Just last month, Disney's latest Animated Classic Zootopia opened to stellar box office and even more impressive reviews. Now, mere weeks later, the film is the subject of a new behind the scenes documentary — Imagining Zootopia — that is set to air on Fusion this Tuesday, April 5th. The film, which followed Zootopia's production for more than two years, not only shows the amount of technical work that went into creating the latest Disney hit but also the evolution that the movie's powerful narrative experienced.
Imagining Zootopia starts like many a DVD bonus feature or promotional video (albeit much more polished), showing how modern-day animated films are created. This includes the research trips, the various animals stopping by the studio, and a run through of the all the seemingly laborious details that each department adds to the film. While this is a topic I almost never grow tired of, it's also one that I'm very familiar with at this point in my Disney nerddom.
What follows this section is what really gripped me: a look at how to story of Zootopia grew and changed through the screening process. This includes videos taken in the now-legendary "story core" meetings that Disney and Pixar (separately) hold after internal screenings of their projects. In these meetings ideas would be batted around, plot points and themes debated, and a new course for the film would be decided on. Once inside that room, I was begging not to leave.
In addition to those glimpses at how the collaboration process works at Disney, what sets Imagining Zootopia apart from other such documentaries is how it examines the message of Zootopia and how it was refined. Discussed are the topics of bias, racism, stereotypes and other forms of prejudice that the animated film approaches with nuance. To achieve that, the story went through multiple revisions which are revealed and shown, giving a glimpse into what the film could have been.
Overall, I found Imagining Zootopia to be fascinating and engaging. Having had no idea what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised by the depth and access this documentary contained. It's this insight and honest look at filmmaking that sets this program apart from similar features and makes it a must-watch for all Disney animation fans and anyone who loves storytelling.
Imagining Zootopia will air Tuesday, April 5th at 8 p.m. on Fusion.