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ZOOTOPIA animation interview with Renato dos Anjos & Chad Sellers

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A group of individuals posing for a photo in a conference room with 'Zootopia animation' displayed on screens in the background.

Animation is always one of my favorite things to learn about when interviewing crew about a movie. I am always blown away by the amount of work it takes to make each different character. While in Los Angeles for the Zootopia Bluray Event, we had the opportunity to interview Zootopia Head of Animation Renato Anjos and Animation Supervisor Chad Sellers. They gave a great presentation showing the behind the scenes of making Zootopia. Here are some of the fun facts that I learned from this interview.

  • Each species has different mechanics. They all move in their own individual way so each animal has to be set up different and individually. With 64 different species of animals, you could imagine how much work that would be.
  •  As with all aspects of making an animated film, the animators spend a lot of time in research before making the movie. In Zootopia, it is important that they study the behavior of each different animal because they are all different. In making this film, they met with animal specialists, visited animal preserves and also had animals brought into the studio. They laughed about how at meetings people would bring their bunnies and they would just sit on the table while they worked.An animated lion character in a suit stands at a podium with a police academy banner in the background, conveying charisma.
  • One of their main goals in studying real animals is to make it as realistic as possible. They didn't want to copy the look of past movies and wanted to make it their own.
  • Renato Anjos had the opportunity to travel to Africa with other members of the creative team. His complete perspective changed from this trip when seeing the animals move freely.
  • One challenge that they came across was making animals feel real even though they are walking on two legs. Even in movement they wanted the characteristics of the animal to shine through even if they were only on two legs.
  • They worked hard to make sure the scale of each animal was correct. Even the scale of the cloth the animal was wearing was in scale of the animals size.Animated fox and rabbit in conversation on a city street corner.
  • When asked which was the most challenging character to make, the said Nick was the hardest. They had a hard time being true to his natural behaviors. When trying to add human actions to his character often they would lose the animal characteristics. They had to work hard to give him human actions while staying true to the animal behavior.
  • Weasel was one of the easier characters that they had to create. Because they are more flexible they found that they were able to push the movement further.
  • One trick they used in making this movie was making sure that the animals responded like animals. For example, humans bring food to their mouth and animals move their head to the food. So even though, they were using human actions, they would do them in an animal way.
  • In making an animated character, you have to animate the whole body even if you can't see the whole body on screen. If you only animated the top half then it wont look like it is moving naturally because the legs weren't animated.
  • They used specific animal characteristics to make each character more believable. For example, the bears scratch their back on trees like they would in wild and the Buffalo has an intense gaze.
  • Fun fact: Hidden Mickey Alert-  If you look on the right cheek of the Cheetah you will find a hidden mickey!

YouTube video

This amazing trip to Los Angeles was hosted by Disney. All opinions are my own. Disney’s Zootopia will be available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD June 7th, 2016.



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