You read that title right! ZNN managed to get an exclusive interview with Byron Howard in honor of our One-Year Anniversary! Before we begin, I have to give a huge thank you to Byron for taking some of his time to answer our questions! We asked them to Rich Moore as well, but he is super busy Breaking the Internet. Keep up the awesome work, Rich! We’re all looking forward to it!
This interview was conducted via email, so we have full, written responses for your enjoyment! We ask about his reactions to Zootopia’s whirlwind success, what’s surprised him, and even some worldbuilding trivia you all want to know!
Byron: Honestly, we hoped it would be huge, though you never know with these things. As we were creating the world, Zootopia looked to have a ton going for it: the worlds within worlds of the many districts, contemporary parallels to our day to day human life, the natural fascination humans have with the animals, and humor. Animal puns with no end. We certainly loved what everyone around us was creating as the film came together, we hoped that audiences would feel the same way once the film came out.
A lot of people have asked about our reaction to the film’s box office. When we saw Zootopia hit one billion at the box office, to us that meant that millions of people had gone out to see the film, and even nicer, that many of those people were going back to see the film multiple times. It made us feel terrific. Plus, they gave us a cake when we hit a billion. We love cake.
As far as the awards go, they were a really wonderful way to wrap up our long, long journey on Zootopia. Years of research trips, story discussions, years of stunning art and design by unbelievably talented artists, and a lot of blood sweat and tears form our wonderful production team. The nicest thing about that positive critical recptiont was that it told us that the film’s message had landed with lots of people around the world.
Everyone worked so hard to make this film work so we hope everyone who touched the film feels like those awards belong to each of them. We are ridiculously fortunate to do this kind of thing day to day. I still can’t believe we get paid to do this cool stuff.
That first version of Zootopia was really compelling because of how bold the shock collar idea was, but it did create a lot of problems for us in that people generally didn’t like the city that we wanted them to love, and it also made the film feel somewhat dated, like a film that would’ve been made in the civil rights era versus one that has been made for a contemporary audience. Working with our expert on bias and discrimination, Dr. Shakti Butler, for many years on the film was a real education for us. Dr. Butler would often point out that the most dangerous bias is often the most subtle. That’s a lot of what we’re seeing today in our own world, and as soon as we changed the movie to talk about subtle bias and the dangers that it presents for people who think that bias is a thing of the past, then the message really starting to feel more useful for today’s audiences. So ultimately, the version that made it to the screen was the right version for the time that we live in.
- What’s Finnick’s REAL name? It’s never actually mentioned in the movie.
- Judy is one of the few Disney protagonists with both parents alive and well, but what happened to Nick’s family? Are they still around somewhere?
- Why is a Jumbo Pop so expensive? Do prices of food items scale with size?