“It had to be different than any other animal movie that’s ever been seen before,” reveals “Zootopia” director Byron Howard as we speak via webcam (watch above) about the latest animated feature from Disney. The film imagines a Utopian animal kingdom in which predators and prey live peacefully among each other. Howard, an Oscar nominee for “Bolt” (2008), explains that the biggest challenge was figuring out, “how does that all work? What advantages are there to that arrangement, and what disadvantages and challenges are there?”
He shared writing and directing duties with Rich Moore, an Oscar contender for “Wreck-It Ralph” (2012) and two-time Emmy champ for “The Simpsons” (1991) and “Futurama” (2002). The duo settled on the story of a bunny cop (Ginnifer Goodwin) who teams up with a con artist fox (Jason Bateman) to uncover a government conspiracy that pits the prey against the predators. Moore divulges, “We really want to talk about the issues of discrimination and bias (through personal conversations with their story artists). We’re able to take that honesty and put it into a movie like this.”
The two were brought together by producer Clark Spencer, who had worked with them on “Bolt” and “Wreck-It Ralph” separately. Howard, who also helmed “Tangled” for the studio, had been developing the project when, Spencer reports, “there was a big shift in the story.” He explains, “When you do that late in the game, you have a lot of work you have to do.” Moore was brought in to help collaborate, and ultimately, “it’s kind of the perfect combination for this film,” because, “Rich brings his history with ‘The Simpsons,’ and his humor and his emotional storytelling, and Byron brings his legacy with Disney and his storytelling.”
Check out our full interview with Howard, Moore, and Spencer to learn more about the making of “Zootopia,” including what went into creating the world, the challenges of animating realistic fur, and what it means to work at Disney.
Will “Zootopia” be a major Oscar contender? Make your predictions right here. You’ll compete for a place of honor on our leaderboard and a starring role in next year’s Top 24 Users (the two dozen folks who do the best predicting this year’s Oscars). Be sure to read our contest rules.