ByBrandon Swofford, writer at
Filmmaker, Youtuber, Actor, Animator, Fanboy
Brandon Swofford

Through the years, Disney Animation has brought us some of the most unforgettable characters in cinema from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Big Hero 6. One consistent highlight of Disney Animation is adorably anthropomorphizing animals in classics like The Lion King, Bambi, The Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, and so much more! Walt Disney said it himself "animals have personalities like people and must be studied." It is easy to say that the filmmakers and animators at Disney are living up to those words in the studio's upcoming animated feature, Zootopia.

Zootopia takes place in a world where humans never existed and animals are the ones running the joint. The animals in the world of Zootopia walk on two feet, wear clothes, have occupations and use technology just like us. In addition, they have the tendency to stereotype each other based on an animal's major characteristics, just like humans are often wont to do.

Disney/Character Concept Art
Disney/Character Concept Art

The film follows Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, Once Upon A Time), a bunny from the land of Bunny Burrow. She is an optimist who dreams to be the first great bunny cop in the big city, Zootopia. Soon after her arrival, she is hit by harsh reality in the police department when she is assigned to dole out parking tickets. She meets Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman, Arrested Development, Horrible Bosses), a clever, sly fox who is framed for a crime that he did not commit. The natural enemies have to team up when they both become targets of a conspiracy.

Nick Wilde, Judy Hopps and me
Nick Wilde, Judy Hopps and me

I was lucky enough to see scenes from the film at Walt Disney Studios, the home of the greatest storytellers on earth. The animators discussed the hard work and passionate research it took to make this film possible. Animators traveled to different African countries to study the animals closely at a microscopic level. As you watch the film, you can tell that the traits of the animals were brought into the characters with care. There is an incredible attention to detail in the backgrounds and the crowds. They built a city that animals would have built together. The film is "like nothing you've seen be-fur."

I was fortunate enough to meet the directors of the film, Rich Moore and Byron Howard, and ask them some pretty intimate animal questions!


Director Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph, The Simpsons)
Director Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph, The Simpsons)
Director Byron Howard (Tangled, Bolt)
Director Byron Howard (Tangled, Bolt)

Moviepilot (MP): In the world of Zootopia, what animals would you consider to be the directors of the film? Let's say the animals got together and made a movie.

Rich Moore (RM): Whoa. What animal qualities would it take?

Byron Howard (BH): Well it can’t be a sloth for sure. Maybe a weasel...


RM: Beavers? They can be industrious. Beavers are hard workers. They've got to have a well-rounded vision.

BH: A well-rounded beaver? (Laughs)

RM: They've got to be tenacious I guess and for the long run.

BH: A wolverine?

RM: Wolverine! That’s a good one! Or, it could be a giraffe. So it would be a strange, hybrid animal. Part Beaver, part musk Ox, part Wombat, part Wolverine.

BH: Perhaps the animal from Napoleon Dynamite… a liger?


BH: Yeah, it’s got the strength of a lion and the suppleness of a tiger. We’re both strong and simple people.

RM: That’s true! You’re in a room with two ligers, Brandon.

Napoleon Dynamite's liger
Napoleon Dynamite's liger

MP: If you could recast one of your favorite movies with animals, what movie would that be? For example, my favorite movie is Fight Club, and I would cast Tyler Durden as a tiger for his masculinity and freedom.

RM: Man, I like these questions! I like where you’re going here. How about we recast Sideways? Paul Giamatti’s character is kind of like a pig. Wouldn’t it be great if we had pig sipping on wine. Thomas Haden Church’s character is kind of a weasel because he cheats on his fiancée. We’ll get a pig and a weasel driving through wine country!

BH: It will be called 'SWINEWAYS'!


RM: And the Virginia Madsen character will be like a tough sheep. We could take any movie!

BH: Well, I love Amadeus. To play Mozart, it would have to be someone really good at music.

RM: Bees? Penguins? Who is a real jealous and suspicious type of animal? A badger?

BH: Badger! That’s a good one. Or a wolf! There we go!

RM: So, that’s the plan. After Zootopia, we are going to make ‘Swineways’ and...

BH: ‘Ama-DOG-us’!


Made by Brandon Swofford
Made by Brandon Swofford

MP: This movie is right up my alley because I am currently an animation major at Woodbury University and when I was a kid I would label my family and friends as animals. For example, my Dad is a beaver because he is a hard worker, and my Mom is a bear because she is loving but tough when she needs to be. If you could label your loved ones as animals, what would they be?

RM: Well, my son is very tall and kind of lanky, so he is a giraffe. My daughter, I guess would be a gazelle.

BS: Like Shakira?

RM: No… well actually, yeah. She’s tall, graceful and kind of artistic. And I have an older sister who is kind of like a sheep. White, blonde hair. This is probably not going to be too interesting to the viewers because they don’t know any of these people.


BH: I would say my husband is like your mom. He is kind of like a big teddy bear, but he can get kind of aggressive if you need him to.

MP: As an animation major, I have a love for 2D animation while CGI has taken over the industry. Do you see traditional animation making a comeback?

BH: It depends on the story really. If someone comes up with a brilliant idea that needs the touch of 2D animation. One of the things that is tough nowadays is that the worlds we build in Zootopia are so huge. If we had to build Zootopia in 2D, I am not sure how it could be done. You have to build this entire city.

RM: Oh man, I don’t even want to think about that. You have to imply a lot with the pencil mileage to try and pull off the crowds and everything. It would take years and years to do this version of this movie in 2D. Like Byron is saying, it would have to be something so intimate and heavy on a certain style where it is screaming for 2D. I don’t quite know what that is right now, and people bring it up a lot. Brad Bird keeps talking about it like, “Someday, someone will do a 2D movie.” But I don’t know, someone will come up with it. It could be someone like your age! It could be YOU, Brandon, because I worked in 2D, Byron worked in 2D. It might be someone of the next generation that did not have a chance to work in 2D. Someone with the right idea who says, “I want to use this medium that I think is appropriate for it. I am going to take this and I am going to make this movie in this way because I never had a chance to work this way.” So, you never say never!

Disney's Zootopia hits theaters everywhere March 4th, 2016!


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