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Zootopia directors talk sequel, TV potential

What’s next for Disney’s beastly behemoth as it nears $1 billion at the box office?

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Disney

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a fan in possession of Zootopia on Blu-ray must be in want of more Zootopia.

With the box office-busting Disney film set for home entertainment release on June 7, the most pressing question surrounding Zootopia — which opened on March 4 and has since grossed a whopping $993 million worldwide — is what comes next for the anthropomorphic world of bunny cops, crooked foxes, and cheetahs with short attention spans. Surely, the story of Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman) doesn’t merely stop at a billion bunny bucks.

“The fan response is a huge help for that kind of thing,” says co-director Byron Howard, who says he and co-director Rich Moore were overwhelmed by audience reactions to the grown-up kid caper. “I think we all loved the world so much and got so attached to the characters, that we actually got a little sad when the film finally came out [because] we felt like, ‘Well, we’re kind of done with it.’ And it’s nice that there’s this potential for it to get bigger.” 

No plans have been announced as of yet, but if its studio predecessors are any indication, Zootopia stands to take a few leaps following its theatrical run. Consider Disney Animation’s recent successes: The Rapunzel tale Tangled (2010) is being re-imagined as an animated series set for next year at Disney Channel; a sequel to Wreck-It Ralph (2012), which Moore directed, is rumored to be in development; the action-packed Big Hero 6 (2014) is headed to series on Disney XD; and then there’s 2015’s Frozen, which has had no problem letting its spin-off presence go with short films, at Disney Parks, on Broadway (in 2018), and with a full-fledged sequel, which the company announced 16 months after Frozen burst open at movie theaters.

Evidently, there’s no timeline nor rush to the second lives of these properties — all of which are part of an arguable revival this decade for Disney Animation — and Howard and Moore say there’s no lack of material to revisit should Zootopia indeed take its next step into sequel, series, or beyond.

“We cut a lot out during the making of the film,” says Howard. “We introduced districts that we talked about that couldn’t fit in, other characters that we eliminated from the movie. There’s a vast potential for this world, so I’d love to see something more come from it.” (And for what it’s worth, several of those axed characters will be revealed in bonus materials on the DVD.)

One of the most promising elements of Zootopia’s potential future is that the original film has already overcome a difficult creative hurdle that now offers a prime advantage for television in particular: The tedious art of world-building. Largely unseen to audiences but ingrained in the film’s narrative are the boundless rules and complexities for the filmmakers’ devised society of anthropomorphized creatures living in a modern metropolis. “So much of the time spent on Zootopia was inventing it,” says Moore. “What does it look like? How does it work? And it would be great to go back to it and explore farther, more of it, rather than being theoretical and having to invent it [again].”

With such systems in place, any number of future storylines could be pulled from settings which filmmakers toiled to create, but of which audiences barely got a glimpse. Howard offers a specific example: “There’s a part in the film where the train goes by Sahara Square and Hopps looks up at this huge palm tree hotel, and that palm tree hotel, we really designed to the nines,” he says. “We designed the lobby, the interior, and [Shakira’s character] Gazelle at one point had a suite at the top. It was this super luxury Dubai-esque place, which would be an awesome setting in the future.” He also points out unused “dune houses” throughout Sahara Square — one of the film’s biome-based districts — which were fleshed out by the creative team and could get their due in the future.

“We liken it to going to New York City for the first time,” Howard continues. “You see the highlights on the first trip, but when you go back, you get to appreciate things you didn’t know before, almost like a local.”

Spin-off potential also means having to address lingering plot points from the first film. Surprisingly, Howard and Moore say one of their top queries from fans is in regards to the relationship between protagonists Judy and Nick, and whether it’s amorous or platonic. “We will have to take on [the question], what is Nick and Judy’s relationship like?” opines Moore. “And somebody’s going to be disappointed. It will either be romantic, or it will stay a friendship, and those who ship [them] are going to go crazy, and those who just want them to be friends will say, ‘Why did you make it a romance?’ So we need to gird ourselves for that.”

In the meantime, Zootopia arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on June 7.