ZOOTOPIA+ Interview With Directors Trent Correy & Josie Trinidad And Producer Nathan Curtis (Exclusive)

Talking to us about the release of Zootopia+, the creative team behind the show shed new light on exploring different sides of this world, the return of some firm fan favourites, and possible sequel plans.

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Zootopia+ heads back to the fast-paced mammal metropolis of Zootopia in a short-form series that dives deeper into the lives of some of the Oscar-winning feature film's most intriguing residents, including Fru Fru, the fashion-forward arctic shrew; ZPD dispatcher Clawhauser, the sweet-toothed cheetah; and Flash, the smiling sloth who’s full of surprises.

The series is directed by Josie Trinidad (Zootopia) and Trent Correy (Once Upon a Snowman), and produced by Nathan Curtis (Raya and the Last Dragon), and we caught up with them to discuss the spin-off series earlier this week. 

During our conversation, the trio discusses how they came up with the show's unique premise, playing around with different genres, the long-awaited return of Flash, and what they love about working at Disney Animation. We also learn why it was a priority that each of the six episodes was completely different from the rest, exploring new sides of Zootopia in the process.

Be sure to watch the entire interview as Nathan also weighs in about a possible big screen Zootopia sequel, something it appears could indeed become a reality in the not-too-distant future.

Check out our full conversation about Zootopia+ in the player below!

Nathan, when it came to continuing this franchise, what led to it taking the form of this series of Disney+ shorts?

Nathan: The applause goes to Trent Correy. In our Disney Animation studio, everyone has the opportunity to pitch ideas. One of the ideas that came out of this pitch program was Trent pitching the ideas for these shorts. A lot of the credit goes to Byron and Jared, the movie’s directors, and obviously Clark Spencer, our President, and Jennifer Lee. How do we make the world of Zootopia and go further in? Through Trent and then Josie coming in with her background in story and having worked on Zootopia, it really infused the originality of the series. It’s been incredible. 

Josie and Trent, would you say it was particularly challenging to find ways to tell these stories around the events of the movie? 

Trent: I’ve got to say, I didn’t find it challenging. I found it fun! There were so many ideas, Josh, because the first movie is so rich. The work that Josie and the team did there, you want to revisit Mystic Springs Oasis or Little Rodentia or see more of Godfather. I saw it just as an invitation to play in the sandbox, and it was a privilege to be in there. In terms of interweaving in the film, Josie, that was fun, right?

Josie: Absolutely.

Trent: How can we move the camera over and show Stu Hopps on the roof of the train or what’s just out of screen? I found that really fun.

Josie: [Laughs] Again, I’m going to credit Trent for coming up with the idea of what happens after Judy’s parents have said goodbye as she’s gone off to Zootopia and we then stay with them. Or let’s give a little backstory to Mr. Big, one of my favourite characters from the original. We could also have a homage to Godfather II [Laughs]. How much fun is that? Also, in the same series, we could play with reality TV and show something so vastly different from anything that we’ve ever seen and do the Real Mousewives. It was a real joy, like you said, Trent, in this sandbox of Zootopia. 

There are so many genres that come into play here, from a musical number to a reality TV series. Was finding that variety a big part of your mission statement from the start with these shorts, Nathan? 

Nathan: Absolutely. Trent came up with the idea of asking, ‘How can we explore different genres?’ It was about looking at Zootopia as another extension of what we know a city to be. In every city, there are different types of people, different types of things people are into, and Zootopia is no different. The genres was more about actually…we keep saying the word fun, but an extension of how you make six individual shorts feel independently fun in different ways.

I think Trent and Josie did a phenomenal job of asking, ‘Who are these characters? How can you use film and specifically the genre of film and TV to lean into their personalities?’ I think from a writer’s perspective, you can’t beat being in Zootopia watching TV shows like the Real Mousewives in Little Rodentia. I had not seen an animated series to do this before, so to have this new opportunity and frontier to use Zootopia as that platform…such a great experience. 

Trent: And Josie, for us, I think I can add to that and say as filmmakers, it was so fun to play with the different genres because our whole team invested themselves in that. I felt like we were in a masterclass. Our heads of cinematographers would come and show us what different kinds of lenses were used for a period piece such as Godfather or how fast the camera swooshes during the Real Rodents. The whole team dove into it, but that’s what makes Disney Disney, right? Everybody believes in the research and they dive in head first and deliver quality time and time again. 

Josie: Absolutely. 

Flash has, of course, become an icon in his own right since Zootopia was released, so how much fun was it, Josie and Trent, to revisit him here for what has to be every waiter’s nightmare?

Josie: [Laughs] Honestly. Josh, it was really a challenge. The original scene in the DMV was perfection. The timing and everything. For me, I was stressing out about getting it right and that’s where Trent, you had such a take on it from the beginning, staying true to the original ideas that you had. It’s really great to know that…it was a great partnership directing with you, honestly. 

Trent: I remember, though, the pressure you’re talking about. How do you even get close to the DMV? It’s the perfect scenario. We were lucky enough, and Josie, you’ve spoken to this a lot, but the sloths don’t change. They are who they are. We love them for it, so we found a great actress named Charlotte Nicdao to play the part of Sam, the server, and that played a really important role in that short to make her likeable. She’s earnestly trying to do a great job and she’s just in this situation that has a fast ticking clock. 

You’ve all worked on so many great Disney Animation properties over the years, but for you all as filmmakers, what is the most fun thing about working there? 

Josie: You know, for me, it was a dream come true. I wanted to be a traditional 2D animator. Then I discovered, when I went to school, that I was terrible [Laughs]. I could not get it. Instead, I worked with Trent who is a great 2D and 3D animator, it was a joy. Going to animation dailies, Josh, was like seeing the modern-day Nine Old Men. Now, they’re women and all these different folks from all over the world and you get to see them do their craft. I was just in heaven. 

Trent: The collaboration, right, Josie? As we’ve both worked here a little while, and Nathan as well, you work on films like Frozen, Moana, or Zootopia that go big and into another universe, but all my memories from all those films have to do with the team and the collaboration. I’ve got to say, Zootopia+ just took it for me. This crew right here and the whole animation team and artists inside our building, on Zoom but here in Burbank, just an amazing collaboration.

Nathan: Absolutely. The people make this process and make me want me to come in and make films every single day. I can’t draw, so Josie, I still can’t animate and still can’t draw, but to be around people who can and who actually want to collaborate…our studio does such a phenomenal job of acknowledging everyone’s skill sets that come from all over the world. That we’re able to do what we love every single day is just a dream come true to work here.

Trent: Nathan might not be able to draw, but he’s really good with spreadsheets, Josh. 

Nathan, you are the producer on this project so I have to ask you: what do you think the chances are we could see Zootopia back on the big screen? 

Nathan: I’m optimistic. I don’t really know much more than that quite honestly, but I think that it’s clear the world and characters of Zootopia are something that the rest of the real world wants to see more of and I think our studio would love to do more. I think time will just tell. 

All six episodes of Zootopia+ launch on Disney+ this Wednesday, November 9. 


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