Byron Howard and Rich Moore: “Zootopia is a metaphor for today’s United States”

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Byron Howard and Rich Moore: "Zootopia is a metaphor for today's United States"

Directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore tell us about their animated film.

To the left, Rich Mooreto the right, Byron Howard. Rich the rabbit and Byron the fox, the directors of zootopiaget along like thieves at the fair and put on a show on the stage of the Annecy Animation Festival in June 2015. And it was not just window dressing: zootopia, to be seen again this evening on M6, was welcomed as a great vintage! We had the chance to meet face to face the duo Rich and Byron; the first has already turned Wreck-It Ralph and the second co-signed Rapunzel.

Zootopia is a future classic [critique]

You landed on stage disguised as a rabbit and a fox. Disney forced you?

Rich: No, it was our idea. Byron bought the costumes on Amazon, we received them the day before the presentation. We had asked Disney to lend us costumes but they only had a pig and a rooster in stock. Go find out why.
Byron: We’ll keep them for later, Zootopia 2: The Farm.
Rich: We’re kidding but we were so hot down there.

All kidding aside, there are only mammals in zootopia. Why ?

Byron: We thought about it. We spent a year of research making sketches in all directions, we have a hundred different species in the final film.
Rich: We had to choose. We stayed on a prey/predator dynamic, and mammals offered the most possibilities…
Byron: You didn’t notice that we also chose to remove the monkeys from the film. They are already too close to us. It wouldn’t have been fun. And then, we only had 90 minutes of film. We can’t put all the animals.
Rich: In fact, we are convinced that the film should not be smothered with explanations. The narrative must be its own justification. No need to piss off the viewer with background, to tell why animals rule the Earth, etc.
Byron: It’s very, very difficult to keep it simple. There is always the temptation to over-explain things. At Disney the goal is to cut, to simplify. Be straightforward. Trust the public and its intelligence.

With all the animals at your disposal, you have chosen a fox and a rabbit. Why ?

Rich: Good question. Already because they are natural enemies. It immediately gives a dynamic to the story: two enemies forced to collaborate, to become friends as the film progresses. Then choosing a rabbit who wants to become a cop, who wants to go beyond his natural condition as a nice herbivore, provides another dynamic. It takes us into a thriller plot…
Byron: The other reason is a question of scale. In zootopia animals range from elephant to mouse. The fox can threaten rodents but finds itself crushed by many other predators. He’s a balanced character.
Rich: Finally, the fox is a great archetype. The hustler, the deceiver, the trickster…

And basically, the movie is a buddy movie.

Byron: Absolutely. We are big, big fans of 80’s buddy movies. Lethal Weapon, 48 Hours, A Chair for Two… We find that mainstream animation does not try enough to reproduce this kind of story that is both more adult and cooler.
Rich: We wanted to make a thriller buddy movie. Which basically speaks of a struggle for power, for control. At the end, zootopia even becomes dark and serious.
Byron: It resonates with our world, obviously. It’s about social categories and class conflict.
Rich: Predator and prey living together: that’s a good metaphor for the United States. Just watch the news.

Interview Sylvester Picard

Trailer of zootopia :

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