It’s safe to say that everyone’s favorite character from Disney’s blockbuster hit Zootopia was Officer Benjamin Clawhauser. The lovable cheetah who mans the front desk at the Police precinct where Judy Hopps (voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin) works, Clawhauser is a delight every time he appears in the film. As rabid fans of Zootopia, we were ecstatic to speak with the engaging Nate Torrence, the enjoyable comedic actor who voiced Clawhauser.
Scene Creek: Good morning! Last week we celebrated National Donut Day, a day I think your character Clawhauser would love because he eats a lot of donuts over the course of the film. Did you use method acting by eating a lot of donuts in order to get into the role?
Nate Torrence: You know, I actually did! I think I had about 85 donuts, it was amazing! *laughs* Disney set it up so that I went over to several businesses in the L.A. area and made little Snapchats about it. It was really cool! And they actually had Clawhauser donuts and we delivered big donuts like the one from the movie. If you go online they have pictures from the event. They had some crazy donuts. They had one dipped in Fruity Pebbles and then they had one that was caramel Oreo cream cheese, it was nuts! I could only eat meat for five days afterwards to balance the sugar rush. It was so much fun though.
SC: So your character adores donuts and, equally so, the pop singer Gazelle (played by pop superstar Shakira). In fact, Clawhauser would drop everything to go on tour with Gazelle. Which singer would you drop everything for?
NT: Oh man! There’s a part of me that enjoys my favorite bands but, in the Clawhauser way, he loves to get his groove on to music. So to answer your question, I think Shakira or you know what would even be better? An old school Backstreet Boys tour! I think Clawhauser would bust a move to them.
SC: What was your favorite part of voicing Clawhauser?
NT: Oh man, I’d have to say that going to the premiere was amazing. It was the first thing in my career that I’ve been able to bring my kids to, as far as it being a cartoon and them being at the perfect age for it. That was an experience on a personal level that I’ll always be thankful for. As far as just the fun of it all, Clawhauser is such an optimistic character and it was really cool to play in that world and that cup half full outlook on life. I will say specifically, the scene that I loved the most was when something sad happens to Clawhauser and he, oh I don’t want to give any spoilers for those who haven’t seen it yet! But there’s an emotional moment and as an actor you’re just so thankful for those kind of turns. You create this lovable fictional character but then a little bit of reality sets in. That was amazing to play on a performer’s level.
SC: What’s it like being part of the Disney family?
NT: It’s been so amazing. The process has been so cool, especially since the movie has come out. The best part to me, honestly, is, I have a little girl who’s eight years old and when her friends and their parents find out that I’m the voice of Clawhauser, they have me leave voicemails and recorded messages for everyone. I’ve gotten so many requests from people who say, “Can you say happy birthday from Clawhauser?”. It’s so cool to watch these kids’ eyes light up. That and my very own action figure. That’s pretty crazy to have.
SC: What’s your favorite Disney movie (other than Zootopia) and who is your favorite Disney character?
NT: The one that stuck with me the most and hit me at the perfect age was Aladdin. I was old enough to think I was too cool for cartoons and yet when that came out it was the first one that had older humor. There were all these layers to Robin Williams’ character and I remember it making such an impact on me comedically. I loved how funny the Genie was and how quick his jokes were. So that one has a really distinct memory in my life and career.
SC: Zootopia is such a universally adored film and resonated on so many different levels for people. Why do you think that is?
NT: One, I think Disney is amazing with their stories, character development and plotlines. There’s a phrase that I learned when I was taking part in this project and that is that they create worlds first before they create the stories for those worlds. So they created this world that was just amazing and beautiful, even image-wise. At the same time I look at what they accomplished making these lovable characters and this unique, visually stunning world. Then they’re taking on a few plot points that are really resonant and really poignant. I don’t think they bash you over the head with it but I think a lot of parents and a lot of kids leave feeling happy and better about themselves, and better with humanity overall. I think subconsciously that leaks in and leaves you feeling that things are okay. And it came out at the right time, in terms of what’s going on in the world, and it inspired people to be better.
Zootopia is currently available for purchase on Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD.