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

Throughout 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 quality Disney animation has been known for is following animals such as The Lion King, Bambi, The Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians and so much more! Walt Disney said it himself that "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 upcoming Disney animated feature, Zootopia!

If you love the Disney theories (in which all of the animated films are connected in the same universe), the several forms of animation, live-action remakes of animated classics (Alice In Wonderland, Maleficent, The Jungle Book) and wild questions, read on for all of that and more!

Judy Hopps Character Designs
Judy Hopps Character Designs

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 like us. In addition, the animals are quick to stereotype each other just like us. Even though a Lion and a Giraffe in Zootopia can walk in the same room without killing each other, the giraffe will probably think the Lion is narcoleptic from hearing that most real Lions sleep 20 hours a day.

The film follows Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, Once Upon A Time), a bunny from the land, Bunny Burrow. She is an optimist and dreams to be the first great bunny cop in the big city of Zootopia. In her arrival, she is hit by the harsh reality in the police department when she is assigned to give 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. Idris Elba (Luther, Thor), J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Spider-Man), Octavia Spencer (The Help, Snowpiercer) and pop icon, Shakira, also star in the feature.

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 their hard work and passionate research they took to make this film. Animators traveled to Africa to study the animals 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. They built a city that animals would have built together. This film is "like nothing you've seen be-fur."

I was fortunate enough to meet the President of Walt Disney Feature Animation, Andrew Millstein. Check out the interview below:

Brandon Swofford [BS]: In the world of Zootopia, what animal would be your position in the Walt Disney company?

Andrew Millstein [AM]: Oh gosh. I would probably have to say Judy Hopps’s dad; a rabbit! He has an emotional attachment to his daughter and the idea that you have to support and let her go simultaneously. I think that part of the role here is to actually support everyone as much as you can and encourage them to figure out how they solve their own problems by themselves.

BS: 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?

AM: Well, I have a really dear friend. He is like a bison. Very bull-headed, tenacious and nothing can bring him down. I think my son is a little bit like a cat, very finicky, if you will, and very independent. I have a brother who is like a monkey. A lot of brothers are like monkeys, right?

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

AM: Yeah, hand-drawn animation can have a life provided that the filmmakers have a full energy around it. It is all about the craft if you will and there is nothing that can conclude it from coming back. It would take the vision and the tenacity of the storytellers to embrace it as the means to tell their story.

BS: There seems to be a new trend going on with making live-action versions of Disney animated classics such as ‘Alice In Wonderland’, ‘Jungle Book’, ‘Cinderella’ and many more are in the process. What is your opinion on that?

AM: I am honored that our live action team sees the stories that were told originally in animation are getting new life in a different format. I think it is an indicator of how much these films resonated for people and how relevant they be. So, it is really up to them which ones from the Disney canon would seem to make sense to change into live action but I am actually honored. It is good for Disney and it’s very satisfying and an honor that our films are being embraced that way.

BS: Is there anything you would like to see be re-made into a live-action movie next?

AM: I have not really thought about it much. They are converting the ones I thought they would.

Disney's 'The Jungle Book' in theaters April 15th
Disney's 'The Jungle Book' in theaters April 15th

BS: From what I have seen, there are no reptiles or birds in the movie; it was mammals except for humans and apes. Was there a reason for cutting out other species?

AM: From Byron and Richs’ perspective they just wanted to limit the scope of the world and they had to make a choice and they handled it that way. But you are right, the reptiles and birds are not there. It was just an issue of ‘where do you draw the line?’ Essentially, for the characters it made the most sense for the story.

Featuring no reptiles to be found
Featuring no reptiles to be found

BS: I come from, where there are a lot of fan theories posted. There is one theory that all of the Disney animated films are connected in one shared universe. In Zootopia, it is a parallel universe where animals are anthropomorphic. Where do you see Zootopia in the shared universe?

AM: I think all of the movies are connected from the perspective of really great story-telling; great characters, great worlds and they are films that can earn their place as classics. That is about as far as my theory goes. (Laughs) I think it is going to be another brilliant film in the Disney canon and I am so happy and proud. The film is going to stretch the expectations of what the Disney brand is and what people can get out of a Disney animated film. I think it is stunning visually, I think the technology is very impressive. The character animation is brilliant and the fact that the animators went back and did research and studied animals up-close to infuse the animation. So I think it creates tremendous comedic opportunities. I think the story telling and the plot twists are fantastic. The comedy is awesome. People are going to love it, it’s very relevant and it’s about something. I think it’s a total package and it’s why people go to the cinema to see films like this.

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

Who are the animals in your life? Where do you expect Zootopia to make it's mark in the Disney theory? Make sure to let us know your thoughts below in the comments section!


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