This is a compilation of several previous articles, but we've added new information to each entry in case you've already read them before.
Like a lot of beloved movies, Zootopia was once a very different beast. For one, the story wasn't always centered around the journey of Judy Hopps, ZPD's first bunny cop. Initially, Nick Wilde the fox stood center stage. It was late in the game when producers decided to turn the focus to Judy, believing her optimistic outlook was the right way to introduce the bright and prosperous Zootopia. But Nick's wry pessimism would have been a perfect fit for the dark original vision of the city.
Take a look at that concept art above, on the right. Anything stick out? Nick's got a special gadget around his neck. That's a shock collar. The idea being if he ever got too out of line, an electrical jolt would emnate from said collar, bringing him to heel.
Nick doesn't have to wear one of these just because he's a shady guy. In the preliminary drafts of the movie, every single predator in Zootopia was required to have a "tame collar" strapped to their necks at all times. Meaning that even softies like Clawhauser were publicly marked as potential threats.
As the producers explain, this was supposed to be how predators and prey started their uneasy truce. That's in stark contrast to the final version of the movie, where even kids know that animals evolved beyond their "primitive, savage ways" and learned to get along with each other -- simply because their compassion grew along with their intelligence. As the creators tell it, the shock collars weren't really necessary for the safety of the prey, but the fascistic tactics "made them feel better" -- and isn't that the most important thing?
Back when this conceit was still a driving force of the movie, there was going to be a scene where Nick gets his collar taken off for a brief moment while at the doctor's office. The surrounding prey treat him like an explosive device that could go off at any moment, instead of, you know, a living thing.
Following the hubbub from the bomb squad, Nick savors the few precious moments he has without the collar around his neck. He daydreams about frolicking through a field and riding a roller coaster (this was back when Nick's dream was going to be opening an amusement park). The triumphant sequence is cut short by the collar being snapped around his neck once more. It's not just about how the strap feels around Nick's neck -- it's what the collar represents. Wherever he goes, Nick is still a captive.
If this sounds way too heavy and depressing for a Disney movie, that's because it is. The idea of a mandatory visual marker denoting what class of being you belong to is just a smidge Hitlery. But before they wised up, the production team had gotten pretty far with the shock collar premise. Everything was storyboarded out, including a heartbreaking scene involving a child learning the hard truth about being a predator.
In this draft of the script, Judy and Nick had just escaped imprisonment in Tundratown when they hide under a table at a child's party. But the festivities aren't for a birthday -- it's a "taming party," a twisted ritual which celebrates the first time a predator puts on a shock collar at the age of five. It's sort of like a barmitzvah filled with sadness and racism.
This scene was so pivotal to the early version of the movie that it was actually partially animated before the direction changed. At first, young Morris the polar bear is absolutely thrilled to get his collar. It's a symbol of maturity, a rite of passage. He's a big bear now!
But then Morris gets a little too excited. Since the collars are tuned to give a shock when predators get "emotional," that electric charge can trigger from fits of anger or outcries of joy. After the shock collar zaps the cub for the first time, Morris will never be the same.
Though the static partygoers in the background are clearly unfinished, you can tell a lot of work was already put into that simultaneously confused and crushed expression on Morris' face. Though his father tried to stop him, this moment was inevitable. Eventually the cub would have to learn what being a "big bear" in this world really means: no longer being free.
You can't blame Disney for dramatically altering the film. While it's fascinating to see where Zootopia was originally headed, in the end the creative team decided that a world with shock collars wasn't a fair or at all pleasant place to visit for two hours.
Now, a world with an animal nudist colony, on the other hand...
Some might argue The Lion King was the crescendo of Disney's 90s reniassance. The memorable characters, Shakespearean story and catchy music have endured to this day; the franchise spawned multiple sequels and even a recent TV show. But the animated classic that you cherish from your childhood was almost much different. Not only were the original scripts for The Lion King way more violent, but they also featured blatant incest.
Early drafts of The Lion King share the same basic structure as the final product -- Simba is a young lion who becomes exiled after the death of his father Mufasa, then returns to take his pride back from the evil Scar -- but the meat of the movie is almost unrecognizable. Several characters never made it to the big screen, like a German pachyderm named Herr Rhino and an anteater who had an unhealthy crush on Simba.
