We got the chance to sit in on a fun panel (where video was unfortunately not allowed) to get the inside scoop on the story development process from the story artists of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Not quite recognized with the glory of doing the animation or the writing, these key individuals in the process work as a bridge that help square away the building blocks and general visual flow of an animated feature. When you see those fun/rough storyboards of deleted scenes or alternate scenes, you’re seeing the work for story artists.

We got to hear from the artists themselves who shared some of their creative process for going from script to board to pitch. Moderated by Paul Briggs, the panelists included Lissa Treiman (story supervisor), Brian Kesinger (story artist) and Nancy Kruse (story artist). We also happened to be sitting two rows in front of Disney Legend Tony Baxter who attended the panel as a regular guest!

Some of the interesting moments from the panel included a really fun walk-through of the alternate opening to ZOOTOPIA. Treiman walked us through several rough drawings depicting a similar opening to the one we know but instead of an adorable little bunny lapping water from the pool before becoming prey, it was a deer. Judy’s hilarious blood, blood, blood sequence was part of the earliest versions of this opening (Treiman said she probably worked on at least four variations of this scene). But there was a lot more to this scene initially.

The scene would continue on with Judy taking part in a choir with animals singing about their potential futures (the Woodchuck would work with lumber, the Racoon would be a trash collector, etc.) and Judy couldn’t get herself to commit to the line that required her to say she’d be a carrot farmer. It then continued to a conversation with her teacher (an aardvark). The whole sequence was quite cute (and Treiman even sang the song for us) but it did make sense to shorten this scene since this general theme of the film is made quite evident several times throughout the story.

Briggs shared a fact that some Disney fans might already know about ZOOTOPIA and it’s that a key story element changed a good way into the development of the film… the protagonist! Originally, the story was conceived from the perspective of Nick Wilde. Eventually the focus was shifted to Judy instead and the story started to work a lot better. We also got to see storyboards and hear a walk-through of an early scene featuring Nick when he was still the main character for the film.

Kesinger talked about working on the cave scene in MOANA and how it initially involved a lot more dialogue and exposition with Grandma Talla. They eventually realized that the scene would prove much stronger if it was done more in silence with Moana discovering the mysteries of the cave on her own. Kesinger is a true Disney fan and along with the other panelists has a clear passion for his work. He commented, “Everyday at work is my own D23 [Expo].”

It doesn’t sound like too bad of a gig based on what we saw from this presentation!

More to See!

We are at San Diego Comic-Con 2017 the entire weekend with plenty to see! Check it all out by clicking below!