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Disney’s Bolt


Disney fans are still outraged at the dismissal of Chris Sanders (Lilo and Stitch) from his film American Dog.

Now renamed Bolt, the revised senario is being directed by Chris Williams (Mulan) and is being readied for release on 11/26/08. A new image (above) released today on has some of the fans even more enraged. The character’s redesign is less appealing and more generic, some say, than Sander’s original.

I’ll concede that this publicity picture is not as attractive as some of Sander’s previously released preliminary paintings. However, I’ll trust Lasseter and Williams’ judgement in this matter and am willing to wait and see the final product next November. Lasseter made a similar directorial switch on Ratatouille – and I was certainly pleased with how that turned out.

(Thanks Celbi Pegoraro)

  • Andrew Lee


    A cat with an eye patch that has a skull on it…..


    a dog version of lightning mcqueen????

    I prefer Chris Sander’s designs, hands down.

  • robiscus

    whoa! you directed me to Jim Hill’s website. you need to warn people before you do that.


    That was my personal favorite from the original designs. I should’ve realized it couldn’t last. Regarding this, it just looks far blander and generic, and Lasseter seems to be slowly turning into another Jeffrey Katzenberg (helming Cars didn’t help either). Plus, even if American Dog turned out to be junk, it WAS Chris Sanders’ dream project. Kicking him out of it was particularly cruel, especially considering he wrote and directed the best Disney film in the last 15 years.

  • amid

    From a purely aesthetic point of view, the publicity still Disney has chosen to release is embarassingly bland and uninteresting. I can’t imagine this exciting many people to want to see this film.

  • Andrew

    I also trust the new heads’ redirection with this film, even though we all know Chris Sanders would’ve made a great film.

    What you don’t mention is the fact that no concept production art of Ratatouille were posted online before Brad Bird came onboard (although I heard the early design for the rats made them more anthropomorhpic). Also, as opposed to the great expectations people had on Chris Sanders, no one had that same kind of opinion about Jan Pinkava. He directed a stupendous Pixar short, but at the time, no one was sure he would be a good candidate for a Pixar feature.

  • Altred Ego

    I think to be fair, just because something looks terrible and the synopsis online sounds terrible, doesn’t mean that the film that is based on it will be bad. I mean sure the design looks like something out of a ‘how-to-draw-the-Disney-way’ book for children, but I mean it’s not as though they gutted all the originality out of the original concept and replaced it with pablum for the masses… oh wait.

  • I know Ratatouille turned out well, but just look at the track record… Chris Williams is no Brad Bird. Brad Bird’s a heavyweight.

    I still weep for Chris Sanders’ beautiful refreshing wonderful (not to mention HEAVILY MARKETABLE…COUGH COUGH!) designs gone to waste. Cry myself to sleep every night.

    I don’t trust Lassater 100%. He is a great guy but he’s too stuck on the past, instead of exploring the possibilities that our more receptive audiences allow today.

  • Got’s to say that the new design looks more sincere than the old design. Don’t like the lightning bold though.

  • gene schiller

    You can’t judge animation on the basis of a freeze-frame – I’ve found that out time and time again – still, this doesn’t look like anything I’d go out of my way to see, in 2-D, 3-D or CG.

  • Russell H

    Oog. Sounds like a cross between “Cars” and “Incredible Journey.” Yet another “mismatched animals with problems go on an adventure” CGI film. One look at the dog with the same cliched “‘tude” expression seen on just about every CGI character for the past 10 years says it all. Any talk of which “easily-recognizable celebrity voices who will do their usual schtik in lieu of original characterization” have been cast yet?

  • So very tired…

    I get so frustrated by reading the same complaints over and over based on a single image that is clearly not actually in the film and a 12 word paragraph a year before a movie is even out. Yes, Sander’s images were amazing, but clearly something wasn’t working. I think Lasseter has officially earned the right to have us trust him by now.

  • I would trust Lassater on his decision if it hadn’t been for his criticism of Sander’s work as “Too wacky for its own good.”

    He’s an oldschool filmmaker, and judging by the stuff he’s made, it’s all quite cutesy and traditional.

    I think he’s just afraid of new things.

    No doubt Bolt will be a hit.

  • I can’t trust anything that has John Travolta voice acting the lead character in it…

  • Chris Sobieniak

    It seems like unlike how pre-production of Ratatouille was handled (due to the non-presence of released artwork), Bolt would probably go down in history as one of those “what if’s” in terms of whether the film would’ve been fine if Sanders was still there or not, and these kind of thoughts will probably last for years. I sorta wonder who got it worse in the end, Sanders or Pinkava (of course Sanders got plucked by another studio now, working on one of their salvaged projects they had with Aardman which I’m glad is no longer doing biz with ’em).

