- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2016

ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) - A former central Minnesota resident has scored a full-fledged animator’s credit on Disney’s new movie “Zootopia.”

Justin Weber worked on major shots of the characters throughout the film, which won top spot in the box office in its opening weekend with $73.7 million.

Weber started work on “Zootopia” in January 2015. The Foley High School graduate previously worked on the Disney animated films “Frozen” and “Big Hero 6.”

“Zootopia” features voice work from Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman. Weber got to animate the fox Nick Wilde (Bateman) and some of the main character, Judy Hopps (Goodwin), a bunny who wants to be a police officer. Hopps leaves Bunnyburrow for Zootopia to pursue her dream, but needs Wilde’s help when she discovers being an officer is trickier than she expected.

“There’s a lot of adventure and comedy. I got to do a little bit of everything,” Weber told the St. Cloud Times (http://on.sctimes.com/1p6Zl0U ).

A Disney fan since childhood, Weber joined the “Frozen” team with only a couple of months left on production. With “Big Hero 6,” he was involved in the entire production, starting with crowds and moving up to working on shots with characters.

Disney considers its animators actors, and some of them record themselves making expressions for reference. Others do thumbnail sketches or consider what their characters would look like when reacting to situations.

“I think with each movie, there’s always a new challenge, and this one was no different,” Weber said of “Zootopia.” ”I had to sort of hone my acting chops. I’m always trying to outdo what I did before.”

Animators wrapped up their work in October.

Weber’s father, John Weber, recalls his son always drawing on something, “whether it be a notebook or a table or a wall.”

“That was his desire and he enjoyed himself, and his friends in school always enjoyed the little stories and animated things he did,” said John Weber, who lives outside of Sauk Rapids.

Weber already is working on Disney’s next project, “Moana,” set for release this fall.

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Information from: St. Cloud Times, http://www.sctimes.com

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