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What happened to make Disney Animation toss years worth of work on Zootopia


Animation history is strewn with the carcasses of movies that never made it out of development, those that do make it into production are still sometimes subject to challenges that result in major changes. According to a terrific story on the digital news site Io9, Disney Animations new film Zootopia went through just such a challenge.

“In November 2014, the team behind Disney’s Zootopia had a very bad day. After years of development and production, they realized a huge aspect of their movie didn’t work. There were two main characters, one primary and one secondary— and they had to be flipped for the film to make sense.”

Turns out, Disney animation had originally developed the movie around the con-man fox named Nick Wilde. Nick was jaded, sarcastic, and unhappy with the world of Zootopia. Judy Hopps, the bunny police officer was there, but was a secondary character. Unfortunately the story wasn’t working.

“We’re telling a story about bias, and when you have the Nick character starting the movie, through his eyes the city was already broken,” Howard said. “He didn’t like Zootopia.”

But when they flipped the script and made it Judy’s story, everything worked.

It’s unusual for a studio to throw away years of production work on a film so later in the game, but John Lasseter has done it before (eg Brave). With the story change came a change in directors. While Byron Howard stayed as director, Rich Moore (Wreck-it Ralph) was brought in off another project he was working on to be co-director.

Read the rest of the article on io9 to see what other changes were made to the story of Zootopia.

Previously: Shakira introduces song from Zootopia.