Zootopia+ brings fans back to everyone’s favorite metropolis. During the recent press conference, the cast and filmmakers discuss what it was like coming back to this world, why they chose the characters they did, and the challenges they had to overcome when working on the six-part series. Duke Weaselton has his very own episode, which is a musical in nature, so of course, the songwriters talk about writing that song for Alan Tudyk to perform.
Bonnie Hunt (voice of Bonnie Hopps, “Hopp on Board”)
Don Lake (voice of Stu Hopps, “Hopp on Board”)
Josie Trinidad (Director)
Trent Correy (Director)
Nathan Curtis (Producer)
Elyssa Samsel (songwriter)
Kate Anderson (songwriter)
What Was It Like Coming Back To Zootopia?
The filmmakers all agree that it felt like working on the film was harder than the series. The shorts are all so bite-sized and self-contained that they were fun to make, and the team could just go to town with each genre.
Don Lake, the voice of Stu Hopps, says that his favorite thing about coming back was getting to work with Bonnie again. “We’ve known each other for so long. We’re such a dear friends that we can finish each other sentences. And we don’t have to say anything, we just go down that road, and we just explore and have fun.” He says he also loved that Trent and Josie, and Nathan just gave them a green light to do whatever they wanted to in the recording booth. “Have fun, just have fun, go explore. And then they’ll throw in little kernels. Have fun with this, take a nibble at that, and then we’ll just run with it. But when you’re allowed that freedom, it’s a privilege, and we certainly appreciate it and want to make the most of it.” He says it felt like he was there to play, not work, and that it was a treat.
Bonnie Hunt agrees, saying, “When you’re working with talent like Nathan, Josie, and Trent you’re just so lucky because you know that you’ve got the safety net of good story, good intentions, and quality of character.” In the short titled Hopp on Board, her character Bonnie Hopps is a bit of an action hero, and she says that she thinks every parent is an action hero. “I don’t have any of my own children, but I have 15 nieces and nephews. And if one of the one-year-olds gets too close to the top of the steps, I’ve seen my sisters turn into action heroes faster than they’ve ever moved.” She says it’s fun to play something that is intelligent and full of humor, so she was happy to be back.
What Were The Biggest Challenges For Zootopia+?
Producer Nathan Curtis did not have to think twice when asked about what they biggest challenges were that the team faced while working on Zootopia+. “Definitely the hardest part was the remoteness of it.” They couldn’t be together in person because of the pandemic, which forced them to work on this series over Zoom for the most part.
He goes on to explain that of course they would have loved to have been with Bonnie and Don in the recording studio together and to have had more working sessions in person with Kate, Elyssa and Michael. “Our studio is founded on being together, we can do everything in this wonderful studio all in one place. So definitely the largest challenge was actually, unfortunately, being separated physically from each other.”
Nathan adds that the second biggest challenge for them is that the movie Zootopia is so good. “How do we make this series equally as enjoyable? Equally as entertaining?” He admits he thinks they did an amazing job bringing to a level that everyone is happy with. “It’s a lot of fun playing around in the playground. And I think the artists really enjoyed the opportunity to revisit the world.”
Why These Characters?
Each of the six Zootopia+ episodes runs parallel to the film. That is a part of what makes them so interesting. They truly could have been a part of the original story. So was that ever up for consideration? Were these stories ever going to be a part of Zootopia? The short answer is no. The focus of the film was always on Judy and Nick, and so these shorts were never even in the minds of the filmmakers.
Director Josie Trinidad confesses, “It was difficult enough to craft that main story. The original Zootopia evolved so much. But we knew these were great characters that you would want to see again. And that’s when we knew how amazing these this world was, because there was a wealth of material that you wanted to explore.” She goes on to say that she loved working on Zootopia+ so much because everyone, the entire crew, was excited to continue the journey and were pitching ideas for stories on all of the characters they should and could follow.
Director Trent Correy adds that for him, it was going back to the places of Zootopia, and not just revisiting the characters. “Little Rodentia, and going back to those areas you saw in the film, saying, I want to see more of Mr. Biggs house, or I want to see more of the DMV. So it was those questions. That world-building is so incredible, it was just wanting to go back to that moment.”
Did Alan Tudyk Really Sing?
Alan Tudyk voices Dike Weaselton, who has a whole short dedicated to him in Zootopia+. This isn’t just any regular story though, it is a musical. The songwriters joined in on the press conference and explained that he actually sang the song for their episode — which they confessed were incredibly fun recording sessions. “He is a comedic genius, and he had us bowled over in the recording booth,” says Kate Anderson. “Elyssa worked with him really closely. She was plunking out notes in the room where he was recording, and he is a pro. He’s an incredible singer. And he’s been on Broadway, so we knew he would be incredible.”
Elyssa explains that Jose and Trent gave them so much to work with for this episode, that the story was already there. They knew Duke was trying to be a good guy and change his ways, they just needed to figure out how to express it through song and narrow down what that looks like for him. “For him becoming a good guy isn’t necessarily what we all think changing your path would look like. So they handed us just a bounty of hilarious ideas. And the fun part was getting to pull things from the movie. There’s a little section where he’s thinking about being a guru, it’s so short, but it’s inspired by the Mystic Springs Oasis of the original movie. We thought of ways that we could touch upon elements that we loved from Zootopia, but through the Duke perspective.”
She adds that there is a wink in the original movie at Breaking Bad, and that came up a lot while they were creating this story. Duke is a Better Call Saul-inspired guy. There is a part of him that could do good, but it is overpowered by this inner voice that wants to work the system.
Zootopia+ drops all six shorts on Disney+ on November 9th.
Tessa Smith AKA Mama's Geeky, is a journalist that covers geek and Disney culture on her own website, as well as freelances for other sites such as What's On Disney Plus and Screen Rant. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in Marketing and loves all things geeky. She is a Disney Vacation Club member and a Founders Circle Member of Disney+. She is also an approved critic for Rotten Tomatoes and a member of the Critics Choice Association. Tessa lives in Upstate New York with her husband, two daughters, and two dogs named Sansa and Khaleesi.