One year ago today, Zootopia reached the astounding landmark of $1 Billion in the box office. In celebration of that, ZNN launched the Ultimate Thank-You Card Project, with the goal of sending the entire Disney Staff a personalized thank-you card from all of us fans.
Well, today I’m here to announce that this project was a HUGE success!
Before I go too much further, let me just give a big thank-you to everybody who has supported us on our Patreon! This project is the first of its kind, and would not have been possible without your kind and generous support! Thank you so much for contributing to ZNN, which allowed us to do something unprecedented like this!
Also, a huge thank you to BlueGuyNow for allowing us to use his image “At Night, Zootopia” as the cover of every card we sent. Your art has now been seen by literally every person who works at Walt Disney Animation Studios. How does that make you feel?
And, while I won’t name any names, I want to express my thanks to the Publicity team at Walt Disney Animation Studios! This would not have been possible were it not for your gracious support and assistance, and I am glad to have been able to work with you on making this project a reality.
So, what ended up happening? I’ll explain in detail after the break!
6 June 2016: The project begins with this celebration of Zootopia grossing 1 Billion dollars! I announce that we’re starting to collect thank you cards by email.
25 June 2016: We set the goal of getting 200 email/cards by the end of July.
21 July 2016: Another reminder that we were still collecting cards and emails, with additional rules and guidelines on how to submit.
30 July 2016: The “final deadline” of August 1st is set, and we announce the creation of the ZNN Patreon.
3 August, 2016: We announce the “final results” of our collection efforts: 103 letters and emails sent in. I say we plan on getting them mailed to Disney by the end of August. This does not end up happening.
3 November, 2016: After about 3 months of hearing nothing about the results of the project, some people started getting a bit antsy, wondering what was going on. A rumor began to spread that we had sent them but Disney had rejected it, and we were covering it up to save face and keep people from feeling bad. I dispelled those rumors, making it clear that the lack of communication was my fault, and that the project had basically stalled out for a while.
18 February, 2017: Another 3 months later, we were getting close to the 1-year anniversary of Zootopia’s release. Around this time, I tried to arrange an interview with Byron Howard and Rich Moore. While I stumbled my way though the corporate chain of command trying to find out who I actually needed to talk to about this (I’m still just a hobbyist reporter, after all), I was able to talk with one of the secretaries who had been working at Disney during Zootopia’s production. I thanked her sincerely for her contributions to the film, and she seemed genuinely touched by the sentiment. That made me realize just how rare it was for the little people behind the scenes to get recognition for the work they did. All the fame and glory goes to the stars and directors and leaders, but there are countless unsung heroes in the film industry that make the movies we love possible. Eventually, I was able to get in contact with the WDAS Publicity team, and told them my plans for the thank-you card project. They were completely on board with helping us do this, and with new motivation, the project began anew.
There were a couple of differences this time. ZNN had become bigger, more popular, and much more organized, so we were able to actually do it right this time around. For starters, we decided to make the cards into postcards, with an image on the front and a message on the back. To allow some degree of uniformity (and make sure all of your messages fit on a postcard) we opened up a Google Form, which fed your responses into a spreadsheet.
25 February, 2017: As part of our reminder to watch the Oscars, we also gave a reminder to submit your cards to the google form we had set up, since we would be closing the submissions at the end of February.
In Total, we collected 203 unique thank-you messages from all of you, which was, frankly astonishing. Thank you all so much for that!
Now began the work of getting the cards printed and mailed.
After making a list of every person who worked on Zootopia (a total of 942 individuals) I hired Curry Printing
, a local paper and print company, to print all of the cards. They were to have the “At Night Zootopia” image on one side, and the individual thank-you note from one of you on the other. I made certain to spread the cards out among the different departments, so that no two people in the same department would get the same card. Thanks to our supporters on Patreon, we had enough money saved up in our Paypal account (which had been left entirely untouched while we were preparing this) to afford to get 1000 cards printed
on high-quality paper, cut precisely, with each of the 200+ messages printed clearly and cleanly.
I have to say, they did an absolutely stellar job.
I also bought 1000 envelopes from the printers, which they had in the perfect size to fit these cards. At this point, the project had cost over $600, but thanks to our patrons we could afford that. I thought it was pretty much ready at this point.
I was wrong. Call me a perfectionist, but I didn’t just want to mail a bunch of blank envelopes and say “Have at it” to the entire cast and crew. I wanted it to feel personal. So, I hired my sister, my mom, and a few other people I know who have very good handwriting (mine is terrible) to write the names of each person who contributed to the movie on each envelope. Once I had ensured all of the envelopes contained a card, we sealed them and organized them by department, as seen in the end-of-movie credits.
I think they ended up looking pretty classy, if I do say so myself. Nothing but the best for people who brought us a movie that means so much to us, after all.
29 March, 2017: With all the names hand-written, sealed, and organized by department, I packed them all into a single box and shipped it to Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, California. Two days later, they arrived at the studio.
I have since heard from the Publicity team at Disney that, while it took a little while for them to distribute the cards to every single member of the staff, everybody has gotten a card. They were unable to send us any photos of people receiving the cards (gotta keep what happens in WDAS under wraps after all), but they assured us that the staff has absolutely loved them, and are so thankful to all of us fans for the continued support and love of the movie they spent up to 5 years of their lives working on.
And so, the Ultimate Thank-You Card Project comes to a close. We, the Zootopia Fandom, have done something that has (to my knowledge) NEVER been done in Hollywood- we thanked every single member of the cast and crew who worked on a movie we love, all the way down to the legal department, security officers, and caffination. These people have likely been working in the film industry for years, but never gotten any fan recognition for all of their hard work. But we remember that they ALL played a role in Zootopia’s creation, and we are so thankful to all of them.
So, to wrap up a year of work and dedication, I would like to thank everyone who sent in a card for the love and support you have given to the entire Disney team. You’re all fantastic, as are they. And remember, as always…