Back to IndieWire

‘Zootopia’: How Disney Anticipated Trump’s America With That Ice Cream Scene (Exclusive Video)

Directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore explore how they were ahead of the political curve in an early, crucial scene in Disney's Oscar frontrunner.

“Zootopia”

Animation

The zeitgeist-grabbing “Zootopia” continues to resonate with even greater relevance nearly a year after its release — and less than a month after the divisive Trump election.

And for directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore, an early scene in an ice cream parlor best epitomizes the topical theme of racial bigotry between predator and prey. It’s the crucial first meeting between rookie bunny cop, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), and sly fox, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), who pulls a con while pretending to order ice cream for his young son (watch the video below).

READ MORE: Annie Awards: ‘Zootopia,’ ‘The Red Turtle’ Take Animated Feature, Indie Honors

“Phil [Johnston] and Jared [Bush] wrote a great scene as a nice way of introducing the idea that roles were a little messed up with the bias, especially Judy in the way she handles it personally,” Howard told IndieWire. “That’s the first time after we learn that she was bullied as child by Gideon [the red fox] that she sees Nick and thinks he’s a sneaky guy. So she makes assumptions and unbuckles her holster and reaches for the mace fox spray. Then, immediately, it turns on her with this dad there with his little son.”

Judy then stands up to the racist owner, Jerry Jumbeaux Jr. (John DiMaggio), the African Elephant, who refuses to serve Nick and his son. “They both live down to the stereotypes of their species,” added Moore. “She tries to do a good deed for Nick and his son [demanding that the owner serve them], but then she insults Nick by telling him, for a fox, that he’s a great guy. The bias lives in her and she hasn’t really addressed it in a substantial way.”

“Zootopia”

Thus, the scene establishes two levels of discrimination — the overt kind expressed by Jumbeaux, and the more unconscious one displayed by Judy. The directors said the overt bias was initially explored more fully throughout the movie, but they tweaked it to make it seem more contemporary.

“Both are just as insidious,” Moore said. “But it’s almost better that Jerry’s putting it out there so you can see it for what it is. And, in describing the world where Nick comes from, this is what it means to be a predator in Zootopia. If you want to see a sneaky fox, I’ll give you a sneaky fox.”

But, of course, the humorous tone and animal allegory prevent the scene from becoming too serious or polemical.

However, as originally conceived, Nick was the protagonist and the viewer was in on the con with him. But even though it was very funny, the humor came at the expense of Judy, who seemed dim-witted. “It was a difficult conversation to have with the animators and with Jason and Ginny,” Moore added.

After the rewrite, though, the directors made sure that Judy came across as caring and constructive, even though she lacks awareness about Nick and her hidden bias. “Rich and I worked on this for weeks with the animators,” Howard said in reference to Judy trying to bridge the tension between predator and prey.

“Zootopia”

But, for Moore, “Zootopia” has suddenly taken on a surreal atmosphere in light of the recent Presidential election. “It’s become a more important topic since Phil and Jared wrote that scene and Disney released the movie,” he added.

READ MORE: How Disney’s Animated ‘Zootopia’ Became the Galvanizing Movie of 2016

“What’s going on around us in our country, this is being played out in real-time now. And having it in this form in a movie, with animation and animal characters, can bring some healing to a country that feels pretty torn up and on edge,” he continued. “But I feel like it’s weird to be talking about healing when the wound is being gashed open as we speak.”

Stay on top of the latest breaking film and TV news! Sign up for our Email Newsletters here.

This Article is related to: Awards and tagged , , , , ,


Comments

Rankin Bass

Let’s all be honest here. The movie is not about that. Who ever from Disney dropped this idea to the press during award season is genius. #choosekubo

    Christian

    I might of taken you seriously to I seen the “ChooseKubo” hashtag! Nice try but you’re going to have to to a lot better than that!

    Nathan

    So it isn’t about bias, bullying, abuse of power, and using fear tactics to win? I must of been watching a completely different film then!

Nathan

Fantastic article that speaks very clearly on what we as an society are facing today! If Zootopia wasn’t to win the Academy Award it would be a grave injustice!

Douglas Smith

This could very easily be seen as reality! Just change the ice-cream store to a cake store and make Nick and Finnick a gay couple.

Gerardson

>How Disney Anticipated Trump’s America

In see, that scene in particular something that happens already and has happened recently not a future or how “America” is since Trump was elected.

I don’t think Zootopia predicted anything.

Mystery Man

“Kubo” recently won the BAFTA. However, there were three Disney movies nominated (including “Zootopia”) in that category and there could have been a voting split on that part. Let’s just say it’s a tossup between “Zootopia” and “Kubo” at this point. The BAFTAs and the Oscars both share 500 members that can vote in both ceremonies.

Happy Boy

Well this certainly rubbed a few the wrong way! Although it just appears to be Laika fans doing anything they can think of do to give their film the edge. This is hilarious!

Braden

This article doesn’t say anything at all about the BAFTA’s or Kubo and the two strings! Why is this even being brought up! This is an article about Zootopia and just how closely it follows the current social and political environment. And personally I agee with it!

    Anonymous

    I agree, too!

Anonymous

I think in the description under the article’s title where it talks about how the directors of “Zootopia” were ahead of the political curve in an early, crucial scene in Disney’s Oscar frontrunner, I’m guessing the words “Oscar frontrunner” may have some looking back on the BAFTAs. First off, like Braden says, this has nothing to do with the BAFTAs, but I think those words “Oscar frontrunner” just got to someone’s mind. Personally, I don’t think that was a Laika fan. It was probably some guy who got certain words to his mind and made him look back on the BAFTAs. This article talks about “Zootopia” and how it follows the current social and political environment and Academy members really dig movies like that. The BAFTAs and the Oscars don’t always go the same route. The USA has been facing issues like racism for quite awhile now. Not so sure about the UK, though. So please, let’s get off the BAFTA and “Kubo” subject and back on the subject of this article. That would be the best thing to do.

Big Mac

“Zootopia” was definitely the kind of movie we all needed nowadays! Nobody even expected it to be all that good and look how it turned out? It’s one of the greatest animated feature Disney has ever done!

Concerned Middleman

I kind of really need to point something out here. How is it that conservatives are default the bad guys, when progressive protestors are beating people, rioting, burning schools and other property, denying others their right to freely speak. Then call their opponents Nazis? I’m not left or right, but seriously. I’ve never seen a more immature group of people in my 30 years on this planet.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *