NPR’s Kelly McEvers talks to Ginnifer Goodwin, who voiced main character Officer Judy Hopps, in the Disney animated film, Zootopia, about a world where animals live in perfect harmony.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, “ZOOTOPIA”)
NATE TORRENCE: (As Clawhauser) You are even cuter than I thought you’d be.
GINNIFER GOODWIN: (As Judy Hopps) You probably didn’t know, but, a bunny can call another bunny cute, but when other animals do it it’s a little…
TORRENCE: (As Clawhauser) Oh, I am so sorry.
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
And Officer Judy Hopps certainly has a long way to go to prove she’s not just Zootopia Police Department’s cute token bunny. Ginnifer Goodwin voiced the main character of Judy Hopps, and she’s with me now in the studio.
Welcome to the show.
GOODWIN: Thank you, it’s an honor to be here.
MCEVERS: Cool. That clip we just heard with Judy Hopps admonishing one of her characters for calling her cute – you know, there’s a lot of vocabulary in this film that, you know, in the real world is used in pretty serious conversations about race and stereotyping. Tell me about that.
GOODWIN: The thing that I think I love most about this movie is that it was a surprise to even me when I saw it how not just timely and relatable it was, but also in realizing that this movie was written years ago, how timeless these issues are and how maybe we should’ve dealt with them a long time ago. And I love that it’s not – I mean, it’s not a message movie. It’s just that, like you said, there is a vocabulary that is scarily relevant.
MCEVERS: You know, the movie deals with small prejudices, large produces. There’s this one point where somebody’s, like, putting a sheep’s wool. Maybe we can listen to that clip, too.
(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, “ZOOTOPIA”)
BATEMAN: (As Nick Wilde) So fluffy.
GOODWIN: (As Judy Hopps) Hey.
BATEMAN: (As Nick Wilde) Sheep never let me get this close.
GOODWIN: (As Judy Hopps) You can’t just touch a sheep’s wool.
MCEVERS: That really calls up a whole bunch of stuff, right?
GOODWIN: Oh, boy, does it.
MCEVERS: And I wonder – as an adult watching this film, I get that. I wonder if some of that stuff would go over kids’ heads? What did you think about that, making this? I mean, this is a kids’ movie.
GOODWIN: Well, I’m sure that to a certain extent, kids won’t understand what the parallels are in the human universe, but I do think that kids will be able to identify similarities in their own lives, like, experiences they’ve had school or times when they have witnessed that kind of behavior.
MCEVERS: So Judy is a very fiercely optimistic character. What else about Judy do you think makes her a good lead character, especially as a role model, say, for girls.
GOODWIN: I love that in her positive attributes, that through those cracks, you see self-righteousness and you see self-denial and you see her having complete unawareness that she has really the same preconceived notions about the world as her rather racist parents. I think that having a character like that who then changes and says, in order to make the world a better place, I’m going to have to make me better and I’m going to have to really own the mistakes that I’ve made and apologize for them, I think there is no better role model than that.
MCEVERS: She also, you know, there’s not a clear love interest, she’s not concerned about her looks. I mean, there are just some sort of things are not happening that you might see in another Disney project.
GOODWIN: That’s true. No, there’s no sexuality at all. If I had a little girl, I would so want this to be her hero because Disney has created an action hero, a butt-kicker, who is good and girly and kind and generous and uncompromising and doesn’t have to have that sexuality, doesn’t have to have any masculine qualities. Like, you can’t, like, take sexiness out of Angelina Jolie when you make her an action hero…
GOODWIN: …And then you have the action heroes that are, you know, played by women who are tomboys. And so were saying being tough, and being girly and kind and gentle and generous are, like, mutually exclusive ideas. And Disney, I feel, like, threw that out the window, which I really appreciate.
MCEVERS: One of the best parts of the movie are these great exchanges between you and your sidekick, Jason Bateman, who plays your partner, a fox. His name is Nick Wilde. Did you guys record some of these scenes together, and what was that like?
GOODWIN: We did. We worked only two or three days together, but I honestly believe I blew every session we had because his comedy chops are pitch perfect, and I kept laughing. I felt so bad because I would forget that I was supposed to be performing opposite him.
MCEVERS: What’s one of your favorite moments that ended up making it in?
GOODWIN: Oh, my gosh, it’s – I’ll never forget recording – there’s a “Godfather” -esque scene…
MCEVERS: (Laughter), Yes, there is.
GOODWIN: …And I see when I watch the movie Jason in the sound booth, like, fully acting out kissing Mr. Big’s ring. He had the whole world, like, materialized before his eyes and he went through all the motions, and I lost it.
MCEVERS: (Laughter). How does it compare to being on the stage or on the screen?
GOODWIN: I found it really, really liberating because I had never really taken in how much I use my face, my body language and even a costume and props to express something. Like, I just count on the the things that are going to be obvious to the audience as being things I don’t have to act. And so then when I’m just left with my voice, like, I know that the animators are going to be doing most of the job of expressing. All I can do is pour everything into my voice. And there’s no self-consciousness in any way. You know, I was so un-self-aware, I think, in fact, until I got pregnant the first time. I was completely unaware of how vain I was. And to be able to watch something and get lost in it and not be distracted by looking at myself was also an incredible experience.
MCEVERS: Oh, yeah. Ginnifer Goodwin, thank you so much for being here today.
GOODWIN: Thank you for having me.