Owing to the rapid advances in genomic, proteomic and imaging technologies, the field of cytokinesis has seen rapid advances during the past decade. However, the basic model for the early stage of ingression, known as the contractile ring hypothesis, remains largely unchanged. From recent observations, it is becoming clear that early cytokinesis of animal cells involves a more extensive set of events, both temporally and spatially, than what is encompassed by the original contractile ring hypothesis. Activities relevant to cytokinesis, such as cortical contraction, can initiate well before onset of anaphase. Furthermore, equatorial ingression can involve multiple events in different regions of the cortex, including the establishment of anterior-posterior polarity, the modulation of cortical deformability, the expansion and compression of the cell cortex, and forces directed towards the interior of the cell or away from the equator. In this article (which is part of the Cytokinesis series), I evaluate critically key observations on when, where and how early ingression of animal cells takes place.