Optic cup morphogenesis (OCM), which generates the basic structure of the vertebrate eye, is usually depicted as a series of epithelial sheet folding events but experimental evidence to support this stepwise model is lacking. Now, Kristen Kwan, Chi-Bin Chien and colleagues investigate the cellular dynamics of OCM in zebrafish by combining four-dimensional time-lapse imaging and cell tracking (see p. 359). The researchers show that OCM depends on a complex set of sometimes unanticipated cell movements that are coordinated between the prospective neural retina, retinal pigmented epithelium and lens, the tissues that comprise the mature optic cup. Using their cell tracking data, the researchers construct subdomain fate maps for these three tissues that might provide clues to developmental signalling events. Finally, they show that similar movements occur during chick eye morphogenesis, which suggests that the complex choreography of cell movements that shape the vertebrate eye is conserved. These new insights into eye development could, therefore, help to improve our understanding of human eye defects.