If The Sweatbox is the documentary that Disney doesn’t want you to see because it lays bare the dysfunction of the studio’s Nineties-era exec-driven filmmaking model, then Imagining Zootopia is the documentary that highlights the positive changes that John Lasseter has brought to Disney’s feature animation division over the last decade. The entire 47-minute piece can be viewed below and is well worth your time:

Filmmakers Natalie Osma and Kristofer Rios were granted access to the Zootopia crew over a two-year period, allowing them to document all the twists and turns of the filmmaking process. (While not an official Disney production, Fusion, the millennial-targeted digital network that produced this film, is half-owned by Disney, so it’s still a Disney-vetted product.)

Rather than attempting to catalogue every aspect of the production, Osma and Rios spend much of the documentary recording the ups and downs of the story’s evolution. This is an excellent choice because Zootopia’s story changed dramatically over the course of production: the story initially revolved around Nick rather than Judy, and the fragile peace between prey and predators existed only because the latter had to wear shock collars. Imagining Zootopia explores in-depth the evolution from those earlier versions to what appears in the finished film.

Zootopia, in the final analysis, deserves a lot of credit for being a family animated feature that strives to be about something…anything. It often does so in a ham-fisted manner that reveal the shortcomings of Lasseter’s storytelling-by-committee approach, but at least it tries, which is much more than can be said about other recent Disney efforts.

It’s up for debate whether the film’s box office success can be attributed to its ambitious story, or if it’s creditable to other factors, like tons of cute cartoon animals, but I’d like to believe that audiences have been attracted to the film, in part at least, because of the film’s earnest handling of social issues like bias and prejudice. Imagining Zootopia does a fine job of taking viewers deeper into the story development process and offering insights into exactly what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish.

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