Byron Howard Q&A

Byron Howard Q&A

This article contains all of the questions Byron Howard answered


Back in July of 2016, BaltoSeppala and I setup an interview with Byron Howard, one of the film directors, to have your Zootopia related questions answered. It took a bit of time (understandably) to hear back from Disney, but we finally received our answers on October 28th, 2016. 


MightyBalto1925: Besides Gazelle, the rest of the mammals in Zootopia are never seen wearing any shoes. Was there a reason for not adding shoes to the characters? 

Byron's answer:  "Animal feet from species to species are so different, and are such a big part of what makes animals beautiful and interesting, that it felt weird to hide them with human shoes. Honestly, Gazelle was the only character in Zootopia that didn't look weird wearing them. Since her character was designed to be decked out in glamorous, elaborate stage costumes, the shoes felt appropriate."


WildWolf: Hello, I'm making this question because I already happened to receive an answer to the one I originally asked about. But now I'm just wondering, what is the securite guard wolf, Gary's last name? If he even has one? 

Byron's answer: "I don't think he has a last name! But I bet if he did it would be funny... You can't go wrong with DeWolfe... It's like "Smith" in the wolf world."


WildWolf: So, I have also been wondering what has been debated over the internet for a while now. Are Gary and the white wolf we see in the beginning of the movie the same character? 

Byron's answer: "If you mean any of the wolf cops, then nope, they're different wolves. The wolves around Cliffside are mercenaries hired by Mayor Lionheart. The mayor wouldn't take the risk of involving the cops in something like this."


MokiHunter: So my question is more geared toward the original concept of Zootopia... I wanted to ask if the directors had a chance to, would they ever consider maybe creating an alternate Zootopia with their original concepts (like the tame collars,etc)? Or did they just end up liking the finished product much better than the original? (This is more looking for their opinions versus the test screening audiences')

Byron's answer: "You may see elements of what we had in early versions of the film show up in other places if there are future chapters in the Zootopia story, but I think the version that we wound up with really is the best version that speaks most clearly to the problem of bias in the modern world."


Jake Razor: Did Bellwether start the kidnapping of darted animals to set the stage for a conspiracy (as opposed to just immediate panic), then trick Lionheart into taking it over so when someone found out he'd take the blame?

Byron's answer: "Tired of being marginalized and ignored, Bellwether organized the darting of predators to incite fear and mistrust of predators in the city. Lionheart recognized that predators were going savage but didn't know the cause, so to protect himself he hired teams of wolves to capture and imprison the savage predators until Dr. Honeybadger could discover what was going on. This was causing problems for Bellwether, so Bellwether actually benefited from Judy tracking down the missing mammals and arresting Lionheart."


Jake Razor: I get the impression that in real police cases, a case is not considered closed until the loose ends have been suitably tied up, and may be reopened if new evidence emerges.  So with that in mind, is it likely that subsequent material might detail the latter events of the Nighthowler Case (tracking down suppliers and uncaptured accomplices, Judy possibly being partnered with another cop while Nick was getting instated, etc.)?

Byron's answer: "Never say never! Crime's a complex business."


MightyBalto1925: When Nick and Judy were talking to Manchas, Manchas tells them Emmitt kept talking about the night howlers after (I assume) he was hit. Since Emmit is a florist, did he perhaps know that the flowers were toxic and attempted to warn Manchas about them?

Byron's answer: "Emmit was being threatened into supplying the Night Howler bulbs to the sheep, and when he discovered what they were being used for, he went to his family friend, Mr. Big to help him out of this terrible situation. The sheep suspected that Otterton might be a risk so they decided to send out Doug to dart him and send him savage."


Jake Razor: It seems to be implied that Nick's mom was raising Nick by herself in the movie (whereas Nick's dad played a significant part in the original plans), and a lot of people seem to think Nick's dad just up and left one day prior to the Muzzle Incident.  From what I've been able to gather, though, foxes in the real world tend to be among the most faithful mates of all mammals, which I assume the filmmakers know as well.  So I'd like to hear it from the source: is tehre any idea of what happened to him?

Byron's answer: "It's not clear what happened to Nick's dad but you do get the feeling that his mom was raising Nick by herself. Maybe we will find out in the future!"


MokiHunter: I was curious as to what exactly the predators eat, as we see them eating blueberries and ice cream. Did they evolve to eat the same things as the prey animals or did they just learn to stifle their urges over time? I'm just curious because if their diet has changed it makes me wonder why the prey animals would still be so afraid of them. 

Byron's answer:  "Predators in Zootopia need protein to survive, so that issue has been mostly solved with vegetable protein products like 'Not Dogs' and 'Fpork' (fake pork) etc. But some predators who survive almost exclusively on protein (wolves for example), need more than that so there's also a widely successful fast food chain called 'BUGBURGA' that specializes in tasty treats made from insects. Stop in and enjoy a BugBurga Deluxe with a Grasshopper Shake and a side of Cricket Chips.

In earlier versions of the film, fish were also thought of as food in the Zootopian world. Nick and Hopps were chained up in a fish freezer and were nearly made into fillets.

Even though predatory behavior and hunting went away long ago, it didn't take much for Bellwether to wake up those old fears in the prey population."


