What Disney’s ‘Zootopia’ isn’t showing you in the marketing

12.01.15 1 year ago

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Jessica Jones isn”t the only new noir story under the House of Mouse roof. Disney”s upcoming animated movie “Zootopia” will also delve into the noir genre.

The movie follows bunny Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin), who leaves her quaint suburb and moves to mammal metropolis Zootopia to follow her dream of becoming a police officer in the big city. She”s the odd one out on the police force, a squad of hardened buffalos, elephants, hippos and rhinos.

Much to her chagrin, Judy is relegated to meter maid duty, but she has the chance to prove herself when she”s given a tough case that she must solve in 48 hours, leading her into the dark crime world of Zootopia. At her side is con-artist fox Nick Wilde, voiced by Jason Bateman.

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That storyline developed in part out of a love of the noir genre that co-directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore share. The duo comes to the project with experience directing Disney”s “Tangled” and “Wreck-It Ralph,” respectively.

“There”s something about that kind of chemistry where you take very appealing, sunny-looking characters and you put them in this dark, intriguing world that is really fun,” Howard told HitFix. Once the audience has been introduced to the bright and bustling world that is Zootopia, both they and Judy discover “some shadowy stuff that happens in the second and third act,” Howard continued.

Moore pointed out that it”s a similar experience to watching the sweet and innocent Pinocchio find himself in harrowing situations on the creepy and nightmarish Pleasure Island.

“We”re joining a long legacy of scaring people,” Moore said with a laugh.

The images and marketing materials released so far have not revealed the seedy corners of the city of Zootopia. But earlier this fall HitFix and other press got a glimpse at some footage from the film, including a scene revealing the metropolis” most feared criminal: Mr. Big. When Judy and Nick are taken to his house in Tundratown (concept art of that neighborhood is below) by giant and gruff polar bears, we assume we”re about to meet the biggest and scariest mafioso polar bear of them all as soon as Mr. Big shows himself. It turns out he”s a little shrew – but plenty intimidating, and Disney”s got their humorous nod to “The Godfather” down with Mr. Big”s Marlon Brando-esque voice.

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Howard also told HitFix that the movie features a scene in an asylum in the rainforest.

But before the project went in the direction of noir, it was an espionage movie.

When writer and co-director Jared Bush came aboard the project about four and half years ago, the film – not yet titled “Zootopia” – was a spy movie that took place on an island.

Bush”s father is in the CIA – he turned out to be very helpful to the research process, telling the filmmakers what stories he could from his experience, much of which is classified.

Even though the filmmakers eventually landed on Judy”s noir-inspired tale, they still found ways to use what they”d learned from Bush”s father.

“As we talked about police enforcement and intelligence procedures and stuff, it was really handy,” Howard said.

“Zootopia” opens in theaters on March 4, 2016. Among the other members of the voice cast are Idris Elba, Bonnie Hunt, J.K. Simmons, Octavia Spencer, Alan Tudyk and Jenny Slate.

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