If you’ve seen Zootopia, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that one of its main creative forces also played a large role in some of the best Simpsons episodes ever before going on to work on cult favorites like Futurama and The Critic. Following 2012’s Wreck-It-Ralph, Zootopia is now the second film Rich Moore has co-directed for Disney Animation Studios, and while there are differences in the humor of all these projects, they all share a commitment to storytelling and character that Rich brings to every piece.
Zootopia comes out on Blu-ray this week, so we were given the opportunity to chat with Moore about some career highlights, working with Peter Mansbridge, easter eggs to look for on the Blu-ray, and of course, what’s on his Dork Shelf. Scroll past his handsome mug to read the slightly abbreviated interview, or listen to it in its entirety below!
“Flaming Moe’s”, “Marge vs the Monorail”, “Cape Feare”… you directed some really classic Simpsons episodes. Do you have a personal favourite?
Rich: Oh man, that’s tough. Which one of your babies do you love better? I would say “Cape Feare” is the last episode that I did on Simpson and I really really loved working on that episode. All of them are special, there are things about every one of them that I look back and say oh man that was a great episode, but something about “Cape Feare”, just the way it came together, it was so funny, I loved the script, pound for pound so many jokes in the episode. I can watch that one and just go okay, I would do nothing different. There are some episodes that I’ll see again and go like oh I wish I’d done that differently, but “Cape Feare” there’s something about it, I like it just the way it is. So I would say that one.
As someone who watched the show as a kid and then became a film critic, I have to mention my affinity for The Critic as well…
Rich: I think that show might of been ahead of its time because it was such absurdist humour and so many non sequiturs. I think now or maybe five years ago it would have been really really popular, at the time I think it was just so out there. It was so bizarre in some ways that it was a little ahead of its time but I loved working on it.
And on behalf of Canada I’d like to thank you for including Peter Moosebridge in Zootopia
Rich: Absolutely! He was a pleasure to work with. What a voice! I would believe anything that man said. “The world is made of snow”… well, the world must be made of snow, Peter Moosebridge said it.
I read there were different animals used for the international versions
Rich: That’s true, there was. In Australia Peter Moosebridge became a koala, I can’t remember what they called him there, and in Brazil it was a jaguar and in China it was a panda and in Japan in was a racoon dog, which is a very popular animal in Japan.
Were these also voiced by well known anchors in their respective countries?
Rich: I think we had anchors and sometimes it was comedians from other countries, which you know, I don’t know what that says about the news industry [laughs].
Well Zootopia is filled with great easter eggs like that, are there any that you think people may not have caught yet?
Rich: In the Mystic Springs Oasis, the naturalist club, in the lobby of the place there are some Disney props on some shelves. Aladdin’s lamp is kind of hidden in that location, so there’s that one to look out for. There was one that Byron (Howard) and I were talking about yesterday, it’s not so much an Easter Egg but in the scene where Judy is back at the carrot stand in Bunnyburrow and she’s wrapping up the carrots for the customer, one of our designers who designed the page of newspaper that she’s wrapping the carrots up in wrote complete articles on each page of that newspaper. Most places, like on the Simpsons, we just do what we call Greeking, where it just looks like fake letters, or we would clip out articles from a newspaper and make it just a fake newsprint, but our designers wrote complete articles that if you freeze frame you can read ‘em. It’s not like a reference to anything or an easter egg per say, it just speaks to the attention of detail, which is insane in this movie.
This isn’t going to be one of those Disney scandals where it turns out to be a porn story written there is it?
Rich: It’s not a penthouse forum letter, nothing like that. Good clean fun. Famous last words (laughs).
And what about on the new Blu ray, any easter eggs to look forward to on there?
Rich: Byron Howard and I did intros to a bunch of deleted scenes that didn’t make it into the film. Some of them come from a version of the film that’s really different from the film we know now. We have some scenes from that version of the movie, some come from the film as we know it presently. I really like these because it’s kind of a peak behind the curtain of the process of making a film like this. I always like seeing what the stepping stones were to get to where the movie is now. These are definitely that, where it gives the fans insight into what the movie used to be and the path that we took to get to the movie as we know it now.
Like how Wreck It Ralph once had a “toilet vortex” in it…
Rich: That’s right. For a long time we thought: that toilet vortex, that is not leaving this movie. That is in. If I had to bet money on something, it would be that the toilet vortex stays in for the whole movie, which had nothing to do with video games or anything like that, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Well we have a big gamer readership so we could do a whole interview on Wreck-It-Ralph alone, 10 minutes doesn’t do your career justice.
Rich: I’m proud to be on the Dork Shelf, that’s the best shelf in the house, man. I have several Dork Shelves in my house. I’m thinking about the shelves I have in my place, so many of them are filled with dorky things.
Well that’s always our closing question, what’s on your Dork Shelf?
Rich: Okay, one Dork Shelf is filled with vinyl figures, like kidrobot figures. I have a real problem with buying blind box vinyls and I can fill shelf after shelf with them. I’m looking at a bunch on my desk right now. I have one shelf, this is a good Dork Shelf thing, that is my original copy of the novelization of Star Wars, Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi AND the follow up novel that was written, Splinter of the Mind’s Eye. I have those paperbacks on a Dork Shelf sitting proudly together. I’ll tweet them at you.
You’re very active on Twitter and very vocal with your fans, I’m sure they appreciate that.
Rich: I just think it’s really cool that these people, a lot of them are artists, they love drawing the characters. A lot of people say this is the first time they’ve ever drawn a picture and wanted to share it with you, I think that’s really really cool. If people are going to draw something and address it to me, I owe it to them to say something in response. I take it really seriously. The next great filmmaker or the next great animator could be one of these people. I think it’s really important to give feedback when people put a part of themselves out there.
I particularly enjoyed the Zootopia/ Marvel mash-up of “Nick Furry”
— Mi Heri (@MiHeri21) May 22, 2016
Rich: That was really good, that was very very clever. I had not thought of that one. When someone comes up with something that we haven’t kicked around in our story room, it’s like oh shit that’s pretty good, why didn’t we think of that? I love stuff like that.
So do we, and we love Zootopia and would love to talk to you more about it but unfortunately we’re out of time.