MARCH 2: Chad Sellers, Animation Supervisor of Disney’s “Zootopia”

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(Pictured) Chad Sellers. Photo by Alex Kang. ©2015 Disney. All Rights Reserved.

Please note we will be in SCA 108 tonight and we will start seating at 6:30pm. Presentation begins at 7:00pm, BUT PLEASE COME EARLY FOR BEST SEATS!

USC Zootopia Flyer1

CHAD SELLERS (Animation Supervisor) oversees the animation and performances of specific characters in individual sequences. He assists the animators to deliver the directors’ vision while keeping the characters’ performances consistent.

Sellers, who joined Walt Disney Animation Studios in October of 2009, kicked off his Disney career as an animator on 2010’s “Tangled.” His credits as animator also include Oscar® winners “Frozen” and “Feast,” as well as Disney’s arcade-game-hopping adventure “Wreck-It Ralph,” the 2012 short “Tangled Ever After” and the ABC holiday hits “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” and “Prep & Landing Stocking Stuffer: Operation: Secret Santa.”

Prior to joining Disney, Sellers was an animator at Sony Pictures Imageworks, where he worked on “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” He also worked as an animator on “Pirates of the Caribbean” while at ILM.

Sellers credits classic Disney musicals with inspiring him to pursue a career as a character animator. He attended Miami International University of Art & Design, majoring in computer animation.

Sellers and wife Marisela are expecting a little brother for daughter Callie Rose. They live in Burbank with a cat named Luna.

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23 thoughts on “MARCH 2: Chad Sellers, Animation Supervisor of Disney’s “Zootopia”

  1. Megan Simon says:

    Wow! What a fantastic presentation that focused primarily on animation! I loved hearing about what role animators serve at Disney studios, what their every day looks like and what studios expect from their animators. Chad really broke it down how the animators researched the animals, how the studio functioned every day and how the magic happens! I absolutely adored looking at the early tests figuring out how characters moved, how much animal they take on and how much human. I got the chance to speak to Chad Sellars after the presentation, and what a fantastic guy! He was very kind and incredibly helpful with his advice on how to approach improving animation. I truly found his advice and input to be inspiring! What a great semester of lectures! I am very thankful!

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  2. YuYu says:

    It’s glad that we can have Chad Sellers tonight. My favorite part of this lecture is that Chad introduced how they test the performances of the animals. It’s hard to make the animal act like a human but we can still see it is what it’s kind at the same time, but they did it! From running on four legs to running on two legs, we can still recognize it’s a giraffe or a goat from the ways they run. Those animators do not only have the greatest imagination, but the patient to do all the observations. I love all the performances from all different kind of animals in this movie! Even it’s a little bit spoil the plot tonight I will still go to the theater to watch this movie.

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  3. David Nessl says:

    Zootopia looks like a great film for both children and adults, but I wish Chad’s seminar was more about his career in animation than a plug-in for Disney’s new feature. It’s always interesting to see the amount of work that goes into real life references at Disney Studios. They love animals and I don’t think they’ll ever run out of animal movie ideas for the next 100 yrs. Maybe by that time the Disney Corp. will own the copyright to every animal story imaginable. Either way the huge teams at Disney make some beautiful stuff, but will the recent 3D animation stand the test of time in the same way Robin Hood and The Jungle Book have? One thing that sets CGI apart from classical hand drawn animation is the remnants and style of an artist. The uniform and almost perfect look of computer generated images all resemble one thing–a computer. We miss the beauty and the art of animation that you could once point out as a specific artist’s work. Instead large companies can keep cycling through amazing artists that spend their days clicking a mouse instead of bringing their individuality to life through a fine art form.

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    • David Nessl says:

      Replying to my own comment. I was thinking about live action and the auteur director, then I related that to my idea that we lose the artists style with CG. We do lose that in my opinion, but does it matter when animation is competing in the live action world? I think the masses of people crave realism over artistic style, which is why these CGI films are so popular. No longer are the artists the primary focus as are auteur directors and story are.

