I took my 18 year old to see Deadpool ( yes, I know this is about Zootopia but bear with me, I am making a point) and while I was sitting there watching Ryan Reynolds fight naked in a burning building I got to thinking about how the years flew by. When did she become old enough to watch this film in the theater, with her mother? I looked over at her to see how she was handling it, even though I know she had probably seen worse on Youtube, I wanted to make sure she wasn’t uncomfortable. Or, at the very least I didn’t need to open up some kind of dialogue about why it is not a good idea to fight naked in a burning building because really, there isn’t a whole lot of life lessons in Deadpool. As I watched her laugh and enjoy herself I thought my days of cute kids movie were over. Then I screened Zootopia and knew that maybe, just maybe it wasn’t.
As you will read in the interview, Zootopia is a movie all of your family will enjoy. It will open up new ways for you to talk about touchy subjects, just like the ones Jason plans on talking to his kids about. Parents will identify with Mr. and Mrs. Hopps as they send their daughter off to the “big city” for the first time. I know I did because Dakotah is leaving me for college soon and I am worried. There is even a Breaking Bad reference that most adults will get ( not me, I didn’t watch the show. Shocking, I know) but it will fly over your kids head. You will laugh and cry but all in all it will be something the whole family will enjoy.
My review is coming soon but in the mean time read below to find out Jason’s thoughts about the film, showing it to his daughters, and about how the movie will open up dialogue between you and your children about some very important subjects.
5 Questions With Jason Bateman
So this is your first animated film. I saw that you had done some cartoons, but not an animated film, how is this different?
You know; the other animation work was really so quick. This is, for all intents and purposes my, my first and it’s a really interesting process because you know, as an actor you can, you say your line and then you’ve got your face and your body language and everything to kind of contribute to the whole thing. With this, obviously you just have your voice to use and then you hope that the animators that you pass that line reading off to are going to — they are going to make the character do something that either supports what you’ve done or offset it or juxtapose it.
Cause it’s kind of a cocktail to make somebody laugh with something. You don’t realize how many little components there are. I mean, I don’t mean to sound like some kind of a comedy scientist but just, it just, I mean we all do it, you know. When you tell a joke or a story there’s inflection and then there’s facial gestures and it’s a pretty strange thing to just hope that the rest of the recipe gets cooked in the right way. And there’s not much of a fear that that sounding like Disney animation.
So it’s an exciting thing to be a part of.
For the dad, how do you go into a film like that? Obviously the other films that you do are very opinionated roles but this is different because we can all bring our families to this one, really the whole family from top to bottom, how do you go into a role like this as a dad? Do you have a different mindset? Because now, you know, you can bring your girls.
Yeah, it’s very, very cool to be leaving home to do a job that I can prove that I was actually doing. It didn’t show that way with the other stuff, and then knowing that they are going to see it. I have two little girls, nine and four, knowing that they are going to see it, it’s just yeah, it gives pride. First of all, it’s the only movies that I see now, you know, that we all know, like a kid movie comes out, like you have to take them and you just hope that it’s good.
And if it’s not good, you are still buying a ticket to it. You still have to sit there. You just might catch a little nap, you know? But with this one there won’t be any napping cause there’s — this company is so good at, at braiding , some stuff in there for us that whether it be thematic or, or just with the jokes, there’s always kind of that parallel lane of, of satisfaction for the adults.
And in this one, there are some really great issues and um, and teams that, you know, I don’t know if my nine year old really picks up on some of the nuance and sophistication of, of kind of these heady, highbrow issues in here yet, but I’ll bet you some of it kind of permeates, and when the coin finally does drop maybe when she’s another year older or something when we’re watching it for the 20th time at home, as we all buy it again when it comes on.
It’s a nice tool for me as a, as a dad to talk about like in this film racism or xenophobia or fear mongering or bullying.
So your children have seen the film?
The nine-year-old has, yeah. The four-year-old is, you know, the two screenings I have been to have happened after her bedtime and she’s garbage after her bedtime. (laughter)
As a parent do find yourself ever relating to Mr. and Mrs. Hopps?
Oh, can I relate to those parents? Well, if you mean the fact that they’re concerned of their daughter going to the big city, yeah, I mean of course. You, — although I mean, if you’re like me, you, you hope and pray that you’re not going to be the kind of parent that when they are allowed to and should leave the house that you are going to be paralyzed with this fear that ugh.
I’ve got, what do I have, I have another nine years left, at least with Francesca, to get myself ready to be confident that she’s got a good enough decision maker on her shoulders to go out there and navigate, you know, the inevitable challenges that — I mean, think about all the stuff that you guys have been exposed to that your parents never dreamed that you would be and you being good people didn’t really willingly get into dangerous situations but it just happens.
I’m really trying to be okay with the fact that I can’t keep her in a bubble and I can’t control her her whole life. And so, the only, the only kind of peace that I can give myself is that no, she — I’m confident that she knows how to make good decisions so that’s my job. So, I will keep working hard to, you know, build her as good a car as possible so she can drive through it okay, you know?
How long did it take from start to finish?
The call first came in about a little over three years ago and we started sessions right around then, so about three years of recording sessions and those happened like once every couple of months and each one would take two hours, so about 20, 25 sessions, two hours a piece, and with each session you do about two or three scenes,, which are anywhere from three to five pages each.
And the way you do it usually is you just kind of, you — they record you reading through top to bottom and the director will kind of read the other part. You’ve got to make sure you don’t overlap because his voice would be on my track then. And, they record that a couple of times and then you go in and you record each line individually about six to 10 times a bunch of different ways. You do one kind of fast, one kind of slow, one kind of angry, one kind of happy, and just give them a bunch of choices because they don’t know what the other actor is going to do that’s actually reading the line that follows you, you know, in this kind of conversation.
So, there’s just an immense amount of work that they have to do to cobble it all together and blend that cocktail, you know? It’s a neat process, it really is.
More Information about Zootopia:
The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods like ritzy Sahara Square and frigid Tundratown, it’s a melting pot where animals from every environment live together—a place where no matter what you are, from the biggest elephant to the smallest shrew, you can be anything. But when rookie Officer Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin) arrives, she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of big, tough animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack a case, even if it means partnering with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman), to solve the mystery. Walt Disney Animation Studios’ “Zootopia,” a comedy-adventure directed by Byron Howard (“Tangled,” “Bolt”) and Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph,” “The Simpsons”) and co-directed by Jared Bush (“Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero”), opens in theaters on March 4, 2016.
*** A special thank you to Ricoh Imaging for sending me the Pentax K-3 to use on my trip!