If you follow me, you know I have a soft spot for moms making moves. You also might know that the #ZootopiaEvent appears to have taken over my twitter feed for the last week or so. 🙂 Part of our exclusive experience provided by Disney, was the chance to interview actress Ginnifer Goodwin, who voices Zootopia’s lead character, Judy Hopps.
One surprise when we entered the room, was that there was a laptop set-up towards the front of it. We learned that Ginnifer was VERY pregnant and her doctor advised her to limit her travel. Therefore, we did not get to see her glowing face in person, but via Skype instead. That’s okay though, because her bubbly personality shined right through that small screen. (Disney Trivia Tidbit: Ginnifer graces the small screen in ABC’s Once Upon a Time playing Mary Margaret Blanchard/ Snow White & she met her now husband, Josh Dallas, as a co-star on the show).
So we know that you love Disney. Tell us about how you got the role. What was that like?
Ginnifer – Oh my gosh. Um, this is gonna sound like BS. I was in Mickey Mouse pajamas. Red Mickey Mouse pajamas that had my name embroidered on them and my mother gave me pajamas. They matched my sister’s. And I was pregnant with my first son. And I was sitting in my kitchen in Vancouver where we shoot Once Upon a Time. And I had a message on the phone from all of my acting representatives, including my voiceover agent. And so I thought I was getting fired from, at the time, I was working on “Legend of the Neverbeast.”
Because why else would everyone call at once, including my voice over agent. And I said to my husband, who was also in the kitchen, oh my gosh! I’m about to get fired! And he said, I’m not kidding you. He said, or Disney’s calling you to offer you the lead in their next animated feature. I said, that’s mean. Like, I’m obviously getting fired, and I need to brace myself. And I sat down. And I picked up the phone, and miraculously got them all back on the phone immediately.
And I think that the words of my agent were John Lasseter is calling to offer you… And I burst out crying, and I’m, like, scribbling notes to my husband, and how did you know? And… So they said Disney and I said I’m in. And they said, well, don’t you want to know about the role? Or the script? Or what it’s called? Or what it’s about? I said no, no, no. I do, but later. So call them and tell them that I’m taking the job. ‘Cause I want it to be, like, legally binding. And then you can call me back and tell me what it is.
My commentary: I love how Ginnifer is so candid here, and her answer to this question made you really see the human side of her. I mean, I can see myself in those situations in which success knocks on my door and I think it came to the wrong address. I also love the fact that she is such a Disney fan, that it was passed on by her mom to her and her sister. Disney impacts generations.
So are you overly optimistic like Judy Hopps…
Ginnifer- Oh yeah. Um, and I feel like I’m animated in real life. It’s really just that I’m type cast, which I’m all for. And I am very honored looking at Judy saying that I think that we overlap on most of our qualities.
My Commentary: Like I mentioned in my intro, Ginnifer’s goodness shines through. She is super sweet in a way that doesn’t irritate or annoy you at all, and that’s hard to do. She did a great job in her role as Judy, and I think it’s because of her inherit niceness.
What did you find most challenging getting into the role?
Ginnifer- I think most of the challenges came from just learning how to act with only my voice, more than it was about the character. It was just different… I mean, I feel like working on “Legend of the Neverbeast” was kind of my boot camp. Hence my assuming I’m getting fired from it. But, you know, there’s something about not having your facial expression, and body language, a costume, props to which you can clink to express something.
Anything. And having to relinquish all control to the animators, to the editors, and just say, okay, I’m going to throw, I’m gonna throw everything into my voice. And I’m gonna give the directors a million different choices for every single scene, and then let them edit together what they think makes their character. I mean, I didn’t know who the character really was, I don’t feel, until I saw the movie.
And that’s the opposite of the experience I have in live action where I feel like it’s about being a control freak and sort of protecting your character from everyone else who’s working on the project. And saying, like, no, this is my journey, and this is how I’m going to express this journey. And it was a really liberating. And also liberating because I could wear PJs. And… don’t have to worry about, like, a thing about how I look, and can just jump up and down in my sneakers in a recording booth all day, and play.
My Commentary: It was interesting to hear her comparisons and how she didn’t really know how her character would turn out until she saw the movie. When you are a creative, it’s so hard to turn over the reigns to someone else. But from what she said here, I could see how handing over the responsibility to someone else skilled in the area could be liberating.
See Ginnifer, or really hear her voice, in action in this Zootopia clip:
What were your favorite cartoons growing up? Did any of them influence your performance in Zootopia?
Ginnifer- I don’t think they did influence my performance. But, I mean, my first love was Winnie the Pooh. Snow White was a big one for me. She was, like, my first Princess. I mean, she was Brunette, and so I thought that that means we’re related. Alice in Wonderland was an obsession for a while. I mean I grew up seeing and loving every Disney film. Hence it being the goal to be in a Disney animated feature.
But I didn’t really use any of them. I feel like performances have changed since the ‘30s. And how we represent these characters. And the female character themselves have drastically changed since the ‘30s. And I mean, I just approached Judy the way that I approach all of my live action characters, really. I mean, except for in the process of recording her. I feel like my homework was sort of all the same homework I do for all the same homework I do for anything.
