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Over the course of its runtime, Walt Disney Animation’s new film Zootopia will play out the story of a bunny cop and a fox con man who team up to try and solve a case – but the truth is that there is a lot more to the movie than just that. When audiences get the chance to see it, they will be introduced to a brand new world full of different environments and characters that all fit together thanks to a broader internal logic to the universe being created. It’s for this reason that directors Rich Moore and Byron Howard see potential in seeing even more stories told within it in the future.
Last month, I joined a group of other film journalists for a special preview of Zootopia in Los Angeles, and it was while sitting down two-on-one with the filmmakers behind the movie that I learned their thoughts on possibly seeing future stories set within the world of the film. Acknowledging that Walt Disney Animation has recently started to change its perspectives on sequels (what with Frozen 2 now being in development), I asked if Zootopia 2 was something that they’re thinking about even before the first movie is released. Rich Moore responded in the affirmative, explaining,
I think it is, because of the worlds being so vast that it just naturally kind of lends itself to wanting to know more about it. It’s like, because it is such a big place, well, what’s going on there? I like that kind of stuff. I like a big cast of characters and a world that lets your imagination kind of… I grew up on Star Wars and it’s like, what’s behind that, or what if I went down there? What was going on over in that part of the Death Star? I think that’s kind of our approach to building these worlds now, or just has a sense of there’s more around the corner.
A kind of throwback to the classic Disney films with all-animal casts, Zootopia is almost entirely set in the titular city - which is made up of various different environments to properly support different species. Tundra Town is where all of the snow-loving creatures go; The Rainforest District is for those who like their air humid and their trees tall; Little Rodentia is for all of the tinier creatures… and the list goes on. Approximately the size of San Francisco, the city is partially broken up by a giant air conditioning wall that keeps things cool on one side and hot on the other, but there is a huge rail system that will take anyone wherever they want to go. While attending various presentations about the development of the movie, I was shocked by the level of detail that the creators are thinking on – which was why I was inspired to ask about the potential for future films.
Interesting as this prospect is, it’s worth noting that Walt Disney Animation doesn’t exactly have a long history of theatrically-released sequels. In fact, to date the only direct follow-up in the studio’s 54-feature history is 1990’s The Rescuers Down Under. So while Rich Moore and Byron Howard may be thinking about all the potential stories that could be told in a future Zootopia movie, there’s no guarantee that we’ll actually get to see any of them on the big screen. Still, Moore is certainly holding out hope, and told me,
If people love it, it would be a great thing, and they’re always talking about at the company of creating you know, worlds that people want to revisit. So, that’s what we do.
For now, the possibility of seeing a sequel is naturally a big question mark, but everything we’ve seen from the film certainly suggests that we will be wanting to see one by the time Zootopia actually makes its way to theaters. March 4, 2016 can’t come soon enough.