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  4. Evan Tedlock says:

    It was nice of Disney to lend us Chad for the evening to plug Zootopia but I agree with David, I was much less interested in the movie plug than I was in Chad’s personal journey. Also the fact that so many people were there diluted the intimate kind of interaction we are used to having during our seminars. It was difficult for our own students to get questions in let alone steer an interesting conversation. It was also a little strange to have a Disney PR person there making sure everything was above board. A little patronizing don’t you think? It was cool to see how they used reference in their play-blasts but again I’m less interested in Disney film and more interested in personal experience. Maybe next time we can single out a Disney animator sans the corporate crony and really have a discussion about what it’s like working at Disney.

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    • Lisa Mann says:

      In this day and age, it is very difficult to get someone from the larger studios to do a presentation without the promotional entourage steering the ship. Zootopia and The Good Dinosaur presentations were both orchestrated by Disney’s new college press junket. They asked us for the largest theater and as much publicity as they can get. So, yes, I feel used. Perhaps we should keep these presentations out of Seminar from now on.

      As for Chad telling a more personal story, do you think Disney would allow that? No. He even had to check to see if he could tell us the name of the new film he’s working on!

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  5. Jane G. Kim says:

    The week’s seminar was certainly enjoyable. I was reminded again of why I like animation so much. What I enjoyed the most was when he talked about all the processes that went through making the animal as realistic as possible, while being stylized and characterized. The concept art were amazing as well. Though I agree with the above comment that the seminar would have been more fulfilling if Chad Sellers could have talked more about his career and his path to it.

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  6. Sequoyah Madison says:

    I think that though I would have liked the Q & A to last longer, the fact that Chad’s presentation focused too much on Zootopia, was most likely not Chads fault. The seminar had been advertised as a behind the scenes sneak peek, and Disney probably allowed Chad to share the information he did, given that he would also be advertising their new movie.

    I enjoyed Chads presentation, but I didn’t fully appreciate it until I saw the movie! After seeing the movie, the behind the scene details Chad discussed felt so much more relevant. It is no doubt one of the best Walt Disney animations ever released. It is so appropriate for the time. I am truly floored that such a large corporation was able to pull off a movie that tackles issues of politics, gender, and race all in one movie, while delivering it in a poetic manner with a solid plot, an implication of romance and an amazing set of characters. The whole animation felt very Pixar, though the Pixar name was not officially tied to it.

    The only critique I have of the movie was the flies on the yaks face – it was really pretty disgusting and it seemed to imply that people who meditate are also dirty and disgusting… The scene could have been done without flies and it didn’t really make sense in a film that spotlights inequalities and hierarchies.

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  7. Katie Smith says:

    I loved watching the different walk cycles and clips that Chad showed, Zootopia looks like an incredible movie (and from what I’ve heard, it’s really amazing!) I was surprised to see as many clips as we did, and part of me didn’t want Chad to keep going as he was telling us what was going on in the film and what clip he was showing next and why. It spoiled the movie slightly, but I really enjoyed watching everything and seeing the artistry behind it so I wasn’t too upset by it. It would have been fun to see and hear more of Chad’s own work and experience, even on past films, but I understand the night was about Zootopia. I left the evening wishing I could go see the film, but I’ll have to wait at the moment as the timing isn’t right and it will be a great break to go see it when I can. I’m also looking forward to seeing what Chad does with the upcoming film Gigantic!

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  8. Okike Franklin says:

    Chads presentation was brilliant, although at some points during his presentation it almost felt like he was trying to sell Zootopia tickets which I’m not against but backing up Evans point, I also missed that comfort we get from intimate interactions with our guest speakers.
    I honestly loved Chads presentation in comparison to the week before.
    I applaud the structure in which he organised his presentation. It was refreshing and interesting to see the amount of research and decisions that Disney put in every character and finding that right balance between animal/humanoid representation.
    In all, It was an excellent presentation and I’ll be buying a ticket this week 🙂

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  9. Joe Stucky says:

    This was a great presentation on Zootopia. Yes my kids and I will go see it. I really appreciate seeing a glimpse of the story rooms. I am pretty sure the story department as in people power was bigger than the images shown. I have heard the shear number of drawings that were made from the story department on this film was close to the amount needed to animate it traditionally. Chad was in charge of animation of course not necessarily story. The characters are fantastic and the walk cycles were great. Chad was able to give a little more inside story to the making of Zootopia, and Mr Big was well “Spoiler alert” not big:).

