An Inside Look At The Making of Disney’s Zootopia!


Hey All!

I recently had the amazing opportunity to attend a special media day preview for Disney’s upcoming spectacular animated film Zootopia.  In case you didn’t know, Zootopia takes place in a world where the the animals are like humans and they live in modern themed cities that accommodate the species of animal living in them. The films main characters Judy and Nick (a rabbit and a fox) are seen above and they are voiced by the amazing Jason Bateman and Ginnifer Goodwin. This is apparently Jason’s first time voicing a animated character believe it or not. The one and only Shakira also voices a character in the film and she also wrote the special title song for the film called “Try Again”! We got to head over to the temporary location for Disney Animation, to take a look at how the film was made and also see some footage. From what I saw thus far, it looks like it’s going to be one hilarious and sweet film.

I was thrilled to be put in the Bunnies Burrows group. I love bunnies!


I found it beyond hilarious that a new Disney animated classic was being created in a warehouse next to an impound car lot. The folks at Disney think it’s hilarious as well as you can see below. They are temporarily housed in this facility while the animation building on the Disney Studios lot is being renovated.


They essentially turned the warehouse into Disney Animation and it was fantastic.


Zootopia had come alive in the lobby of the building.


They even had a Zootopia art gallery in the lobby.


The gallery was set up like it would be set up for the animals of Zootopia.


I loved seeing the little art gallery for the mouse and small animals along with…


The regular human and large animal sized gallery. It was so much fun to see.


My favorite of all the animals has to be the dancing tigers. I first saw a preview of them at Disney D23 Expo and I’ve been in love with them and the DMV Sloths ever since. I’ll explain about the Sloth’s in a bit.


After a tour of the lobby we went in to see some footage from the film with the filmmakers.


“At its core, ‘Zootopia’ is a buddy movie,” says director Rich Moore. “Judy and Nick—a rabbit and a fox—are natural enemies by definition. So these characters don’t exactly get along at first. They come to the relationship with ideas about each other—beliefs that aren’t informed or accurate.”

According to Howard, the fact that the buddies don’t get along fuels the film’s comedy. “Judy is the eternal optimist who believes anyone can be anything—it’s the city’s motto, after all,” he says. “Nick is the complete opposite. He’s a cynic. He believes we are what we are. So we put this country bumpkin who’s full of vim and vigor in the middle of the big city alongside Nick—the realist—and he gets to have a lot of fun messing with her. But she has a few tricks up her sleeve.”


Filmmakers conceived and built the vast and detailed world of Zootopia, populating it with 50 different species of animals that retain what makes each animal so amazing in the real world, but these animals talk and wear pants.

“The team spent 18 months just researching animals,” says producer Clark Spencer. “We met with animal experts from all over the world, including Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World. We traveled 9,000 miles to Kenya, Africa, for a two-week deep dive into animal personality and behavior. We wanted each species of animal to be real, to feel authentic and to be based on their real behavior.”

They also created what they called “Keep Alive” technology, which is a software that keeps the scenery and details on the characters constantly moving in a natural way so they look more alive. They also spent 9 months to create wind simulation technology for the film. For example, wind blowing through fur or grass.


The footage we saw was fantastic. We got to see the clip we saw at D23 once again which was of a DMV office run by sloths. It was hilarious as everyone can relate to how slow the DMV is. The sloths were the perfect fit for this scene.


After we saw the footage, we moved on to different sessions with the animators and filmmakers. The first was called Story Safari: FROM WORD TO DRAWING TO IMAGE. We sat down with Writer and Co-Director Jared Bush, Writer Phil Johnston, Story Artist Marc Smith and Head of Editorial Fabienne Rawley. We took a look a the unique journey of creating “Zootopia,” from script to story sketches to the editing room.


We then moved on to Anim(al)ation. It was a showcase of how they studied and created the animals in the film. How slow are sloths? How does a giraffe run? How does a tiger dance? The Head of Animation Renato dos Anjos and Animation Supervisors Kira Lehtomaki, Nathan Engelhardt, Jennifer Hager and Chad Sellers, who, along with the talented artists of the animation team, merged animal and human behavior to create the unique and varied performances of the animals of Zootopia.


These are just some of the examples of the humanization and expressions of the characters.


We then took a look at how they created the CHARACTERS and CITIZENS OF ZOOTOPIA. From gnus to shrews, lemmings to leopards, rabbits to rhinos, Zootopia is home to animals of all shapes, sizes, stripes and spots. Creating each character requires the inventiveness of artists throughout the production disciplines – and with over a 1,000 unique animals, the challenges on the Disney Animation team have never been greater. Character Design Supervisor Cory Loftis, Character Look Supervisor Michelle Robinson, Character CG Supervisor Dave Komorowski and Simulation Supervisor Claudia Chung Sanii showed us how Disney character design and appeal merged with revolutionary work in Look and Simulation.


They actually came up with 800,000 variations to each character in the film to give them each their own personality and look.

And last but not least we go to embark on an expedition through the districts of the one-of-a-kind cities of Zootopia. Art Director of Environments Matthias Lechner and Environment Look Supervisor Lance Summers showed us what it took to create a city with habitats so diverse, they accommodate mammals of every size from every climate.


We saw how they created the Sahara Square, Tundra Town, Little Rodentia, Rainforest District, Bunny Burroughs, and more. Inspiration for the cities came from visits by the team to Las Vegas, San Francisco and my home town New York City.


The ritzy Sahara Square is similar to Las Vegas but it’s for desert animals. Tundratown is an arctic paradise for the polar bears and moose. There is a the hot and humid Rain Forest District, Little Rodentia for the the tiniest mice, and Bunnyburrows for the millions and millions of super cute bunnies. The downtown area, Savanna Central, is a melting pot where a wide array of mammals from every environment come together. The worlds they created for each animal in some ways acts as an additional character in the movie. Each location has it’s own unique look and how it functions.


I absolutely loved getting a look at the rodent subway entrance. It was beyond the point of cute to see in action. You can get a preview of the art for it above.

This is just a taste of some of what we learned and saw during our fabulous inside look at Disney’s Zootopia. Stay tuned as we’ll be sharing more fun facts about the film and our thoughts on the film as well once it’s released next year.

ZOOTOPIAopens in theatres everywhere on March 4th, 2016!

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Photos by both Brite & Bubbly and Disney Animation featured in this post.