The intercellular canal containing the midbody is one of the most prominent structures in dividing animal cells, yet its function in the completion of cytokinesis by abscission remains largely unknown. This is because of its small size, which makes it difficult to investigate the cytoskeletal and membrane dynamics underlying abscission by standard light microscopy. The advent of new fluorescent probes and imaging technologies, along with sophisticated perturbation tools, provides new possibilities to elucidate the molecular control of this essential cell biological process. Here we discuss the control of midbody assembly and current models for the mechanism of abscission in animal cells. We highlight new methodologies that will facilitate testing and refining of these models.