My Commentary: Judy’s character is definitely reflective of a changing tide, combating an old way of doing things.
What do you like about working for Disney…
Ginnifer- You know what? I feel like it’s even better than the movies are. In terms of… well that sounds terrible, I should say, it’s better than the dream was of getting to work on them. Like, the reality is even better than the dream is what I should say. You know, they are utterly creative! I’ve never heard of another studio that will start over from scratch to make something better. And they do this again and again! They started this movie over, like, November before last. After we had been working on it for years…
Because they said they can be better. They can be better than that. But it can be even better than that last version that we did. And I know stories of them doing this in the past, and also it’s a place where, honestly, the employees are so happy, and that energy is palpable when you walk into the studio. I think it’s part of why I wanted so much to actually physically be in the studio to record. They just want it to be… They know that part of that liberation is fun.
They create such a safe place to be free. And, you know, I felt like I could really try anything and really fall on my face, and it was because they made me feel so safe to do that. And I always knew that, you know, there was a version of the movie in which young Judy Hopps sang a song. And I asked, well, can I sing the song? Like, can you push buttons to make it sound like I’m being on key, and make it sound like I’m young and things like this.
And they made a total… I mean, they weren’t kidding. They said no, but you can sing it at the Oscars. And I said how crazy is it that actually, we do know that any Disney film is going to be nominated? Like, you just know at this point that they will be critically beloved as much they’re loved by audiences. And I don’t really know of another studio that has that kind of record. And also another studio with which you can make the assumption that they will both be loved by the masses and be critically acclaimed. It’s crazy that they have found the magical scientific formula for great movies.
My Commentary: Here, Ginnifer’s Disney fandom takes front and center. I love hearing about Disney’s dedication to quality and excellence.
Were you able to record in Vancouver while you’re filming Once Upon a Time where you had to travel back and forth a lot?
Ginnifer- I mostly chose to travel because I frankly love working at the Disney Studios. It’s really a magical place. And on top of the fact that you’ve got things like the candy bar.
Like this crazy coffee machine that they have right outside the recording booth that, like, you can invent coffee. Like, they were always laughing me ‘cause I’m, like, you can just pay me with the coffee bar. I love that they would surround me with art from the film. So the booth was always really an inspiring place to be. There’s something about the history being in the place where Disney came to be, what Disney is. But there would be times when my schedule would allow me to get back in the amount of time. They would need a certain amount of time and we couldn’t make it work with my Once Upon a Time schedule. And they would send everyone to Vancouver.
We would record there in a recording studio. That was, you know… I mean, it was incredibly, I don’t know. It’s a feeling of being really supported that they would do something like that.
My Commentary: Her answer here spoke to the travel, sweet and coffee-lovin’ side of me. I can imagine how being surrounding by the Disney history would inspire you as you portray the character. I also appreciate how Disney accommodated her by coming to her in Vancouver when it was necessary. It sounds like a family.
As a mom, what kind of message do you hope kids will take away from this movie?
Ginnifer- I mean, there’s so many, right? I feel like the overlying theme, the one that Judy articulates in the movie, um, anyone can be anything is gonna be one of the… I think probably one of the first things that I know I hope my kids pick up on when they’re old enough to see this film. There’s some more underlying themes that are a little more sort of politically based and about the human condition. Ironic, since this is a story about animals, that I hope that they get to at some point when they’re ready for it. And then I just love that, for instance, Judy takes real responsibility for her actions. And I think she’s so noble in that way. And I hope that kids pick up on that.
My Commentary: As a mom, I could also see the theme of being able to do it all. I did not pick up on the responsibility theme until she mentioned it here, but I could totally see it once it was pointed out. That’s a subtle lesson right there, one of many, that kids can leave with from watching this movie.
Were you able to record with your husband?
Ginnifer- I was! I… And he doesn’t believe me, but I had nothing to do with his being cast. I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t know they were even thinking about it. I never asked them. I had never mentioned anything. But he got a call from his agents that Disney was offering him this role. And we did get to record together, which was very fun. He’d never done any kind of animated voice before, and…
He kind of blew me away, too. Like…
And I thought I was like, I fancied myself an expert at this point, and I gave him lousy pointers! And he went into the booth and the directors gave him the opposite notes! He hit it out of the park. But it was really fun ‘cause we got to do it together.
My Commentary: As someone who works with my husband, I could totally relate to her here. When I felt I had developed a lot of media expertise, my husband came along and taught me a thing or two.
What’s next for you? Is there another Disney film?
Ginnifer- Well, I’ve been begging for a sequel. So I mean, they have not confirmed that it will happen at all, but I do keep begging. ‘Cause I figure… I mean, I begged this far. It worked up until this point.
My Commentary: I would love to watch a sequel. Once you see it, you’ll want one too! It feels like a different kind of movie, but one that we should all be watching.
Overall, I truly enjoyed this interview with Ginnifer. And, what’s not mentioned above is that Ginnifer said she would “totally befriend” me if she was on social media. I would rather like that, as her positivity is thoroughly addicting.
Get Social with ZOOTOPIA
She is an inspirational speaker , and I’m amazed at her balancing Hollywood and motherhood ,it has to be hard
I agree with you Regina. She is amazing!