I’ve had the good fortune to meet a handful of people that work in various capacities for the Walt Disney Company. I could never quite put my finger on what they had in common – but it was clear to me that they shared a certain something. This week I had the privilege of meeting Lance Summers, Environment Look Supervisor for the new Walt Disney Motion Picture – ZOOTOPIA.
And as Mr. Summers excitedly talked about his role in bringing the film ZOOTOPIA to the big screen, I saw that familiar something! It was a twinkle in his eye as he talked about his passion for his work, and his genuine excitement over bringing the story of ZOOTOPIA to life!
ZOOTOPIA is a modern mammal metropolis, made up of very different animal neighborhoods. And like many human cities – it’s a colorful melting pot for lots of different personalities. And it’s also a beacon for those that have a dream! That’s the case for rookie officer Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin), when she realizes that being the first bunny on the police force isn’t an easy trail to blaze! But Judy Hopps is determined to prove herself, and she teams up with a quick talking scam-artist fox – Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman) in hopes of solving a mystery.
Even though the partnership between Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde is unexpected – they work together to crack a case!
The 55th animated feature from Walt Disney Animation Studios – ZOOTOPIA is a vibrant feast for the eyes. Disney animators have made the multiple animal habitat neighborhoods like the ritzy Sahara Square, and frigid Tundratown unique and lifelike. Summers told journalists that each environment was thought through with care. Animators asked themselves how does sand look in this world? What about snow? Animators spent time with an expert from NASA, being inspired by Las Vegas as a desert city, observing the way a cheetah races – all in service to the story.
Hearing Lance Summers talk about the painstaking research and development that goes into an animated feature like ZOOTOPIA, really brings home what pieces of art these films are – in addition to wonderful sweeping stories.
Take a look at the clip below, it’s one of Lance Summers favorite sequences in the film!
Judy Hopps takes a train ride through the city, and even though many of the scenes she passes are seen only for a second before she whizzes by – each was crafted by Disney Animators with the same attention and care as scenes that last 10x as long!
Mr. Summers is currently touring Universities across the country, talking to aspiring college artists about what it takes to bring a Disney Animated Feature to the screen. When I asked him what advice he gives graduates looking for job in a world of animation, with it’s ever changing technology, Mr. Summers paused thoughtfully before answering. Then smiling, he said he would advise would be animators to absolutely “focus on your art first. But then, keep up on your math skills, your computer coding, even your knowledge of physics.” It all matters. And if you have strong skills there – you can always learn the newest technology!
ZOOTOPIA opens in the U.S. on March 4, 2016.
ZOOTOPIA Directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore both have Oscar® nominated films. Howard with Disney’s 2008 feature “Bolt,” and Moore who directed 2012’s “Wreck-It-Ralph.” Also adding to the mix is International superstar Shakira, who is singing the films empowering new original song, “Try Everything.”
I couldn’t be more excited about taking my daughter to see ZOOTOPIA this March. I’m excited to experience the artistry of so many animators like Lance Summers, all passionate about getting every detail right. And I’m thrilled that kids that go to see ZOOTOPIA will be reminded that even the smallest among us can be mighty!
Art and heart – what could be a better combination?
Many thanks to Lance Summers for his time and patience explaining to many non-animators how absolutely magical the process of creating a Disney Animated Feature really is. I will never look at any animated feature the same way again!
You can learn more about the film here: http://movies.disney.com/zootopia
And if your interested in learn more about ZOOTOPIA and the Disney College Artist tour, you can join the conversation by following the hashtag #Zootopia and #ZooU.