Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down in a roundtable setting with the talent behind Disney’s Zootopia (which opens March 4th, 2016). Most movie interviews I conduct are over the phone, so I’m always delighted when I can talk face to face. My first article this week is about the voices behind Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps, the lead characters in Zootopia. While Ginnifer Goodwin was on Skype during our conversation, Jason Bateman sat at the end of our table. He was exactly as you’d expect – funny, sarcastic..cheeky may be the best word to describe him.
Photo courtesy Disney
For Bateman, this was not his first foray into voicing an animated character, but it Zootopia was his first full-length feature animated film. I asked Bateman how he ended up in the role.
“It was just a phone call from my agent, and they said ‘Disney would like you to play this part in their movie’. It was a really, really big phone call. I literally pulled my car over so I didn’t lose my signal.” The call came 3 or 4 years ago (animated films take a long time), and Bateman had been hoping to be invited to voice this sort of role every since Toy Story made it the usual for well-known actors to be offered parts. He continued, “That, of course, is when it started to hit my radar, and I thought, ‘Boy, I hope I get invited to do that one day. I hope my career goes along at such a pace where it’s appropriate.'”
Bateman brought up his Arrested Development co-star Will Arnett, who he is very good friends with. Bateman said of Arnett that he does animated films all the time, and is always saying, “‘Boy, I don’t think they’re ever going to call you’. My first thought (upon receiving the call) was that he put my agent up to this. But when it turned out to be real, I thought it was cool”.
Bateman did see some of himself in the character of Nick Wilde. “He’s a real smartass, he always has his fist on his hip.” He also felt the “half interested eyelids” were another similarity: “There’s a lot of body language that’s similar to me”.
Bateman was asked if there was a sequel, what his idea for a plot would be. I’ll skip one major spoiler, but he did continue, “Do they end up being a couple? That’d be kind of cool. I’d love to see how they procreate. A fox and a bunny, that’s funny”.
Ginnifer Goodwin soon was on Skype, but her big personality and laugh filled the room. She even mentioned later that her laughter could stop a take with Jason while working. For Ginnifer, this wasn’t her first Disney animated film, she had voiced Fawn in Tinker Bell and Legend of the NeverBeast.
Goodwin was asked if she related to Judy Hopps, and she said, “Oh my gosh, I just feel like they animated me. There’s qualities Judy has that I wish I had. Then there is a lot of overlapping things. I feel we are both fiercely optimistic, ambitious, but I think we’re also idealistic and a bit self righteous. I would like to think I take as much responsibility for my actions”.
I asked Goodwin what drew her to the voice of Judy Hopps. I barely had the question out of my mouth at the point I asked, “Did you say, “Oh I love Disney and that’s what I want to do?” – and she laughed and said that is what it was. The whole room broke out laughing as she very quickly added, “I didn’t know who the character was, I didn’t know what the story was. When I got the call, my agent said, ‘Don’t you…’ – and I said, ‘I’m in!’ They said John Lasseter, they said Disney – it didn’t take much. They (the agent) said, ‘Don’t you want to know what the offer is?’ And I said, “No, I want you to make this legally binding, and I’m doing it so you can’t back out of this offer’ (to much laughter). Then you can call me back and tell me what it is”.
Ginnifer is known as a fervent Disney fan, she goes to Disneyland about once per month (her favorite attraction is the Haunted Mansion). Yet, her kids will not be seeing Zootopia for quite some time. This isn’t based on some of the serious issues in the film (which are delicately balanced with the laugh-out-loud humor), but she doesn’t want to shatter her 2 year old son’s illusion (another child is on the way), he believes the characters are real. And, “I don’t want him to recognize mommy’s voice, I’ll keep him from those things until he gets the concept of how entertainment is made”.
I mentioned what Jason had said about the two characters possibly getting together romantically in a sequel. She laughed and replied, “I don’t know much about animal husbandry….one of the things I love the most about the movie is honestly…it’s so rare that we can celebrate just a platonic friendship”.
Photo courtesy Disney
Instead of a “buddy cop” movie, Goodwin likes to wall it a “bunny cop” movie. And she encouraged the filmmakers to have R.E.M. re-record “Everybody Hurts”, which is played in a scene in the film to “Every Bunny Hurts” (but that didn’t happen).
Back to Bateman, I’d asked him what he thought about being immortalized in a Disney film.
“I really hope this is as embraced as it deserves to be. And if it is, it will clearly be one of the things I’m most, most proud of, because it’s so classic and has messages and humor in it that are not only relevant for that week, that year – they’re not trendy jokes or trendy issues. It’s an evergreen kind of quality”.
We will have much more from Zootopia this coming week!