Zootopia+ is finally out on Disney+, and expands the world of Zootopia through six short episodes. The show was developed by co-director Trent Correy, who discussed during a virtual press conference, how he pitched it through Disney’s blind pitch program, where anyone who works in the studio can present an idea for submission:
“They opened up a pitch program here at Disney. Anybody in the studio can pitch, and it’s a blind submission. You come up with a story, submit it, and the judges at the round table flip it over. When that submission process happened, I was looking at our movies in the past, and one of my favorite movies that I worked on was Zootopia.
I was an animator. I loved working on it. I animated the sloth, one of my career highlights. And I just thought, “what a rich world to return to.” My favorite characters in Zootopia are Mr. Big [Maurice LaMarche], Duke Weaselton [Alan Tudyk], Stu [Don Lake], and Bonnie Hopps [Bonnie Hunt], and I just wanted to revisit their world. The movie is so great, but you only get little snippets of these characters. And I just thought that there could be more to mine there. Zootopia just seemed like the obvious choice for me. And I was so happy when it made the final rounds and turned into reality.”
Co-director Josie Trinidad praised Correy for having pitched the series and thought his vision for the show was brilliant:
“I’m going to credit Trent Correy for that idea. Because once the series got approved, he pitched it as being interwoven into the movie, which I thought was brilliant. It was kind of a choose-your-own-adventure approach.
That’s all Trent. He came forward with about 10 ideas for various shorts. We then narrowed it down to six episodes. What was great was that Trent also thought there would be different genres. There would be an action-centered episode, one made through the lens of a romantic comedy, a noir/thriller episode, and a heist one.
It was right there from the very beginning. In crafting it, we had a lot of help from our story supervisor, our production designers, and layout and cinematography. They helped us craft it together.”
Actress Bonnie Hunt reprises her role of Bonnie Hopps from the original film in the show’s first episode, “Hopp on Board.” On returning to the world of Zootopia, Hunt described the process as being tons of fun:
“When you’re working with talent like Nathan [Curtis], Josie, and Trent, you’re just so lucky. Because you know you’ve got the safety net of a good story, good intentions, and character quality. I think of every parent as an action hero. I don’t have any children of my own, but I have 15 nieces and nephews. And I’ve seen when the one-year-old gets too close to the top of the steps, I’ve seen my sisters turn into action heroes. They’re moving faster than they’ve ever moved and lifting things they never thought they could ever lift to push things out of the way. I think all parents can relate to it when Molly gets on the train. It’s fun to play someone that’s intelligent, kind, and full of humor. It’s a privilege.”
For actor Don Lake, who reprises his role as Stu Hopps, getting to work with Bonnie again was a privilege and made the experience memorable:
“We’ve known each other for so long. We’re such dear friends that we can finish each other’s sentences, or we certainly know. We know we’re going down this road and don’t have to say anything. We just go down that road, we just explore and have fun. And that’s a built-in relationship that is so cool to explore. I love their relationship. We were so happy when [Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin] became a meter maid instead of a cop. You don’t see that, but it’s so genuine. Every parent, I’m sure, was going, “Thank God. Thank God!” And with Trent, Josie, and Nathan, you get in that room, and they give us the same green light all the time.
“Have fun. Just have fun. Go. Explore. Explore.” And then they’ll throw in little kernels. “Have fun with this, take a nibble of that.” And we’ll just run with it. But when you’re allowed that freedom, it’s a privilege. We certainly appreciate it and want to make the most of it. We’re there to play. It’s not work. Bonnie and I are just having fun. We’re just playing. So it was a treat.”
Elyssa Samsel co-wrote the song “Big Time” with Kate Anderson for the episode “Duke the Musical.” Samsel described the opportunity to do so while working alongside composer Michael Giacchino to be a privilege:
“We had the privilege of co-writing this song, “Big Time,” with Michael Giacchino. When he called and said that there was this opportunity to write a musical number for the character of Duke Weaselton, we were just so bowled over with joy. When we first started writing the song, Michael sent us the first records and a beautiful melody to begin the song.
It is a special day when you get a voice memo from Michael Giacchino with a melody idea of him playing piano and saying, “Let’s turn this into a song, what do you think?” It was just so much fun. We wanted to have Duke be able to rock out, so we chose a Queen-inspired genre, leaning into David Bowie/Starman style. And it works for the character of Duke.”
Anderson talked about the process of coming up with exciting lyrics for the song:
Trent and Josie came to us with no shortage of amazing ideas of how to have Duke go on this crazy journey, where he’s imagining what Big Time would mean for him. Because he is this little small-time crook, we thought it was funny that he would start small with his dreams. Like, “I’ll be a used car salesman.” But all along the way, he’s finding these ways to turn these careers into a little trickster with a very Duke-esque take on these careers.
From there, he would dream of being a lawyer, and he has definitely had his own run-ins with the law. Then a surgeon, but he’d be doing something illegal on the side. Finally, he has this world takeover as he builds this rocket and soars to the moon. But then he gets pulled down by everybody. We had so much fun coming up with the Duke version of all those different career paths. We had a great time working with the whole team to come up with all the jokes and all the visuals that would be going along with that. It became this very Busby Berkeley-inspired thing within this Queen rock style. And it was just a blast.”
For executive producer Nathan Curtis, the show works because it was a collaborative process between everyone involved in the project:
“This production embraced the power of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Collaboration is a huge part of this environment. More importantly, it gives a lot of opportunities to people who may be in other parts of the studio and may not have opportunities. We did have a lot of new leaders on this project. Many returning from the original feature film, as both Trent and Josie know. They were instilled with bringing back the original Zootopia. But we have a lot of new opportunities.
Trent and Josie went out of their way. And I’m going to reiterate a huge F-word that was thrown out a lot today. Trent coined the F-word, which is fun. The series is all about having fun. Because of that, Trent and Josie did an incredible job of not only collaborating but actually empowering artists at our studio to collaborate with each other and bring up new ideas. I think what Bonnie, Don, Kate, and Elyssa mentioned about the idea of fun wasn’t just at this level. It was throughout the entire studio. And this series is just incredible.”
All episodes of Zootopia+ are now available to stream on Disney+.
[Some quotes were edited for length and clarity]