This week my sons and I enjoyed an advance copy of the Zootopia Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack, available at retailers and for download on Tuesday, June 7th. This is one of the best family films we’ve seen in a very long time, so we were happy to watch it again. With a big family road trip coming up next week, the boys are happy that we can take along the DVD copy to watch in the car. I don’t think we will ever grow tired of the stunning settings, CGI details in the animation, and, of course, Disney’s extra-special style of character development and storytelling.
With a staggering 98% Rotten Tomatoes rating, there is very little that should keep families with elementary school children and older from checking out Zootopia if they didn’t see it in theaters. Heck, you don’t even need children to truly enjoy it, this film has been a bit among adults just the same. While the children are fawning over how cute Judy Hopps is, and how clever Nick Wilde is, there’s an underlying message of kindness and overcoming prejudice that I feel everyone needs to hear. When I saw the movie in theaters last spring, I told myself that I want to be Judy Hopps when I grow up. She’s kind to everyone! She sees the best in everyone! Heck, we all need to be Judy Hopps.
Today I want to share some of the features that will be included with the Blu-ray and Digital HD versions of the film. As always, our family really enjoys these extra features to give a more in-depth look at what went into making a movie as special as Zootopia.
Research: A True-Life Adventure
Our family watched this bonus feature first because we wondered what the Zootopia filmmakers saw when they traveled to Africa to find inspiration for their characters. The short documentary shows how the team started at Disney’s Animal Kingdom’s “Kilimanjaro Safari” tour to see some animals, but it was deemed “not enough” to truly see the animals interacting amongst themselves and among their habitats. So the team was off to Africa where they observed numerous species up close and personal. In Africa, animators and writers alike saw behaviors that were different than what they were planning. For example, they were planning for the wildebeest to have a professional appearance, perhaps serving in roles such as business owners or Wall Street-like workers. In the wild, the filmmakers felt that the wildebeest were too “goofy” for that sort of role, so they were redesigned into a lankier, more casual style. The film developers also gathered data about the behaviors of the animals. Check out Judy and see how much she wiggles her nose and taps her foot (reminding me of Thumper from Bambi) throughout the movie.
In addition, this documentary addressed the sizing of the animals. Unlike other cartoons with personified animals, the team at Zootopia wanted to keep the animals true-to-size among each other. This chart was shown in the documentary as their reference guide. This was a significant animation and film-editing challenge, in that they were wanting to film mice, giraffe, and elephants in scenes together. This wasn’t easy for them, but they ended up pulling it off wonderfully. Consider the scenes where Duke Weaselton (Frozen fans, see what they did there?) and Judy Hopps were in a chase scene together through Little Rodentia (by the way, love the Habitrails!). Also, the scene where Nick Wilde is first introduced shows him attempting to buy an elephant-sized popsicle. His partner Finnick is carrying this HUGE popsicle… which was clearly meant for elephants.
The final thing that made this documentary worth watching was their discussion of how to “arrange” the suburbs of Zootopia. The filmmakers’ first instinct was to put the animals together based on their predator/prey habits, or perhaps by what foods they chose to consume. But upon observing several species together in the wild, they realized that climate zones would be a more appropriate fit. This is why there are areas such as Tundratown, Savannah Central, and Sahara Square. The scene in the film of Judy traveling into downtown Zootopia on the train presented this setup very nicely. Meanwhile, downtown will appear more “melting pot”-like, very similarly to, say, midtown Manhattan or downtown Los Angeles.
The Origin of an Animal Tale
For those who have an interest in answering “How did Disney come up with this storyline?”, The Origin of an Animal Tale is for you! This 9-minute documentary discusses the significant shift the filmmakers took with the central characters, as well as the overall tone of the film itself.
The story had started with Nick Wilde at center stage. This animal world was still going to exist with predators and prey coexisting, but with the predators being outfitted with special apparati that would warn prey of the predators’ emotions. Nick would have to go through life with this apparatus attached to him (it reminded me of an ankle monitor placed on people on house arrest) and over the course of the film, Nick would become increasingly bitter about this lifestyle. The filmmakers said that the tone of the story began to get very bitter and negative: a change was needed.
That’s when writer Phil Johnston (Wreck-It Ralph) was brought in to help with a redirect. They took nearly a year to overhaul the storyline and in so doing, Judy Hopps emerged as the better choice as the main protagonist.
When I discussed this documentary with other GeekDad/GeekMom writers, a pretty good discussion emerged about how successful the film might have been if it had taken the original storyline. If you catch this documentary, let us know what you think in the comments.
If a DVD or Blu-ray ever has a special feature about the soundtrack or the scoring, our family is usually all over it! This was no exception. Scoretopia shows Zootopia fans some of the unique “instruments” that were brought in to provide the whimsical score, from washbasins to oil drums, with this combination of city life and an African safari feel. I’ve personally always been fascinated with those who have a career as a musician that plays for movie scores, and this clip shows some of that in action. It was funny seeing musicians play a piece titled “5M43,” which correlates to Judy’s big revelation about the “night howlers.”
Z.P.D. Forensic Files
Finally, everyone will enjoy the Forensic Files special feature, where they point out the numerous Easter eggs. Here’s a clip about the film’s Hidden Mickeys.
This is just a taste of the special features. Be sure to pick up the Blu-ray or Digital download if you want to check out more cast interviews, deleted scenes, and Shakira’s music video.
If you or your kids are particularly excited about the Zootopia Blu-ray/Digital HD release, here are some activities to keep everyone busy until it comes out.
Help Judy Solve Her Next Case With the Help of Facebook Messenger
Rookie Rabbit Officer Judy Hopps is commandeering Facebook Messenger and seeking your help to solve the Zootopia Police Department’s hottest new case. Volunteers are invited to visit the Zootopia Facebook page* and click on the Message icon, where they can chat with Judy directly and follow a series of clues to help solve the mystery.
*Recommend children have their parents do the Facebooking if they’re under the age of 13.
Full Color Activity Sheets
Zootopia will be available on Blu-ray, Digital HD, and DVD on June 7th. It retails for $39.99 and will be available everywhere movies are sold or downloaded.