PrintE-mail Written by Jack Bottomley

Art Books are rarely a chore to sit down with; even for the most casual of readers they immerse one into a whole world of vision, imagination and concept. However, never is this more the case than when said book is covering such an outstandingly innovative and impressive feature like Disney’s Zootropolis. Released earlier this year to wholly justified universal acclaim, Walt Disney Animation Studios’ latest film was a beautifully animated, deeply written and constantly enjoyable gem, boasting a wonderful message of acceptance and equality in these turbulent times (even more so now, than mere months ago when the film was released!). So, how did we find sitting and re-visiting this classic film? What did we learn of its making? And is Chronicle Books’ The Art of Zootropolis a worthy companion to the film?

Well the latter question is answered practically on opening the book or glancing at its cover…yes! The Art of Zootropolis is a splendid companion to Disney’s brainy and heartwarming animated imaginationland. With a preface by John Lasseter, a foreword by directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore, as well as some accompanying comments to the artwork throughout. Comments from the likes of Dave Goetz (production designer), Jim Finn (visual development artist) and Cory Loftis (art director of characters), ensure that this book gathers the insights of a clearly enthused crew and provides some keen glances at the development of this years best animated picture. The crew’s observations and comments on the progression of characters like Judy Hopps (originally far less confident) and Nick Wilde (the first character developed), as well as supporting players like Gazelle and Clawhauser are interesting, as they point to the growth of the character through either the scripting process or the method taken of realistically animating the various characters and breeds of animal onscreen.

The images are wonderful, with the character art being nice but the real selling point of this well presented book is the mapping of Zootropolis itself and a look at some things that made it to the screen in passing, as well as many things that didn’t. The mapping of the multi-zoned city is the kind of thing you hoped would be released when you saw the city for the first time onscreen. The environments are even more savored when looked at methodically and the book is plastered with clever little pop culture twists (signs re-jigged to be more animalistic) and environments rendered to give that feel that they were constructed by and for animals. In fact in John Lasseter’s preface he states that the filmmakers “did not want to design just a human world with animals in it” and that un-human construction is visually omnipotent in the artwork and the finished motion picture. The art in this book is brilliant and the environments from the various sectors of Zootropolis are wondrous in their detail and scale.

However, perhaps even more noteworthy is, in the introductory ‘Creating Zootropolis’ chapter, hearing about the early pitches (a film led by a pug bounty hunter and a film centered on a scheming island dwelling cat named Dr. Meow) and how throwback espionage story Savage Seas evolved, through some really dark and diverse ideas, into Zootropolis. It would have been nice to see more early concept work in addition to what is seen in this introductory piece, as well as perhaps some extra material (removable sketches and what not) dotted throughout the book, as a film like this has so many hidden depths that one book is almost not enough to do it the directors state at one point. However Jessica Julius’ collection of information, art and description still does an utterly fantastic job of bringing you into this animated hit’s breathtaking world and makes you appreciate how it was realised. 

For fans of the film this book is an absolute ‘must have’ and for people who enjoy art books in general we would likewise immediately recommend it. Even those of you out there with a passing interest in the film or animated cinema in general will be intrigued by the work and strive for animalistic realism that went into this film. A book like this makes you value the accomplishment of movies like Zootropolis even more, by showing you the clever little pieces of this cinematic puzzle, some of which you’ll look out for next time you watch the film. As Howard and Moore say in their foreword “Zootropolis is a film about recognizing that our world is complicated, that life is complicated…for all of us.” Indeed it is but films like this turn complication into fascination and this book allows you to become even more enamored by this marvelous world of wild rainforests, stretching deserts, bustling animal utopias and public transport packed with bunnies…if only we could actually live in such paradise unbothered by people!


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