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  10. Amir Arzanian says:

    It was really nice to have a Disney animator as the speaker. Chad presentation was very informative and interesting. It was good to know how much research they do for a single film and I think the result shows how much detail oriented they were at their production. The animation footages and his descriptions were amazing and reminded me why I wanted to be an animation artist. My only consideration was the part of the movie promotion. Although it was nice to see some final footages of the film but the presentation revealed the story until mid-point of the story and he showed so much of the film that I think it will reduce the surprising moments of the film. I agree with Evan it was better to hear more about Chad’s path to Disney and working there.

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  11. Ruchia Masuko says:

    I was so happy to be in Chad Seller’s presentation.
    And I LOVE Zootopia, I am obsessed with the film. I am obsessed with the characters, the animation, the story, and the world they created.
    As he told in his presentation, many research about animals and Unique approaches are done for creating the characters. Comparing to other 3D animated films that characters are animals but personified, such as Chicken Little, KungFu Panda, and Madagascar, it is so clear that a much more researches of animal movement, body structure, habits, their biology had done in Zootopia. Which makes the film more believable, vivid, unique, and physical, or sexual.
    I have a dog and other day I was watching a TV, and when I switch to the channel, it was animated film “Jungle Book” was on. Then suddenly my dog came closer to the screen and started to chase the character. I was impressed because he doesn’t react to other TV shows even live action and animals are on. But he actually reacted to the animation that many studies of animal movement and body was done. I am impressed of the power that animations have.
    Also Zootopia is so successful in story, theme, script as well. I’m planning to go see the film couple of times more next few weeks!

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  12. Kun Xia says:

    Chad Sellers’presentation was great, it was really a good opportunity to hear behind scene story about Zootopia, it was really engaging and funny. After I watched the movie, I highly appreciate the effort they put in when they making the film, Zootopia has so much excellent elements in it, cutting edge animation, detailed world-building, fully developed characters. The detail in the animation and world-building is staggering, and the design of Zootopia itself, how its infrastructure accommodates animals of different sizes and species, is truly impressive. It is interesting that metaphors are how we tend to offer moral instruction through storytelling. Make this story specific to human beings, will runs the risk of being preachy. But tell it as a larger metaphor, and it’s better able to connect with its target audience.

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  13. Bryan Lee says:

    This was a super fun experience to hear the level of detail that went into preparing and studying the animals in order to make them more believable but also to be able to turn them into “gags” as well. I enjoyed the presentation and how it gave us a perspective on how they built a whole world from the ground up. It was also cool and unfortunate to see how there was so much bonus or extra material that they had to make but unfortunately was cut or didn’t make the final cut of the movie. But overall, I really enjoyed hearing about the whole process of making Zootopia and gives me a better appreciation of the film and animation in general as I learn more about the work and effort that goes into making these films.

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  14. HyeonJeong Cho says:

    First of all, I’VE WON THE TICKETS! YAYYY. It was such a great movie, indeed. And Q&A time after screening was great too.

    I really liked the fact that this presentation is focused on ‘animating’ side; what problems they encountered, how they researched, and how they solved the problems. I knew this film was going to be fun, but I was 100% sure and excited after this seminar.
    One thing that personally I was sad about was showing the clip of Mr.Big; that is such a hugee punch point, it’d be more funny if I didn’t see that part when I watched the film.

    Overall, it was very informative presentation, made me want to watch the film, and made me watch the film! I loved it!

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  15. Yingzong Xin says:

    Zootopia This is the most amazing Disney movie i had ever seen! and also the presentation was so great. It is such a good experience to see all of that pre-design works and tests they did before watch the movie. Even though at the beginning i thought it was another cute animal ‘s cartoon made by Disney, but i was so wrong, in fact, i was so surprised by the meaning in Zootpia, the deeply thought about the problem in society has really moved me.
    it was not presented in the presentation but i have to say, Disney has always done the amazing design work in animation but not all the story can be that good, but it has always been my best company.

