The world of ZOOTOPIA is a fun dive into the unexpected but creating this world was no small or easy feat. Sure, it looks familiar but there’s a nuance to the intricate world if you really pay close attention and every single bit of it had to be carefully thought out and organized in order to bring it to life on the big screen!
Last month, we shared a little bit about what exactly filmmakers wanted to achieve in ZOOTOPIA and now we take an even closer look at what it took to bring to life the environments and buildings for the fanciful new world.
Art Director of Environments Matthias Lechner and Environment Look Supervisor Lance Summers shared that while the film was taking shape, they realized they needed to create cities with habitats so diverse for all of their citizens. “We have tiny shrews living among rhinos and elephants,” says producer Clark Spencer. “We wanted to be true to the real scale of the animals—something rarely done in animated animals films. So our world has to accommodate animals of all sizes in a clear and creative way.”
ZOOTOPIA is home to animals of not only varying sizes, but also varying needs, they needed to build a multifaceted city that features tiny transport systems within larger ones, and a network of interlaced tubes, ramps, escalators and entryways big and small.
Taking inspiration from cities like New York, London, Russia, and Madrid, you can see these influences throughout the film. For example, Tundratown sports onion-shaped domes in a nod to Russian architecture, and the Zootopia Train Station features an interior tropical garden inspired by Madrid’s Central station, but with horn-shaped towers.
Filmmakers came up with six different districts for the film, Sahara Square, Tundra Town, Little Rodentia, Rainforest District, Bunny Burroughs, and Savannah Central, each having a unique feel for its varied citizens.
“The heart of SAHARA SQUARE is inspired by Monte Carlo and Dubai,” says Matthias Lechner, “We learned that desert animals are mostly nocturnal because it’s too hot during the day. So we built lots of nighttime activities—casinos and a giant palm-tree hotel with an oasis surrounding it.” the color palette has lots of oranges, reds, and yellows to bring in the feeling of the desert.
TUNDRATOWN features mainly snow and ice and artists added spots of color with strategically placed neon lights, playing with reflections and shadows to add interest and dimension to the area. Nothing ever thaws there so they have floating blocks of ice instead of moving walkways.
BUNNYBURROW, Judy Hopps’ hometown, is inhabited mostly by carrot farmers like Judy’s parents. “It’s a very rural part of this world,” says Howard. “It’s about 200 miles away from the city of Zootopia. If Zootopia were Manhattan, Bunnyburrow is like Yonkers—way out in the country. Bunnies are born there and live out their lives there. Nobody quite understands why in the world Judy would want to leave—and move to the big city of all places.”
THE RAIN FOREST DISTRICT is home to hundreds of giant, bright, jungle-green steamer trees—artificial trees that mechanically suck up water from a river to create the steamy atmosphere required by the locals. “The rain forest is a vertical environment with walkways, bridges and gondolas,” says Lechner. There are more than half a million trees that illustrates one of the many major advances in technology that allowed the artists to create the incredible detailed environments in Zootopia.
LITTLE RODENTIA is where Zootopia’s smallest mammals reside. “It is an entirely tiny town with rodent-sized housing, shops and streets,” says Lechner. “It’s surrounded by a big fence so that big animals can’t walk through it.”
SAVANNA CENTRAL is the heart of Zootopia. It’s where the police station is located and where Judy longs to live and fit in. Details include a central water feature and a savanna theme with acacia trees and warm tones: oranges and grays with olive foliage.
It’s a great big world out there! Next week, we will be sharing more about about creating the citizens that populate this big beautiful world.
ZOOTOPIA roars into theaters March 4, 2016.
But wait, there’s more!
This article is one of a series of three behind the scenes looks at ZOOTOPIA!