Disclaimer: Disney sent me to Walt Disney World on an all-expenses paid trip, in exchange for my coverage of the #ZootopiaEvent, which included an interview with Jason Bateman. All opinions are my own.
There I was. Just feet away from Jason Bateman.
My mind reeled. How could I be having this conversation with him? A serious discussion about the challenges of parenting. I mean, after all, he was the brown-haired best friend of Ricky Schroeder on “Silver Spoons” – the one who always had the inappropriate crush on older women.
While he was answering my questions, I realized just how much he has (we’ve both) grown up.
And growing up is exactly what he has done. Off screen he is husband to Amanda Anka, the daughter of famed singer/songwriter Paul Anka, and father to two beautiful little girls.
I was a child of the 80s, growing up watching Jason Bateman on television. I remember his character from “Little House on the Prairie” even before falling in love with “Silver Spoons”. As a child, I had a chance meeting with Ricky Schroeder – and got his autograph. Now, years later, I had the opportunity to interview his “best friend”.
Thanks to Disney I was able to find out, “What Does the Fox Say?”. But not just any fox. I’m talking about the fox in Disney’s new animated film, ZOOTOPIA.
Look at that smile.
Is it just me or do you see a little resemblance of Jason Bateman in his animated character Nick Wilde? That’s Disney magic right there.
That smile may have landed Jason Bateman the role of Nick Wilde. Or the laugh. In fact, Jason said, “I asked them if they wanted me to put on any sort of voice. And they said no, you sound conniving enough.”. That is too funny.
Let me introduce you to the premise of ZOOTOPIA and you’ll see why a “conniving” sound is perfect for his character….
The modern mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a city like no other. Comprised of habitat neighborhoods 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 optimistic 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.
I couldn’t imagine Jason Bateman playing anyone other than Nick Wilde. It’s his first major role in an animated film and he joked about finally being able to prove to his kids that he was going to work each day. It’s not as if his children, ages 9 and 4, have been able to see some of his more recent films.
Ah, but this movie, ZOOTOPIA, his children will see (one already has) and watch 20 times just like our kids. It seems even Jason Bateman is accustomed to this as a parent. BUT….as he points out, there won’t be any napping for the adults during this film. ZOOTOPIA is so clever and full of jokes that only adults will get…..I’m thinking of a “Breaking Bad” reference that even I didn’t catch at first and then “The Godfather” references throughout. CLEVER!
What Disney has always done so well, and what Jason talked with us about, is how ZOOTOPIA is a tool for parents. Jason said, “It’s a nice tool for me as a dad to talk about, like in this film – racism or xenophobia or fear mongering or bullying”. He added, “It makes it a little less ominous for them (parents) to kind of broach these subjects”.
I couldn’t agree more.
But here’s the thing, while there are plenty of lessons for children in this movie, there are a few for adults as well. This was what I was interested in talking to Jason about.
So I asked him……..”As a parent do find yourself ever relating to Mr. and Mrs. Hopps?”
(NOTE: Mr. and Mrs. Hopps are the overprotective parents of Judy Hopps, the bunny who becomes a police officer)
His answer spoke right to my heart. Our daughters are roughly the same age. His 9, mine 8.
“Well, if you mean the fact that they’re concerned of their daughter going to the big city, yeah, I mean of course. You, if you’re like me, hope and pray that you’re not going to be the kind of parent that when they are allowed to, and should, leave the house, that you are going to be paralyzed with this fear that UGH.”
“So what do I have? I have another nine years left, at least with Francesca, to get myself ready to be confident that she’s got a good enough decision maker on her shoulders to go out there and navigate, you know, the inevitable challenge. I mean, think about all the stuff that you guys have been exposed to that your parents never dreamed that you would be, and you being good people didn’t really willingly get into dangerous situations, but it just happens.”
“I’m really trying to be okay with the fact that I can’t keep her in a bubble and I can’t control her her whole life. And so, the only kind of peace that I can give myself is that I’m confident that she knows how to make good decisions…… so that’s my job. So, I will keep working hard to build her as good a car as possible so she can drive through it okay, you know?”
Yes, I do know.
That’s the struggle we all have as parents. Even Judy Hopps’ parents. Even Jason Bateman.
But I wasn’t done.
I was about to throw Jason Bateman a curveball, a question he didn’t expect.
I said, “My eight year old wants to know what is Nick Wilde’s favorite color?”
Now I know my daughter was back home in Texas, but one of the themes in the movie is to DREAM BIG and that anyone can be anything. So before I left for Orlando, I asked her, “If given the chance, what would question would you ask?”. I knew most likely I would never get to ask Jason Bateman her question. In fact, with a group of 25 bloggers and only a few minutes for each interview, not everyone gets to ask a question. But I wanted her to dream. Imagine.
That dream……it came true. My daughter had her own interview with Jason Bateman, though hundreds of miles away.
With much laughter in the room, Jason Bateman responded, “Nick Wilde’s favorite color……probably green, right, because he’s a scam artist, he likes the cash. That’s a good answer.”
A great answer……Thank you Jason Bateman!
Let’s take a glimpse of ZOOTOPIA and see (or hear) Jason in action……
ZOOTOPIA opens in theatres everywhere on March 4th!
Visit my ZOOTOPIA Event Page for all interview and Disney theme park posts, including:
- A Parent’s Guide to ZOOTOPIA – Movie Review
- Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge – SECRETS Revealed
- Zootopia Toys and Products – Worth Going Wild Over
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