Today, we bring you our final installment of our behind-the-scenes look of the making of ZOOTOPIA. This time, we give the world some character. During a visit to the Disney Studio to learn more about the film filmmakers shared with us the lengths that were taken to create the many animals in the film. They set out to create a funny animal film, but the more they dug into the research, the more they found opportunities to talk about something more important

“We worked very hard to find… a very rich story that’s entertaining, has heart and says something meaningful.”

—Rich Moore, Director

With over 1,000 unique animals in the film, the Disney Animation team ran into many challenges along the way. We got the chance to hear from a few people involved with the project including Character Design Supervisor Cory Loftis, Character Look Supervisor Michelle Robinson, Character CG Supervisor Dave Komorowski and Simulation Supervisor Claudia Chung Sanii. 

From creating gnus to shrews, lemmings to leopards, rabbits to rhinos, sloths, foxes, to animals of all shapes, sizes, stripes and spots it was an interesting world to explore assuming that all these characters had human emotions yet still maintained their unique animalistic identities.

It was important for the animators to make the film relatable to the audience. This was achieved by adding emotions to the animals, from moving fur to the eye brows to how clothes move and the way the animals walk and talk. Wind was also added to make us feel the emotions of these characters. While they wanted the animals to feel as normal as possible, as if they were living as humans, they also didn’t want it to feel forced, so some of the animals don’t even wear pants due to their size and design.

According to director Rich Moore, the key was in finding the right balance. “We worked very hard to find that sweet spot, telling a very rich story that’s entertaining, has heart and says something meaningful.”  They wanted an idea of a bunny and a fox, natural enemies, both assuming something about each other, but learning their assumptions are completely wrong.

“We always assumed that predators ruled the animal world, they’re actually the minority.”

—Byron Howard, Director

Director, Byron Howard said that during theirresearch,“We found that the majority of animals—90 percent—are prey, only 10 percent are predators. So while we always assumed that predators ruled the animal world, they’re actually the minority. We talked to anthropologists and sociologists and took a look way back through human history—any time you have a majority and minority, social issues arise. We learned and observed that animals of all kinds tend to stay with animals that look like them; they find refuge and protection within their individual groups and tend to avoid animals that are different.”

The filmmakers said that everything changed for them after their research trip to Kenya.“I think all of us were profoundly changed by our trip to Africa,” adds Jared Bush, whose co-director and one of the screenwriters. “It’s such an amazing experience, being around the hundreds, thousands of animals. In this movie, we want to feel that density, which is a lot of work. We came back after that trip with a sincere need to make it right.”

The hardest part was getting the cloth of the clothes to move believably, given the different anatomy and movement of each species. Designs for both Nick and Judy evolved throughout development to accommodate the changes made in their characters. Clothing had to be specific and appropriate to each animal and environment.

Quadruped animals required adaptation to bipedal movement, without losing their animal like behaviors. Pants proved a specific problem, as animal and human anatomy had to be blended to make them look like they fit right. Some animals couldn’t wear pants because their legs were too short, so they were kept in shorts.

This film will truly debut an animal world unlike any you have ever seen before. The creativity, charm, and imagination that went into bring this world to life is instantly evident.

ZOOTOPIA opens in theaters on March 4, 2016.

But wait, there’s more!

This article is one of a series of three behind the scenes looks at ZOOTOPIA!