Animated movies encountering roadblocks is nothing new.
Sometimes it's nothing in the end, especially when a movie turns into a critical darling and a commercial success. Zootopia is just that, and you'll see very few articles even mention that the film was troubled at times. By contrast, they'll look at a movie that lost money but did get good but not incredible critical reception, like The Good Dinosaur, and concoct a silly answer to the "what went wrong" question, like "it was a troubled production, it was doomed from the start!"
Anyways, Zootopia wasn't much different from something like The Good Dinosaur or How To Train Your Dragon or heck... Tons of Disney animated classics, crown jewel Pinocchio included. Sometimes a good wipeout or two is good for a story, that proverbial kick in the teeth that someone like Walt was thankful for.
Directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore were interviewed by /Film recently, and they revealed quite a few interesting things...
When Howard pitched the film in 2011 after the success of his Tangled (which he directed with Nathan Greno, who is heading up the studio's spring 2018 fairy tale musical Gigantic), he simply had the premise down: A world where there were no humans, only animals who evolved into human-like beings. Robin Hood fleshed out, as I've called it.
A while back we learned that the film was once a spy movie, and once it took place on an island. Now, we know that the original premise centered on a spy jackrabbit named Jack Savage, who left the city of Zootopia to hit the South Seas. A very James Bond-ian story, Savage Seas was a possible title, Howard actually threw around ideas for a "series" of films... Wow!
However, this concept didn't go too far because the studio was more in love with the first act of the whole thing. The first act was set in the city of Zootopia...
If you were following the news on Zootopia since summer 2013, you'll know that it was originally going to be about Nick Wilde, and not Judy Hopps. Nick was to be framed, Judy would be on his tail, and soon the two of them would be embroiled in a conspiracy. The conspiracy elements, thankfully, have been kept in the finished film.
Howard talked about an early, rather strange version of the city-set story...
"Well Nick, he was a very cynical character. He’s the same sort of same Jason Bateman charm, but Nick had grown up in the city and predators in that version of the film were treated very poorly by the prey population that were the majority. And even to the fact that to keep prey animals safe and comfortable, predators had to wear these things called 'tame collars', which made sure that predators if they got too excited or violent at all, it would give them a little shock, a little reminder. And it seemed like this arrangement that they had come to, but it was very in your face. And it was kind of dystopian.
"And Nick had this plan. He created a Speakeasy called 'Wilde Times,' which was a secret predator amusement park where he figured out how to get the collars off and how to let predators enjoy themselves and chase things and kind of go by instinct and just enjoy themselves for the first times in their lives. And it was very interesting and compelling, but it was very dark and people didn’t really like the city. Big surprise."
Rich Moore added to this, revealing some things here and there...
"And there came a point where like Byron said, that we’re not liking Nick anymore. Now he seems sad. Now he seems so oppressed that Jason’s not shining in it. And Ginnifer [Goodwin]'s character seems kind of ignorant. How could this bunny who’s been raised in this method of collaring people, how do you care about her, she was like the Man. It’s like she never questioned like, is this right? That half of our population wears collars. So there was a big moment, kind of a come to Jesus moment of saying like I think we need to try a version without these collars. And maybe we should flip our protagonist and see how it works with Judy as our main character.
"So the discrimination and the oppression and the stereotyping and putting of others in boxes isn’t apparent from screen... That we discover it with Judy as she’s tracking her case. And realizing that it exists in her also. And lo and behold, it’s like that experiment kind of yielded the answer that this is exactly where the story wants to go."
A change for the better indeed, because the earlier dystopian version sounded very on the nose. What I love about Zootopia is how it integrates all of its themes without having to hammer the audience on the head with them, there are all these great, subtle little moments. All these things that add depth and emotion to the story and the world around the characters, particularly a scene towards the end involving a press conference. It's definitely a case of "Thank goodness they didn't go with that!"
Moore went on to talk about how and when he became the film's other director after helping out on the project.
"Because it just started as we said earlier. Everything just kind of bup-up-up-up, you know. Kind of lined right up. And that’s when John [Lasseter] asked me and this was in the fall of 2014. And we had about 16 months."
Moore also noted that he was added to the film when parts of it were in production. Disney officially announced that he was the director of the film alongside Howard in March 2015. Now interestingly enough, and not surprisingly, when asked if he jumped off of a project of his own to direct Zootopia, Mr. Moore said he was indeed working on something... But he didn't say what.
|Fan poster by Al of Pixar Corner|
I've been tracking Wreck-It Ralph 2 for a while. Moore was always gung-ho about making one, even back when the first film was released. Henry Jackman, who composed the film's great score, said in an April 2014 interview that a sequel was being written, John C. Reilly said in an interview that he has signed on to do a sequel, and this past autumn Steve Hulett accidentally let it slip that it was indeed happening. Other reputable sources have commented on the film being a thing. Disney has yet to make a formal announcement confirming the picture's existence.
It's bizarre to me that they haven't, although if the story still needs time and needs kinks ironed out, then it isn't too unusual... But still, you would think that the company would be all about announcing a sequel to a hit of theirs. In March 2015, one particular guy who knows a thing or two about what WDAS is/has been up to said that Wreck-It Ralph 2 at the time was indeed a thing, but not ready to go into production. Now it all seems to line up... This is most likely the project Moore's talking about, and he isn't saying anything because Disney hasn't said anything. I'm sure they have advised him not to do so.
Anyways, interviews tend to leave interesting little bits like that... But I find Zootopia's origins very intriguing. In this case, the changes and eleventh-hour story decisions made for a film that's both a great work of animated cinema and a financial success. Now let's hope the Blu-ray will dive into these very origins, though I doubt they will. Surprise me, Disney Home Entertainment...