Dogsport: During development, was there ever any discussion on how the prey animals eventually convinced the predators to switch to bug burgers (and possibly fish?) instead of eating prey?  In our world, that would be the equivilent of every vegan finally convicing meat eaters to give up the red stuff, and would be quite an accomplishment.  Maybe prey are better negotiators?

Byron's answer: "There is a painting in the Natural History Museum that shows primitive predator and prey tribes shaking hands and starting a new relationship. Agrarian (farming) cultures tend to survive more easily than hunter-gatherer cultures, and our scientist consultants suggested that the prey would've figured out farming first (because they were focused on vegetables and crops). Maybe the predators thought that an alliance that provided a safer life for their tribes outweighed the deliciousness of a fresh zebra."


Carbinefox: There is a flag displayed on a pole in the mayor's office, but not much can be seen since it is hanging down and not unfurled. Is there an image of the flag open?

Byron's answer: "Yes there is an image of the city flag somewhere! I can't find it though."


Cyclone Blaze: What's the key for creating beliavable interactions among characters that end up being friends at some point of a story? I'm asking this because I'm writing a story, but I feel that the interactions among the characters are pretty convincent.

Byron's answer: "We always look to put as much contrast and distance between our protagonists at the beginning of each of these stories. If they're too similar to each other at the start, then you have nowhere to go story-wise. Conflict is story gold. Conflict between characters can be dramatic but it can also be fun, and seeing conflict change the characters is one of the most rewarding things audiences experience in movies. Also writing dialogue that feels smart and real is important. Jared Bush and Phil Johnston wrote a remarkable script for Zootopia that felt witty and poignant, yet was always believable."


Cyclone Blaze: The scene related to Nick's childhood was amazing, because you portrayed how the bullying victims could be affected in real life. From the moment they muzzled Nick, I was speechless as the scene progressed. So far, in many cartoons the bullying is displayed in a comedic way, but this was a whole different experience. 

What made you take the realistic approach to this scene?

Byron's answer: "Both Rich and I had experiences with bullying when we were kids, and Phil Johnston had suggested that we needed to add something into the beginning of the film to show clearly where Judy's bias and fear of predators came from. It was important that those scenes were both believable and pretty visceral.

Also the idea of empathy and forgiveness was important with Gideon, as we knew that would be a great sense of closure for Judy that would help her decide not to give up."


Karlamon: Would you say there is any other animal civilisations (cities, countries, etc.) beyond the city of Zootpia and the town of Bunnyburrow, or is Zootopia pretty much the movie's entire universe?

Byron's answer: "There's definitely WAY more to the Zootopian world than we were able to show in the movie. Early on we decided that even though you may only see mammals in Zootopia city, there are many other animal cities (and countries) in this world. Likely full of reptiles, birds, etc..."


Est22: When adapting animals in a human environment, what was the most difficilt in the conception of the Zootopian society? 

Byron's answer: "Early on we chose to make a rule for ourselves: animal scale in Zootopia would be as close to true-life animal scale as possible. That rule was hugely challenging for us to stick with throughout the film, and created no end of headaches for our cinematographers and layout artists. It forced our designers and modelers to think very deeply about access to buildings, transportation, and everything else we take for granted as humans because we are more or less all the same size. We spoke at length with the ADA (American Disabilities Association) about how they make sure differently-abled humans are given equal access to buildings and businesses in the human world and we followed their example.

Good thing we did, that multi-scale train with the three doors gets a huge laugh every time."


StringerNuka: Why Morris, Koslov's supposed-to-be son, was not in the final release ?" (And also : the whole Bear-Mafia idea around Koslov)

Byron's answer: "Morris was part of the old plot where predators were forced to wear tame collars. He was part of a very touching scene where his dad, Koslov, had to place this awful device on his son knowing that it would be with him for the rest of his life. When the plot changed and we went away from the collars, that scene went away and Morris with it. He's the cutest little bear though!

Koslov was originally the Mob boss character before we changed it to be Mr. Big Koslov and Nick had a long and checkered history and Nick at one point went to Koslov for money because he couldn't get it through the banks."


Robalto: Would they consider a Nick and Judy couple in future series since many fanarts show them together as a couple? Did you ever considered them as such ?"

Byron's answer: "We always wanted there to be chemistry between them, and it's nice that the audience recognizes that. Though half the audience wants them to get together and the other half likes them as friends.

Who knows what the future holds, but for now we like to think of them as kindred spirits."


Louve Rousse: Why did the idea of the collars for predator didn't get through ?"

Byron's answer: "Ultimately we realized that the bias in our modern world is much more subtle than we were portraying with the collars. It felt much more contemporary to have a character who thinks that bias is a thing of the past (Hopps) learn that it's still very much out there, and sometimes, it's within yourself where you least expect it."


Nakou: Are you thinking about a possible second movie or series with the same characters in order to explore the rest of the universe you've built ? If so, why not use some lost ideas like the collars ?"

Byron's answer:  "I'm sure old ideas would be explored if there are future films, though I think the collars were so much a part of the bias throughline that I'm not sure where they would come back in."

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December 28, 2016
Usa Male Is not currently on the site
This is a very interesting article. I was especially intrigued by the touch with Mr. Otterton; I wonder if I should tweak my story, "Something Stinks," to accommodate it.

I have to question the birds and reptiles thing, though, since they ad such a great deal of integration of different animal species within and even between natural habitats. If reptiles and birds were sentient, it wouldn't make much sense for them not to be around.

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