It’s only a few more days until ZOOTOPIA comes to Blu-Ray and DVD on June 7th. To learn about the amazing animation that brings Zootopia to life, I had a chance to visit with Head of Animation Renato dos Anjos and Animation Supervisor Chad Sellers.
The animation of the film is filled with complexities that bring Zootopia to life. The number of details is staggering with everything from the ground-breaking technology used to create the characters’ fur and clothing to the details of creating the very different environments (i.e. Tundratown and the Rainforest District) where the animals of Zootopia live.
Zootopia features 64 unique animal species, which presented a big challenge for the animators. Renato said, “When you’re working on a film animating humans, what we learn on one person is similar to what we do to another person. It makes your life easiser as you go. But Zootopia has so many different varieties of species that it made it very difficult for us. You can never really apply what you learned from a mouse to an elephant, for instance.” Chad noted that when animators create humans, they often keep a mirror near them when working so they can see the way their face moves and incorporate that into their work. You can’t do the same for animals!
Since they couldn’t rely on mirrors to study animals, the animation team relied on research. The team first visited an animal rescue center where they were able to see animals up close and study the way they look, move and act. They also went on a research trip to Kenya with the rest of the leadership of the film. Renato said that visiting Kenya changed a lot of his perception of what the movie could be and what he learned there was incorporated into their work going forward.
One of the big challenges in creating the characters of Zootopia was to make sure that these animals who were wearing clothes and walking on two legs instead of four still retain the characteristics that make them their own unique species. There are certain characteristics that make animals animals. For instance, a moose doesn’t bring his food to his mouth, he moves his mouth to the food. So, when you see a moose holding an ice pop in Zootopia, even though he is standing on two feet and holding the ice pop in his hoof, he lowers his head to the ice pop to eat it. Nick was the most difficult character to make sure he didn’t look/move like a person because he doesn’t have exaggerated proportions – they are very similar to the human body. So, they did things like keeping his elbows close to his body, the way a canine would, and making sure they retained his back in an S-curve.
If you find all of this background information fascinating, like I do, there will be lots more of it to discover in the bonus features on the ZOOTOPIA BluRay !