Some of the most substantial changes were saved for Scar, who was even more ruthless in 1990 story treatments by J.T. Allen and Ron Bass. In his earliest iterations, Scar wasn't Mufasa's brother, but instead a rogue lion who had been banished from another pride. And instead of being a slinky manipulative creep, Old Scar was a bruiser, twice as big as Mufasa. There was no complicated scheme involving a wildebeest stampede -- Scar just straight-up murders Mufasa in a one-on-one fight to the death, in front of everyone.
That's right, Mufasa didn't get trampled by a herd of scared animals; he got his neck snapped in the jaws of his rival. A death like this would probably be the most brutal in Disney history (you know, next to Mulan burying thousands of soldiers alive), so you can see why they scaled it back. In reality, the Circle of Life does include fatal brawls like this, but the animals on the Discovery Channel aren't cartoons made specifically for family entertainment.
Speaking of family, the most messed up part of Allen's first draft had to be the way Simba and Nala were portrayed: as cousins.
That's not a euphemism or some kind of fancy Latin animal family lingo you didn't pick up on in high school -- early versions of Simba and Nala were related by blood. Nala's mother Naanda was sister to Sarabi, whose son was Simba. And it's not just buried in the details of the script, either -- both lions directly refer to each other as "cousin." As in "I'm looking for my cousin" or "My cousin is coming over later to watch Maid in Manhattan and it's just us and I don't think that's weird at all."
It gets creepier. Not only were Simba and Nala cousins, they were also implied to be full-blown siblings. In the opening minutes, two characters admire the young cubs frolicking together. "Aren't they just darling?" one says. "Mufasa would be so proud," the other adds. We can probably infer that Mufasa fathered both children with Naanda and Sarabi. That makes sense in the context of the movie, which was already attempting a close resemblance of nature; real lion prides often count only one or two males among their ranks, with the rest of the group consisting of females. Think about it: Do you remember any other male lions in The Lion King besides Mufasa, Scar and Simba?
Without any other males around to challenge Scar for the throne, you can imagine that he would think he'd have the proverbial pick of the litter. This is actually addressed in a deleted song, "The Madness of King Scar." Though there were different versions of the song made for the movie and the Broadway musical, in both iterations Scar makes it clear that he wants Nala to be his queen and the father of his children. The musical version in particular (spectacularly animated by Eduardo Quintana) makes that much explicit).
Nala refuses, because gross, but in both drafts of the song Scar tells his future queen that he's not going to take no for an answer. What follows might be the creepiest line in Disney history.
That's less of a rape threat and more of a rape promise. Of course, the whole scene was thrown out (along with that cousin-lovin'), presumably the second another human being laid eyes on it. Something that came much closer to fruition was a super intense demise for Scar. In the finished film, Simba battles his uncle while a wildfire surrounds Pride Rock; their fight ends when Scar gets knocked over the side of a cliff and is swiftly torn apart by the hyenas he once called his lackeys.
But for a long while, even through to the storyboard phase, it was Simba who was meant to be cast into the fiery abyss.
Simba doesn't die here, nor does Scar get cornered by hyenas. Instead, the blaze climbs Pride Rock while Scar lets out a bone-chilling cackle into the blood red sky. He's still laughing when flames consume him, embracing his own immolation with pleasure.
Holy shit, that's dark. Scar was more than happy to go down with the kingdom he burned to the ground. It's not often that you see a Disney movie that ends with the villain winning on his own terms. That's probably why this disturbing scene never made it to the big screen.
You'd think Disney would have learned their lesson, but initially the bad guy in the direct-to-video Lion King 2 was also going to "win" via suicide. During the official ending, Simba and Nala's daughter Kiara tries and fails to save the villainous Zira from falling to her death. It went down a little differently in the original version of the climax.
Wow, that's even more fucked up than Scar burning to death. Zira willingly kills herself rather than accept help from Kiara. The audio is pretty key here; Zira's gleeful doom-whisper will stick with you for days.
Then again, if you lived in a world where incest was the only means of procreation, you might jump off a cliff too.