    I don’t like the lightning bolt either, it looks so out of place. I’d rather a rather interesting thing they could’ve done with that is to have it less an odd genetic trait and more just some spray-painted stencil in the end, as it could wash off at a particular moment in the film, giving to Bolt’s realization that he has no real super powers. It would’ve been a nice little visual bit to throw in.

  • Thorton La Reve

    I’ll trust Lasseter and wait to see it for myself. He’s got a great track record, so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt until we’ve seen it. Then if it sucks, we can say so.

  • Disney Clone

    Lets wait and see how things play out on the big screen……
    Mr. Sanders would not let a publicity image such as this even see the light of the day. The little I know about this whole issue makes me
    think that removing Chris from this project was a big mistake and the american animation film community was quite simply spared something special. Originality, vision, strong artistic touch, personal direction, good taste, risks taken. Instead a group of people decided it was too risky, too daring. Better play it safe. Might as well. We can afford it. Mr. Sanders heartbroken went instead to a studio that rips films off like every once in 5 years and its reputation is in a free fall. How sad. Chris your wings have been clipped just as your were soaring where eagles dare. I feel sorry for Mr. S and all anim fans who somehow, everywhere are waiting for a breath of fresh air to sweep through. Maybe WALL-E will be that wind. Mr. Birds last movie sure was not that gust of new air. No matter how good the rat film was. Some may say thats pessimistic to say but all depends on your POV. Quite simply thats the average reality as far as this film
    goeas. Enough! Take care ya all!

    I wonder what Pete Emslie would think about Disney taking American
    Dog for a remake spin and coming back with Bolt.

    Share your thoughts Pete?

    Go Disney Go!

  • Beakman

    I personally don’t trust Lester, the mouse!

  • matt

    I’m steering clear here as I both loved those very painterly concepts AND trust Lasseter.

    I just wanted to say the cat reminds me a bit of the one in Kiki’s Delivery Service. Which is a cool thing.

  • Is it me, or is that cat a dead ringer for Miyazaki’s Jiji?

    Nevertheless, as others have said, this one image smacks too much of ‘quickie publicity shot’ to be representative of the whole movie.
    It’s too little too early to judge and I’m still giving Lasseter the benefit of the doubt, as fantastic as Chris’ concepts were.
    Knowing Disney, when the ‘Art of’ Book comes out, they’ll completely ignore all Chris’ artwork and fill it full of the revised concept art.

  • Wow, I didn’t think they were going to re-work it THAT much. Seesh!

  • Tory

    I hope this winds up better than that image looks. I feel violated by it.

  • Pedro Nakama

    I agree with the cat in the picture. Why would you want to go to LA?

  • This is depressing (in asthetic terms). Chris Sanders leaving Disney was bad enough (he was one of their last remaining charms). But now to see what his former film has now been reduced to. It started off with bold, quirky, yet highly whimsical characters. The image posted here lack individuality.
    But this is now. Maybe my opinion will change when I actually see the film. I wish Mr. Sanders the best in his future projects.

  • Frank

    i agree that the designs are not as interesting as the sander’s version, but i also agree with “so very tired” that its one pic. im not saying anything until i see it in motion or a trailer.

  • Matt Sullivan

    How frickin generic.

  • victoria

    Whether it was right or wrong, I would’ve like to have to seen the Chris Sanders version of the movie.

    I do like the design for the black cat though.

  • Matt Sullivan

    Lassater isn’t FLAWLESS. What works for HIS studios doesn’t work for EVERY animated movie. It’s part of the reason we can never really branch out and do DIFFERENT kinds of films, especially adult (feature) films.

  • Gadzooka Moe

    I always thought Sanders’ old design looked like some kind of weird little moose.

  • Christopher Olson

    Actually, Chris Sanders is directing a film for Dreamworks pictures called Crood Awakening (2009). It was originally dreamed up by Aardman Animation, but since their deal broke with Dreamworks, they’ve lost control of the project… sort of ironic, isn’t it? Sanders gets his baby taken from him, so another genius’s baby gets handed over to him… the world isn’t fair to creative types.

  • Robert

    Correct me if I am wrong but the direction change for American Dog was very similar to Ratatouille in that Lasseter sought out a co-director strategy to help with a struggling story. Both Chris and Jan were not “booted” from the project, nor the studios, but left on their account.

