Zootopia+ brings fans back to everyone’s favorite metropolis. During the recent press conference, the cast and filmmakers discussed what it was like to return to this world, why they chose the characters they chose, and the challenges they faced working on the six-part series. Duke Weaselton has his very own sequel which is musical in nature so naturally the songwriters are talking about writing this song for Alan Tudyk to perform.
- Bonnie Hunt (voice of Bonnie Hopps, “Hop on Board”)
- Don Lake (voice of Stu Hopps, “Hop on Board”)
- Josie Trinidad (director)
- Trent Correy (Director)
- Nathan Curtis (Producer)
- Elyssa Samsel (songwriter)
- Kate Anderson (songwriter)
What was it like returning to Zootopia?
The filmmakers all agree that working on the film was more difficult than working on the series. The shorts are all so bite-sized and self-contained that they were fun to make and the team could easily go to town with each genre.
Don Lake, the voice of Stu Hopps, says his favorite thing about returning was working with Bonnie again. “We’ve known each other for so long. We are such dear friends that we can finish each other’s sentences. And we don’t have to say anything, we just go that route and we just explore and have fun.” He says he also loved Trent and Josie, and Nathan just gave them the green light to do whatever they wanted in the recording booth. “Have fun, just have fun, explore. And then they throw small grains into it. Have fun with it, nibble on it, and then we’ll just move on. But when you have that freedom, it’s a privilege that we really appreciate and want to make the best of it.” He says it felt like he was there to play, not work, and it was a pleasure .
Bonnie Hunt agrees, saying, “When you work with talent like Nathan, Josie and Trent, you’re just so lucky because you know you have the safety net of good story, good intentions and character quality. In the short titled Hopp on Board, her character Bonnie Hopps is a bit of an action hero, and she says she thinks every parent is an action hero. “I have no children of my own, but 15 nieces and nephews. And if one of the one-year-olds gets too close to the stairs, I’ve seen my sisters morph into action heroes faster than they’ve ever moved.” She says it’s fun to play something intelligent and full of humor , so she was glad to be back.
What were the biggest challenges for Zootopia+?
Producer Nathan Curtis didn’t have to think twice when asked what the team’s biggest challenges were working on Zootopia+. “The hardest part was definitely the seclusion.” They couldn’t be together in person because of the pandemic, which forced them to work on this series mostly via Zoom.
He goes on to explain that of course they would have liked to have been in the recording studio with Bonnie and Don and had more face-to-face work sessions with Kate, Elyssa and Michael. “Our studio is based on being together, we can do everything in one place in this wonderful studio. So the biggest challenge was definitely being physically separated from each other, unfortunately.”
Nathan adds that the second biggest challenge for her is that the movie Zootopia is so good. “How do we make this series just as entertaining? Just as entertaining?” He admits that he thinks they did a great job of bringing it to a level that everyone is happy with. “It’s a lot of fun to romp around in the playground. And I think the artists really enjoyed the opportunity to revisit the world.”
Why these characters?
Each of the six Zootopia+ episodes will run alongside the film. That’s part of what makes them so interesting. They really could have been a part of the original story. So had that ever been considered? Would these stories ever be part of Zootopia? The short answer is no. The focus of the film was always Judy and Nick, and so these shorts were never in the filmmakers’ minds.
Director Josie Trinidad admits, “It was difficult enough to create this main story. The original Zootopia evolved so much. But we knew these were great characters that you would love to see again. And that’s when we knew how amazing this world was because there was a wealth of material for you to explore.” She goes on to say that she loved working on Zootopia+ so much because everyone, the whole crew, was excited to continue the journey and suggested story ideas about all the characters that they should and could follow.
Director Trent Correy adds that for him it was about returning to the locations of Zootopia and not just revisiting the characters. “Little Rodentia, and go back to the areas you saw in the film and say, ‘I want to see more of Mr. Bigg’s house, or I want to see more of the DMV. So it was these questions. This world building is so incredible that I just wanted to go back to that moment.”
Did Alan Tudyk really sing?
Alan Tudyk voices Dike Weaselton, who has an entire short film dedicated to him in Zootopia+. However, this is not just any ordinary story, but a musical. The songwriters attended the press conference and stated that he actually sang the song for their episode – which they confessed were incredibly fun recording sessions. “He’s a comedic genius and blew us away in the recording booth,” says Kate Anderson. “Elyssa worked very closely with him. She took notes in the room he was recording in and he’s a pro. He’s an incredible singer. And he was on Broadway, so we knew he was going to be amazing.”
Elyssa explains that Jose and Trent gave them so much work for this episode that the story was already there. They knew Duke was trying to be a good guy and change his behavior, they just had to figure out how to express it through song and narrow down what that looked like to him. “For him, becoming a good guy isn’t necessarily what we all imagine it would be like. So they just gave us a plethora of hilarious ideas. And the fun part was pulling things from the movie. There’s a small section where he reflects on being a guru, it’s so brief, but it’s inspired by the original film’s Mystic Springs Oasis. We thought about how we could touch on elements that we loved about Zootopia but through the Duke perspective.”
She adds that there is a tongue in cheek in the original Breaking Bad film and that came up a lot when they were creating this story. Duke is a Better Call Saul inspired guy. There’s a part of him that could do good, but he’s overwhelmed by this inner voice that wants to make the system work.
Zootopia+ releases all six short films on Disney+ on November 9th.