Finding Nemo

The Exact Opposite Problem of Finding Nemo

Interestingly, this is the exact opposite of the problem that Stanton encountered on Finding Nemo almost 13 years ago.

On Nemo, for three and a half years that entire prologue of him losing his wife and family was actually doled out as flashbacks through the whole movie, and then the real tragedy was exposed at the time of the fishing net. And you never related to Marlin. Everybody always thought he was too whiny and too needy. And then the minute we put it all to the front and didn’t change a line of his, everybody sympathized with him. That’s what made it so daring to put such a tragedy up front, because it helped the whole movie. So to suddenly discover in an ironic way that we had the opposite problem. It gave me such a sense of piece because it was like the inverse of the other movie. But that only came out of pressure from, it still wasn’t working 100% when Disney watched it.

Stanton says the special thanks to Moore and Reardon is deserved because he “had a little bit more interaction with them as far as getting help.”

And I helped them a bit on Zootopia, too. So it’s a very mutual…

zootopia concept art tame collar

How Andrew Stanton’s Note Helped Fix Zootopia

In fact, Stanton may be responsible for one of the biggest changes in Zootopia. As you probably know from our extensive coverage, Jason Bateman‘s character Nick Wilde was originally the protagonist of the film. The film wasn’t working and they decided to swap the lead to Ginnifer Goodwin‘s character Judy Hopps a year and a half before the film’s release, which in animation time is near last-minute. That huge change was the result of a suggestion from Pixar brain trust member and Finding Dory director Andrew Stanton. Zootopia co-director Byron Howard previously told my colleague Bill Desowitz how it went down:

We got a great note from Andrew Stanton. Because you’re introducing the film through Nick’s cynicism, he doesn’t like the city and I as an audience member can’t root for the city. I don’t like the city and want Nick to escape from it rather than see it healed. And we figured out if the movie’s about bias, then that needs to come from from Judy, and let Nick bring that to her attention through their character interaction. It was a massive shift. We really had to tear the movie apart, but it made things so much cleaner. I think that’s why we do so many buddy comedies in animation. To watch characters change each other and become more whole as a pair is really rewarding. Judy’s eternal optimism becomes a flaw, which she’s forced to own up to.

I am obsessed with the development process of great stories and these kind of details. It’s interesting to hear how these great movies might have almost been something very different, and how last-minute insights were able to course-correct the films into what we know and love today.

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