    Can we blame Lasseter for looking out for the best interest of the story and not settling for mediocrity? Yes, Sanders had a great hit with Lilo and Stitch but does that mean he can dodge constructive criticism? I trust the success of the Brain Trust method and welcome open minded directors to WDFA.

  • Mr. Semaj

    Boy, John K. will have lots of fun ripping this apart…

    That aside, I too must say that this is John Lasseter’s one misfire, in an otherwise great track record so far. He should’ve let Chris Sanders finish HIS project, which I bet would’ve been awesome. Even though Lilo & Stitch isn’t your stereotypical Disney tale, he still made an excellent presentation without the aid of your “creative” executives.

    Now, Mr. Sanders’ talent is being wasted at a studio that goes by the “in-your-face” focus group mentality.

  • matt

    Hi Amy, I think there’s an echo in here! ;)

    Robert’s comments are interesting. Can we get official confirmation on whether Sanders WAS actually fired? It seems pro-Disney/Sanders types are bellowing very loud at this early stage.

    We’d do well to remember that Pixar/Lasseter’s company was ironically modelled on the classic Disney style of management, not the bastardised style we’ve had to put up with for the last few decades. People shouldn’t be too quick to rip Lasseter a new one when director-driven (rather than design-by-committee) projects are what he said he’s interested in at Disney (with the caveat of story,story,story). If anyone has earned their stripes and demonstrated their suitability for the job it’s him and he doesn’t deserve to be stoned on the net for one image. I would think that as he’s an advocate of director-driven films the decision to bring someone else in wouldn’t have been an easy one or taken lightly.

    Even if there are a few misfires (and I don’t think closing the direct to video is one of them no matter how badly i feel for friends that lost their jobs), look back at the previous regime and tell me which you’d prefer.

  • Altred Ego

    “Not settling for mediocrity”

    I’m glad the “brain trust” at WDFA helped us all dodge that bullet.

    Whew! Where would we be without them?

    One can only wonder…

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Funny how a few people think that the cat a dead ringer for Miyazaki’s Jiji, I saw no connection at all, though maybe the design and color scheme threw me off! Lord knows I wanted to see a little more anthropomorphism in this than just the usual quadrapedic antics seen in any other ‘talking animal’ flick. :-P

    In the “Art of” book, it would be nice if they at least devoted a couple pages to Sander’s early effort on developing the story. It’s better than nothing (at least we got the internet pics to validate).

    We really just need to play the waiting game and see what comes down the pipe prior to the film’s eventual release, until we start to see more pics or even a teaser trailer show up next year, this is all we have to go on, and imagine what it might be like in the film outside of the characters already shown here.

  • Daniel

    Regardless of whatever “trust” people have in Lasseter’s decision making, you’ve got to be honest with yourself and admit that these designs are sub-par even compared to past Disney CG efforts. These are more akin to some 3rd string studio in Idaho or something (sorry people in Idaho, it’s merely a generality :P). If it’s a case of the visuals not being 100% completely developed then they really should wait a bit longer before attempting to show the movie off, especially when there will be obvious comparisons to Chris Sander’s vision.

    It does break my heart, considering I had the privilege to tour the Disney feature dept. when they had the original American Dog artwork up on the walls. My expectations were very high.

  • Newton Minow

    Sanders had a strong writer and co-director on “Lilo” that he didn’t have on “American Dog”, which might have made a difference.

  • I see more allusions to RATATOUILLE because of the case with Jan Pinkava (I don’t think what happened to Pinkava was THAT bad, was it?). But I still say that this has more of a low-key allusion to Richard Williams’ THE THIEF AND THE COBBLER, only in this case, the characters’ appearances were *completely* changed, and only the same basic story was kept! Chris Sanders is not exactly Richard Williams, but what happened to AMERICAN DOG was still quite tragic.

    With all due respect to John Lasseter, I am not looking forward to this film. I agree that Sanders’ original designs had infinitely more appeal, whereas the designs here are absolutely generic (the cat does look cute, though).

    Yes, I am being pretty harsh on this film, based especially on one publicity photo. Will this film surprise me, with the characters in action? Maybe, maybe not.

  • Shmorky

    AAAAAAAAHHH! What’s the point of this?!!

  • Well, at least if they changed the story and the character designs to the point that it’s nothing like the original, Chris Sanders can still make his project the way he intended at Dreamworks.
    All it takes is a little tweaking.

  • tom

    It doesn’t matter what this film looks like to me. John Travolta being the voice of the dog absolutely kills my interest in it. Screw this star-effing casting. They’ve caught the Dreamworks disease.

