Story Safari: From Word to Drawing to Image
At Walt Disney Animation Studios, story is the king of the jungle. Writer and Co-Director Jared Bush, Writer Phil Johnston, Co-Head of Story Josie Trinidad, and Head of Editorial Fabienne Rawley took us on the unique journey of creating Zootopia, from script to story sketches to the editing room. On a recent press trip, they shared with us the magic of the process from creating characters in their minds to putting them to paper to turning them into animations.
You Start with the main characters
They start with who are the main characters, and build a story around that. They work out a story, and work out the characters.
Zootopia had about 700 drafts
What constitutes a draft? Well, some would say that if even one word changes and you hit save, that is technically a new draft.
The movie is never actually finished
Nope. The writers told us the movie is never actually finished, they producers just tell them when we have to stop tweaking it.
Sometimes artists want to work on pieces of the story because they can relate to them
Josie the co-head of story said, “I have to storyboard this sequence,” when referring to a sequence when Judy goes back to her tenement-style apartment after her first day on the job. She said, “I can see where Hopps is coming from; it’s the exact same thing as when I first went to New York.”
Sometimes they can spend months working to perfect a scene and realize that wasn’t the problem child
The spent months on the scene after this apartment, and realized it wasn’t the scene after this, it was this scene. The forces of antagonism were all wrong, but they didn’t see it.
You can’t be married to a piece of material
As artists, you fall in love with a character, but if that character isn’t serving the purpose of telling the story, you toss it away. With Judy, they wanted her to be less like a little girl and less passive and more driving the action. Something as small as her deciding if she’s going to pick up the phone and answer it rather than dialing. If it doesn’t fit you may toss it.
You have to be open to cutting scenes and even if you’ve fallen in love with characters and scenes, you have to be open to changes based on the feedback.
Sometimes things that get thrown out really early on get pulled back in. But 90% of it just is not going to be part of the movie.
Usually the story tells you what needs to be cut; it’s usually obvious. The story and characters tell you what should be in the movie and what shouldn’t be, but sometimes it’s majority rules.
Over 500 people have worked on the film
From the start of working on the film in September 2011, about 550 people have worked on the film in some capacity or another.
ZOOTOPIA Trailer featuring Shakira’s “Try Everything”
Watch the music video for Shakira’s “Try Everything”
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Zootopia” opens in U.S. theaters on March 4, 2016.
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