A (Hi)story Lesson

Zootopia poster

Zootopia: I’m not saying they stole our idea but…

Let’s dig deep into the Whiteworms archive:

Orlindo shared an interesting article about the Making of Disney’s Zootopia. The article hit really close to home. Not only is the premise vaguely similar to Skyscraper , they also ran into some similar story/character issues. It’s interesting to read that even the pros run into the same problems/opportunities.

You learn something with every screenplay and this was definitely true for Skyscraper. It wasn’t just the fact that it was our first really good script that met our expectations, it was how we got there. When I look at the first iteration of Skyscraper (script or outline) I see the same premise, the same world and the same characters but it’s a totally different movie. I dug up the first email I wrote about what later turned into Skyscraper1 and the basics are there. We didn’t know what kind of bird, the ending was different and there were cats instead of guinea pigs but the basic idea was there.

It was much later, December 2012, after we took part in some competitions that we completely changed the first act. It was quite similar to what the makers of Zootopia describe in the article. It wasn’t easy to throw away good pages and characters you got attached to over time but it was necessary and it made Skyscraper a better movie. Sometimes people talk about “a stroke of genius” but I wouldn’t call out decision there “a stroke” it was an idea that presented itself and we decided to try it. Only after the rewrite we saw how good the idea was and that thanks to those changes the whole movie (even the parts we didn’t have to touch) got a lot better.

A similar thing happened when we wrote Saber Rider. When we started we stayed replay close to the source material but we soon realized that certain elements needed to go the way of the dodo. We had to make some changes that hurt us as fans and even some of our friends thought we were nuts and had some reservations. But we applied those changes2 and the movie just came together in a way we never hoped it could. Everything suddenly made sense.

So what do we take away from this? First of all nothing is sacred or to use an overused pharse: Kill your darlings. I’m not sure though that all the changes we made were our darlings but it is important not to censor yourself. Every stupid idea has merit. It might not be the solution but it’s probably a step on the way there. Skyscraper and Saber Rider are in the past and I doubt that we’re going to have some big ideas for those two movies but I can’t wait to see what the big idea fpr my current project is going to be. I’m not looking forward to deleting all those pages but the new pages I’m going to write because of that idea….damn, I just wish I had those pages already. 🙂

  1. It startet as “Untitled Whiteworms Animation Studios Feature”, that was a mouthfull so we changed that to “Central Park” until we realized that “Empire State Bulding” makes more sense. We actally registered it unter that title with the WGA. It was much later, after that fateful rewrite, that we changed it to “Skyscraper”.
  2. Like making Saber Rider 25 years older than everybody else.

About Greg

Hi, I'm Greg and I write screenplays and work as a teacher.
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