  • Andrew Kieswetter

    Chris Sanders’ conceptual artwork looked so beautiful & it’s a great pity that he was kicked off it. However,I will wait and see what the finished product under Chris Williams will look like.

  • Rodrigo

    Ratatouille was boring. :/

  • Lucy

    -inhales deeply- ….Okay, John… I’ll trust you on this. The Travolta thing was a little… Odd, to me… But I’m gonna trust you on this, Lasseter.

  • dcuny

    I was also looking forward to Chris’ version, mainly based on the very cool artwork. But the storyline… not so much.

    I’m sure the new version will end up being great, but at this point, it gets a big “meh.”

    Maybe Dingo Pictures will use Chris’ original designs when they put out their version in 2009.

  • Robert

    “Whew! Where would we be without them?”
    “One can only wonder…”

    I believe Chicken Little and Home on the Range are still available on DVD… ;)

  • “Chris your wings have been clipped just as your were soaring where eagles dare.”

    Holy Jesus….

    This is insane. Yes, it still is shit; yes it’s a shame Mr. Sanders was let go, but this is Hollywood and its a business. Pixar hasn’t disappointed yet so the least we could do is wait till the flick comes out, right?

    I feel a real negative energy here so I guess I’ll be the one to point out that one upside which no ones mentioned yet is that Sanders, (though now at a “throw someone getting kicked in the balls!” gag-addicted studio) might have the chance to push a bit more “adult/mature/quirky” jokes and subject matter. I’ve met him a few times in passing and never really had the comfort level to see if he leans towards that but if he does, Dreamworks might be the spot right?

    They did snatch him up pretty quick so I assume he’s probably got some clout over there.

    Oh, and another upnote, Chris is still making plenty of sweet art, I picked up his sketchbook at that god-awful comic con and it’s freakin’ great. You should pick it up.

  • You know, this kind of disturbs me. It reminds me of when Lucas and Speilberg brought in Frank Darabont (writer/director of “Shawshank Redemption”, “The Green Mile”, and “The Mist) to write the forth “Indiana Jones” film. He spent a year writing a script for the new film, and by the end just about everyone who read it, including Spielberg, thought it was the best thing since Raiders of the Lost Ark. But then Lucas read the script, decided he didn’t like it, and threw the whole thing away and had somebody else start from scratch. The situation doesn’t sound that much different from what Lasseter (who probably has just as much power and influence now as Lucas does) did to Chris Sanders with his film. Pixar obviously has a lot of influence on the way animated films are made now, but for a studio that is supposidly open to “protecting stories” and trying new things, it seems shocking they would force Chris Sanders off his own project. John Lassiter seems to have made himself a marketing solution for Disney as opposed to actually being the creative visionary that he started out as. His recent decisions haven’t done much to push the artform, and he seems to have gone from making movies to fixing Disney and saving Disneyland. From Pixar’s recent films, I felt like “Cars” was slamming it’s message on the audience, whereas in the past when he made Toy Story, he actually did it with some kind of subtlty. That movie didn’t have to tell you what it was about. And Ratatoullie, in my opinion, felt conceited. I really like Brad Bird, and it must be difficult for him to come in and rework somebody elses concept. But I’d honestly like to know how Jan Pinkava’s original version would have turned out. Even if it wasn’t “great”, it would be nice to know on some level what his personal vision would have been.

    What I liked most about Lilo and Stitch is that it attempted to do something different with Disney Animation. Just like Pixar brought in Brad Bird to shake up Pixar with “The Incredibles”. That was great because it forced them to break out of their comfort zone. Lilo and Stitch had a whole different approach of what a Disney animated film could be. And it obviously worked because it’s still popular today with both children and adults.
    So there’s no denying that Chris Sanders has a strong, personal, creative vision. But, like Frank Darabont, to be that talented and pour years of your life into something only to have it flushed down the toilet seems unusually cruel. After seeing the production artwork and animation tests for American Dog, I think that movie would have been worth the gamble. At the very least it would have had it’s own voice.

  • Sara

    I am very upset about this. I was looking forward to Chris Sanders’ production, but this looks like something I won’t see. I agree with the statement relating this to The Thief and the Cobbler. The original concept art reminded me of a sort of cooler Rover Dangerfield combined with a road trip movie. This looks like an animated Homeward bound.

    I also think that this change is a much greater one than that of Ratatouille. From looking at ‘The Art of Ratatouille’ book, I think some minor characters were eliminated, but otherwise I think the main characters retained what they were intended to. In this case, it looks like everything took a complete 180.