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  16. Erik Dumas says:

    I think I’m not alone in expressing a disappointment in this seminar being less about Chad Sellers as an artist and more about Disney’s new film. I totally recognize that this isn’t Chad’s fault, but I still wish we could have gotten a little more information about him and his work.

    That being said, I was pretty amazed with the level of quality we saw in the clips from Zootopia, and I was even more amazed when I saw the film and realized that it was just as good as it was hyped up to be. Bravo to Chad Sellers and the rest of the Disney team that worked on the film, it really was the best thing I’ve seen come out of Disney in a while.

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  17. Sagar Ramesh says:

    I really enjoyed Chad’s presentation on Zootopia, but like many others in this thread, I would have loved to hear more about his work, what he’s learned during his time at Disney, and more about him as an artist and animator rather than as a representative of Disney. Nevertheless, the presentation was phenomenal, and it was great to see that every clip that Chad showed provoked a positive reaction from the audience.

    After seeing the movie, the effort that went into the research, movement, and use of technology was very evident. Everything in the film was so well executed, the story was engaging, and the humor was very well integrated. Overall, I thought Chad’s presentation really set the stage for the movie, and the final product really lived up to the hype. Congratulations to Chad and the rest of the Zootopia team!

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  18. Shang Song says:

    This is the hottest events this month.
    As you know, “zootopia” released in the United States and China same day,So, the discussion of all my social network. In successful promotion strategy — including the Chad speech, a good case of commercial publicity , as well as the production of good quality.
    But today I want to say, not for commercial publicity, not on the computer animation technology, but about the stories and performances.
    Many years ago, I study “animation performance course “in university. It is a failure of the course, one task is to imitate the cat behavior, making a performance animation like cat. The result is terrible, no one work to meet the requirements, because we don’t have too many time watch habit of cats. Observation and analysis methods, the above all performance theory, prove to be correct in the “Zootopia”
    About the story, I want to say, I saw a very strong “race” topic, I don’t know whether this is a kind of political propaganda, but I don’t love any of the works has a strong didactic means, even if you want to go “preaching”,Please hide their intentions.

    Anyway, this is a good business work, I love the animal, thanks to Chad’s speech.

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  19. ZOEY says:

    Chad Sellers’ presentation is great, and myriads of clips of Zootopia are really amazing. From his description, Disney studio maintains the way to do animation with detailed observations toward real animals at first. After gathering enough references and clues, they start to experiment with different movement and speed to capture charm of diverse animals. I really respect whole idea and the production process of this successful feature film. It’s truly need constant determination and collaborative efforts to accomplish a complete polished animation piece. However, it’s a pity that Chad cannot share more things about his personal perspectives and experiences as an animation artist, director but be official representative as director of Zootopia from Disney.

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  20. Min Shi says:

    Chad Sellers’presentation was great. I watched the movie for two times.

    This film involves so many amazing elements, I can see the main character is kind of like Judie Foster from the Silence of the Lambs, they are both facing the same situation, being surrounded by a male-leading working environment. I can see Marlon Brando from Mr. Big, the performance is mimicking his acting for the Godfather,and Mr.Big’s daughter as Sofia Coppola. I really like the performance of Zootopia.
    It was also amazing that Chad showed us some test shots they did for animals’ walk and the references they based on.

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  21. Jing Huang says:

    I super love this movie! And Chad’s presentation give me some background stories for this movie, I get better understanding of Zootopia by this. Every character in this movie are vivid, and from Chad’s presentation, I learned why these characters are so real. These animal characters act as human role, they keep the animal species’ feature but they also do well in human’s job. Chad showed us abundant researches they did, how they observed the animals, how they did concept design and how they fixed them in animation. Chad said that their budget is no-budget. It really surprised me, I moved by the passion of these animators. And I know that if I wanna make a animation film to move audience, the first step is to experience life.

    Thanks Chad for this interesting and fantastic presentation, and thanks Disney for this super cute movie!

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