Imagining “Zootopia”

Character Sketches from “Zootpia”

I took my daughter to see Disney’s “Zootopia” a few weeks ago and I was impressed not only by how visually well-realized it is, but also by how substantive its ideas are. The movie is essentially an updated riff on some of the ideas that underpin “Animal Farm”; that is, human frailties as told through the travails of anthropomorphic animals. Luckily, it only occasionally veers into the obvious and didactic; it’s mostly good fun and surprisingly heartwarming.

The video below is a rather remarkable, 45 minute-long documentary about the making of the movie. There’s lots of detail on the enormous effort that was required to turn it into reality, including the expected glimpses of the film in its early stages, when it was composed of thousands of hand-drawn sketches rather than computer models, and a look at some of the extensive research and experimentation that went into fully realizing the filmmakers’ vision.

The meat of the documentary, though, is the in-depth examination of the process of developing the movie’s storyline; not just the fascinating workshopping protocol (the writers and producers periodically gather in a room and, as a group, basically critique the screenplay into shape), but also lots of frank discussion about the tricky ideas at the heart of the film. A lot of careful thought went into how to render the emotional truth behind experiencing racism, and the documentary takes a detailed look at the filmmakers grappling with that. However, it also betrays one of the unfortunate truths of the production; the movie is commendably bold about addressing prejudice, but it’s evident from watching the documentary that of the five-hundred plus people who contributed to the film, hardly any were non-white, and even fewer were African-American.