During our recent webcam chat (watch above), “Zootopia” screenwriter Jared Bush admits that the desire he and co-writer Phil Johnston had to tell this story of discrimination amongst talking animals came from a very personal place. “We both have kids,” he explains, “and we love when our kids watch a movie to be challenged by things, and to deal with stuff that they’re going to have to deal with in their lives.” This Disney release centers on a bunny cop (Ginnifer Goodwin) who teams up with a con artist fox (Jason Bateman) to uncover a government conspiracy that pits prey against predators in a world where both live side-by-side.
Johnston, who penned “Wreck-It Ralph” (2012) for the studio and is currently writing and directing the sequel, finds that, “animation gives you liberty to tackle deeper, more important subjects in a way that doesn’t feel like you’re preaching to somebody.” While the movie, “has a message,” he and Bush tried to avoid making, “a message movie.” Instead, the goal was to create a, “funny, entertaining world with a bunch of talking animals that has a deeper meaning to shine a light on human bias and prejudice and so on.”
In addition to his writing duties, Bush served as co-director under Rich Moore and Byron Howard (click here to watch our interview with them and producer Clark Spencer). He also scripted “Moana” for the studio. Johnston has jumped back-and-forth between live action and animation, reaping an Indie Spirt Nomination for “Cedar Rapids” (Best First Screenplay, 2011). His work on “Wreck-It Ralph” won him an Annie Award for Best Writing, and he and Bush could win that prize this year.
Will “Zootopia” join the ranks of “Toy Story” (1995), “Shrek” (2001), “Finding Nemo” (2003), “The Incredibles” (2004), “Ratatouille” (2007), “Wall-E” (2008), “Up” (2009), “Toy Story 3” (2010), and “Inside Out” (2015) as that rare animated film to compete for screenwriting at the Oscars? Check out our full interview above for more about Bush and Johnston’s work.
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