zootopia concept art tame collar

Peter: And we talked a little bit about how Jason Bateman’s character Nick Wilde was originally the lead character. How did it work at that point in the story?

Byron: Well Nick, he was a very cynical character. He’s the same sort of same Jason Bateman charm, but Nick had grown up in the city and predators in that version of the film were treated very poorly by the prey population that were the majority. And even to the fact that to keep prey animals safe and comfortable, predators had to wear these things called “tame collars”, which made sure that predators if they got too excited or violent at all, it would give them a little shock, a little reminder. And it seemed like this arrangement that they had come to, but it was very in your face. And it was kind of dystopian. And Nick had this plan. He created a Speakeasy called “Wilde Times,” which was a secret predator amusement park where he figured out how to get the collars off and how to let predators enjoy themselves and chase things and kind of go by instinct and just enjoy themselves for the first times in their lives. And it was very interesting and compelling, but it was very dark and people didn’t really like the city. Big surprise. But we figured out very early on that if people were gonna love the movie–

Rich: We like Nick, but we don’t like Sun City.

Byron Howard and Rich Moore

Peter: So when did you get injected into the development of this film?

Rich: Well I had been with the project as a member of the story trust. Like fairly early on.

Byron: Yeah, you were there early.

Rich: And was involved in kind of pitches and just–

Peter: That’s kind of like the Pixar brain trust?

Rich: Yeah, right, the brain trust, you know, but not as brain, not as smart. We’re the story trust. We like stories. We don’t got them big brains like up in Emeryville. So I had been kind of running alongside of it from pretty early on.

Byron: He’d heard the spy pitches.

Rich: Yeah, the spy and well that’s cool and then the whole thing with the collars. It was our job as being a support staff in the story trust is to try and help the director realize his or her vision, you know. Never try to kind of say well, what if it’s about this instead? It’s like we’re always there to try and kind of make what the director is thinking kind of come to fruition. And this one was tough. It was pretty hard. And there came a point where like Byron said, that we’re not liking Nick anymore. Now he seems sad. Now he seems so oppressed the Jason’s not shining in it. And Ginnifer [Goodwin]‘s character seems kind of ignorant. How could this bunny who’s been raised in this method of collaring people, how do you care about her, she was like the Man. It’s like she never questioned like, is this right? That half of our population wears collars. So there was a big moment kind of a come to Jesus moment of saying like I think we need to try a version without these collars. And maybe we should flip our protagonist and see how it works with Judy as our main character. So the discrimination and the oppression and the stereotyping and putting of others in boxes isn’t apparent from screen or from frame one of the thing. That we discover it with Judy as she’s tracking her case. And realizing that it exists in her also. And lo and behold, it’s like that experiment kind of yielded the answer that this is exactly where the story wants to go. Because it just started as we said earlier. Everything just kind of bup-up-up-up, you know. Kind of lined right up. And that’s when John asked me and this was in the fall of 2014. And we had about 16 months.

Peter: Is that early enough into the development to make those kind of changes?

Rich: Well no, it wasn’t that early. We still had about a year and a few months to make all these changes.

Byron: It’s late in the film’s life to make changes like that.

Rich: In the film’s life it was late. Because parts of it were already in production. So but John said, will you jump on board since you know the movie intimately? Will you jump on and you have a sense of what the task is? Will you jump on?

Peter: Were you working on your own project?

Rich: I was yeah. I was. And I said, absolutely, because that’s what we do at the studio. That’s if it’s all hands on deck, we put down what we’re doing and come to be to the service of the movie that’s kind of next in the line. And it was if for nothing else just that we had a finite amount of time and a lot of work to do. And it was not a one person job. It was a two person job. Just to make it on time.

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