He’s the suave, smart, and sneaky fox who won the hearts of a plethora of Disney fans and possibly a certain rabbit as well — he’s the one and only, Nick Wilde. Next to his bunny buddy, Judy Hopps, Nick is one half of Zootopia‘s dynamic duo and the two are easily some of Disney’s best animal characters.
But there’s more to the sly guy than popsicles and Hawaiian shirts. In fact, the fox many fans know and love is far from the original concepts during the film’s early drafts. So what was he like before he went from conman to lawman? Or even before Judy even entered the script?
UPDATE: 2023/01/03 00:15 EST BY SHAWN S. LEALOS
Zootopia+ hit Disney+ in 2022, and the title of the animated series is a joke for a couple of reasons. The most obvious joke was the play on the streaming service’s name, Disney+. However, the other was the actual story in Zootopia+. The series was similar to the previous animated short series Groot and Baymax. However, while they were all very short, at just a few minutes an episode, the difference came in the fact that Zootopia+ was indeed an add-on to the original movie, almost like a behind-the-scenes set of stories. All the fun characters from the original series got their own side stories, while the movie played out behind them at specific times. While Nick Wilde and Judy Hopps were solving their big case, this series showed what their supporting cast was up to.
His First Appearance Was (Technically) in Big Hero 6
Every Disney fan worth their salt knows that the studio loves hiding Easter eggs in their movies religiously. But once in a while, they’ll hide in a tidbit that’s a nod to a film either in production or yet to be released.During the expo scene in Big Hero 6, as Honey Lemon is taking the group selfie, pay close attention to her cell phone case.
That familiar vulpine shape is more than just a cute design. That is none other than Nick Wilde in a Disney movie before Zootopia ever arrived. This is even a better joke in Zootopia since the movie also had its own homage to another movie that wasn’t released yet in Frozen 2.
Nick Wilde Was Partially Inspired by Robin Hood
Anthropomorphic animals in Disney flicks are nothing new, so it makes sense that Disney would pull from their library of animated features for inspiration. And there are some similarities between Nick and a certain scoundrel from Sherwood Forest. Disney’s adaptation of Robin Hood and Nick are so similar that fan theories have paired the world of Zootopia to that of Sherwood Forest. One prominent theory even states that they share a timeline. Perhaps Robin and Nick are related?
Nick Wilde Was Originally The Film’s Focus
In some of the earlier drafts of the film, Nick was meant to be the protagonist of the final product. In one concept, Nick and Judy were both agents in a colorful Disneyfied spy-thriller on an exotic jungle island. In another, he was a tried and put-upon predator trying to bring his life-long dream to life with the help of a shady mob boss. But once Judy entered the scene, he got recast in a more comedic role.
Nick Wilde Originally Had A Tragic Backstory
At one time, Zootopia was more than a few shades darker in tone and story. In one of the original predators vs. prey angles, the preds were forced to wear shock collars to prevent them from “going savage.” Nick’s ultimate goal in this plot was to create a theme park called “Wild Times” where predators could remove their collars and be themselves. Though this idea was scrapped, the Wild Times warehouse can still be seen in the film.
And A Literal Torture Scene
Along with the Wild Times plot, the idea of “Tame Collars” was pitched as a way of not-so-subtle discrimination against predators. The collars would essentially shock predators into submission if their emotions and tempers ever ran high. This idea also featured Nick getting violently shocked after a scuffle with some other animals and was, obviously, too dark and even a bit sad. It was however mirrored by the use of a muzzle in Nick’s flashback sequence.
Nick And Judy Were Spies In Early Development
On the other hand, there was also an idea that saw both Nick and Judy as a pair of secret agents, but it featured Nick as the seasoned professional and Judy as the eager young cadet.
It would have seen them on a secret mission to a tropical island, which eventually became the city of Zootopia, where mammals had gone missing. It was an entertaining idea, but unfortunately never left the storyboards.
Nick Wilde’s Shirt Came From a Clawhauser Prototype
Speaking of storyboards, take a look at this image from the original development sketches for the spy idea. Hugo, the orange cat behind the bar, was essential in the development of two characters. The first, and probably obvious, was that of Officer Clawhauser, a big-bellied feline with a heart of gold. The second was, of course, Nick’s island-inspired attire. Take another glance at that shirt of his. Look familiar?
John Lasseter Inspired The Way Nick Wilde Eats Cake
A small detail, but one that warranted mentioning. Sound and movement are two elements that subconsciously play in the development of a character. The scene where Nick enjoys a shrew-sized piece of cake at Fru Fru’s wedding is cute and comical, but it was also carefully choreographed.
In the film’s special features, when the filmmakers were puzzled over how a fox would a small dessert so delicately, John Lasseter stepped in and demonstrated himself, essentially becoming the model for the scene.
The Jumbeaux Pop Scene Was Ad-Libbed
Jason Bateman is an actor who has some serious comedic chops, so he was practically made for voicing an animated character. Nowhere was this more evident than Nick’s popsicle hustle toward the second act of the film. This scene was entirely ad-libbed, and even longer in the deleted scenes. Let’s just say the results were hysterical. Too bad the full version didn’t make it to the final film.
Nick Wilde Has A Cameo In Ralph Breaks The Internet
Ralph Breaks the Internet is probably the most Easter egg-heavy film the studio has ever released. Not only does this film feature cameos from Stormtroopers, Disney Princesses, and even Stan Lee himself, but also a pair of familiar faces from the urban jungles of Zootopia. Nick can be seen enjoying a Pawpsicle by a cast member entrance. Judy can also be seen in one of the crowd shots talking to a certain furry member of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Looks like it’s a small world after all.