By now, most of us have seen (and probably fallen in love) with the new Disney animated movie Zootopia. The film is adorable and hilarious, and touches on issues of racial and social prejudice in a way that’s accessible for kids. Of course, bringing such an amazing movie to the big screen was actually a huge undertaking. In a new documentary from Fusion, we learn that not only did Zootopia took the better part of five years to make and 550 people to bring the story to life, it also went through some serious thematic and plot changes, too. You can watch it here:
The Zootopia animators worked incredibly hard to create realistic-looking landscapes and animals, and actually spent a great deal of time interacting with the actual animals they were choosing to animate–going as far as Africa for research. But ultimately, the inspiration to create a world focused 100% on animals who walked upright, talked, and wore clothes came to the filmmakers from Disney’s classic animated movie, Robin Hood. While the animators were able to travel all over the world to meet the IRL versions of the animals to be portrayed in the film, the filmmakers and animators behind Zootopia were able to dig through Disney archives to check out sketches from Robin Hood, and learn from that film’s process. I mean, you’ve got to admit that Nick does definitely look like an ancestor of Robin Hood’s, right?
But the real interesting gem from this 45-minute documentary is the evolution that the story went through before we all saw the final product in theaters. The film went through a few iterations, going through a phase where it was called Savage Island and spent only half of the movie in the magical city of Zootopia. After test audiences expressed their desire to see only Zootopia, the film’s location changed to the sprawling animal kingdom metropolis. Another big change in the film was doing away with what the writers called “the tame collar,” which was a shock collar worn by all predators to keep them from “going savage.”
Ultimately, the collars proved to be too dark too early on in the film, and made viewers not like the city of Zootopia from the start, which wasn’t the film’s intention. Instead, the movie switched to relying on stereotypes like the “sly fox” stereotype to keep Zootopia looking awesome from the start, until Hopps and the audience slowly begin to see the cracks and prejudices in the social fabric of the city.
The biggest change in the film’s story? Originally, this movie was supposed to be a story that focused on Nick, not Hopps. Our favorite bunny cop was supposed to be a tertiary, slightly naive character who helped Nick along his journey. However, the writers soon realized that, in order to make Nick likable (I mean, let’s be honest–he’s kind of slimy when we first meet him), they had to give him a severely tragic backstory. While the documentary doesn’t give us explicit details into what they had planned, they show us images of him attempting to open a suit store with his son, being rejected for a loan for the business, and getting his son taken from him. That’s hella dark for a kid’s movie, amirite?
Plus, his story ended up being motivated largely by staying out of jail, not any particularly poignant journey of self-discovery. Once the writers took the finished story, started completely over, and focused the story on Hopps journey from a simple farm bunny to big-city cop, suddenly a beautiful story emerged–and Nick’s character evolution became far more interesting (and a bit less soul-crushing as a dad losing his kid) to watch.
What did you think of Zootopia? Have you ever made an animated film? What did you find most interesting from Disney’s process with Zootopia? Tell us about it in the comments!
Image credit: Andy Fairhurts/DeviantArt.com