Zootopia won over movie critics with ease, sitting at 99% on Rotten Tomatoes, and it backed it up with film audiences by setting a box office record as the largest Disney Animation opening of all-time.
A big part of that success comes down to the relationship and design of the Zootopia's two lead characters, Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin ), and her unwitting partner, Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman). I sat down with Jason Bateman at the fitting location of Disney’s Animal Kingdom where we discussed his role and how it changed throughout the course of development, what he wants to see in Zootopia 2 and his thoughts on Horrible Bosses 3.
First off, I want to say congratulations. This film hit me pretty good. I loved your performance as Nick.
Jason Bateman: Thanks.
I think it’s going to work for all audiences because of how it tackles, one) important themes, but two) how it does so with relatable characters. And for Nick that hit home with me when we learned a little bit about his backstory about his youth. So I want to know how the character was pitched to you and what was part of the appeal of taking this role?
Jason Bateman: I don’t really remember the character being pitched to me aside from them saying he’s kind of a conman, kinda sly, kind of sarcastic. And I was like, “OK. Got it. I play that character a lot and that’s going to be a lot of fun.”
I didn’t really have to be talked into any part of this film. I’ve always wanted to voice a character in an animated film. The fact that it was lead character and with a company like Disney Animation was just like, “Great. Got it. Check that off the bucket list.”
Did the character or the story change much throughout the development?
Jason Bateman: Yeah. The script itself or the story itself originally was going to be through the perspective of my character. I think they realized early on that it’d be a depressing perspective to go into Zootopia and he’s not a big fan of what the town is and things didn’t work out for him there. Then he meets up with the bunny, Judy Hopps, and she kinda puts a smile on his face and makes it all better. It kind of delayed kind of that buoyancy a little too long, whereas if you start with her, which is what they ultimately did, and you follow her optimism and going to the big city to make it, kind of that classic “I’m going to make it in New York” kind of thing, that’s a little bit more of a winning journey. Then, of course she comes up against somebody who is cynical and she kind of plusses his life a little bit. And he gives her a little bit more of a thicker skin. It’s kind of common sense, actually. I’m really happy that they made that adjustment.
Now that you’ve taken a lead role and you are delving more into animation, having directed to live action features, have you ever considered working on that side of it for animation?
Jason Bateman: That would be a real privilege. The people who direct these films are very, very skilled at what it is that they do. And that’s something that’s super specific. You know, making these films is wildly different than making a live action film. You have to have a deep knowledge of that whole process, which is unlike anything else. So I wouldn’t assume to know how to do that and I’d love to have the opportunity to learn. So just being behind the curtain, just this bit on doing this film was really educational. I think I’d have to soak up quite a bit more before I deserve the right to kind of lead these people.
If we can revisit Zootopia and there’s a chance for a sequel, what would you like to see Nick do next time?
Jason Bateman: I like the fact that…it’s a big of a spoiler alert, but the fact that he becomes a cop with Judy is pretty cool. I’d like to see them tackle some big cases and bring down some heavyweight criminals. That would be kinda fun if we can kinda scope things out a little bit more.
My last question is a little off topic, but if I don’t ask I’m going to have some angry friends back at home. I’ve heard you say some mixed things about Horrible Bosses 2. I actually dug that film. Is there any chances of a Horrible Bosses 3?
Jason Bateman: The mixed things, I think, if I know what I think you are talking about, was kind of taken out of context. I think that film is incredible and even better than the first film. I was really surprised that it didn’t have the legs that the first one did. Aside from that, it’s a fantastic couple of movies. I loved playing that character and working with all those people.
Cool. Thanks for your time.
Jason Bateman: Yeah. Thank you.
The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighbourhoods 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.
Directed by Byron Howard (Tangled, Bolt) and Rich Moore (Wreck-It Ralph, The Simpsons), co-directed by Jared Bush (Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero), and produced by Clark Spencer (Wreck-It Ralph), Walt Disney Animation Studios’ comedy-adventure Zootopia opens in theaters on March 4, 2016.