So following on the idea of co-existing and appreciating each other peacefully, is there a difference between a social message and a political message?

Rich Moore: I would say yes. I believe there is. I don’t think that we were trying to tell. First of all I don’t think we were even trying to make a message movie. It wasn’t approached from the place of, “You know, I would like to take this topic of bias, and put it out there, and prove a theory before your eyes on screen.” I think it was more of like, what if, from what was learned in Africa. I think we’ve seen animal worlds, were they all live together in peace and harmony, and we wanted to take that idea and say how did they get there? How did they get to that point where they can live side by side, like at the watering hole. What if that fell? What if that social contract broke and fear of the other, of the unknown, you know, kind of became more the driving force in society, what if that came back? What would it do to the world like that? What if our main character was somewhere from that world who was kind of stepping into it the first time and realizing that she’s not above this. It always comes more from the main character. Less of like “Oh I have a political message or a social message I want to tell.” That’s what makes it so compelling.

Geeks Of Doom: Last question, well two different ones for each of you. For Bryon, what is the progress on the Tangled series, and for Rich, is there any truth to there being a Wreck-It Ralph sequel?

Bryon Howard: I can go first. I am not really involved in Tangled. I know it’s happening, so that’s my answer.

Rich Moore: Well, it would be so great to do a Wreck-It Ralph 2. Beyond is it really happening, I can’t really say anything right now. Man that would be awesome. And if we did one, oh my God, it would be such a great movie. It would be so good.

Zootopia is out on Digital HD right now, and hits Blu-ray on June 7.

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