  • Wether it’s only ONE pic from Bolt or not: the story can’t be THAT good to make me want to see this feature like I was looking forward to it when I first saw Sanders’ designs over a year ago…I’ll exaggerate a bit: it’s like having Dingo Pictures produce the RATATOUILLE-story: I just can’t stand it, even if the story is THAT good…BTW: Does anyone have a link to Sanders’ art for AMERICAN DOG? I only had these “photographed” posters but none of the quality starsky posted at the top of this thread…

  • Trust Lasseter. After the hideous abomination (it can’t be only myself and Rikki Simons who think so) that was Cars, you Disney fans seriously expect this film to be anything but filler with “Gosh I wish it was still 1957” Lasseter at the helm? North American feature animation is dead. Dead, dead, dead. Movie-going parents treat animated features with the same respect as the elephant ride at Wal-mart…it’s something to park the kids in to shut ’em up for a brief period. And the movies are following suit. Don’t believe me? Korea gives us ‘Aachi and Ssipak’, Japan gives us ‘Paprika’ and ‘TekkonKinkreet’, France gives us ‘Persepolis’, and the U.S.? Shrek 3. Nuff said. Enjoy the occasional Pixar produced anomaly while they last kiddies. Cuz they won’t.

  • Chuck R.

    I think John Lasseter has earned his stripes as both a filmmaker and a creative head. Yes, Cars wasn’t a high point, but remember, Pixar was fulfilling a contractual agreement to Disney at a time when the relationship was beyond sour. It’s hard to do your best work under those circumstances.

    It’s difficult to understand why someone who championed Brad Bird and Hayao Miyazaki would not do the same for Chris Sanders, but if their sensibilities aren’t the same, it may be better that Sanders work where he’s afforded the latittude to do what he does best. I hope that he and Dreamworks both benefit from the change. Anyway, some serious competition for Pixar/Disney could really be a good thing.

    Yes, The promotional still is weak.
    Yes, promo stills don’t really amount to much.
    Yes, buy the Chris Sanders sketchbooks (#2 is even better than #1)

  • Hal

    Um, how can you compare RATATOUILLE to AMERICAN DOG?
    The director openly decided he couldn’t handle a feature, and Brad Bird came on, saved the day, and suddenly left Pixar to direct a live action film at WB? Could it be because he isn’t getting the kind of freedom that led to Sanders leaving Disney under Lasseter? I’m beginning to think Pixar is becoming what everyone feared… exactly the kind of place that doesn’t foster creativity, and goes the “safe” route to preserve its “magic touch.”
    I’m pissed about AMERICAN DOG. I’m pretty sure LILO AND STITCH is the only original Disney product post-LION KING that’s turned a profit, and I’m just shocked to see this site, who usually is hard edged, going soft over something so obviously pandering to what is expected of animation. Weak.

  • Back when the fate of the Disney/Pixar future relationship was still in limbo (before Eisner got eased out and the more respectable Bob Iger moved in), I remember seeing the images from Disney’s own solo CG upcoming releases and had this reaction: What I saw of both “Chicken Little” and “Meet The Robinsons” (its eventual title) left me rather cold. The character designs seemed rather uninspired, as did the approach to the CG animation itself, as it just looked like more attempts at simulating the rules of live-action filmmaking in its quest for ever more realistic surface detail. Only the images from “American Dog” succeeded in piquing my interest.

    Admittedly, I too found the plot points rather bizarre, especially the concept of an overly large rabbit that was the result of desert nuclear testing, if I’m recalling things correctly. However, it was the look of the images that I found quite intriguing and appealing, as they seemed to suggest that the approach would be less like what we’d come to expect from CG thus far, and more like moving paintings. I particularly loved the one of the dog at the card table with a couple of mobster types. If this painterly approach was what the finished film was going to look like, then it might have significantly improved my opinion of CG animation, being a purist at heart who far prefers classical drawn animation to contemporary CG.

    Judging by this still alone, I must admit it leaves me as unimpressed as I was when I saw the first images from “Meet the Robinsons” and in subsequently viewing that film once it came out. To be fair, the designs of “Bolt” and the cat are appealing enough but, as others have already noted, quite pedestrian and generic. What I liked about the Chris Sanders’ dog design was his pluckiness – he looked like an interesting little guy who was taking charge of his own destiny and holding his own against his adversaries. This character, “Bolt” just looks like a pleasant little pup with no real discernible personality. I suspect I might like this film better if it were going to be done as a traditional drawn animated feature, but there does seem to be a wearying sameness to a lot of what we’re seeing in CG currently. I really wish that Disney would just stick to traditional and let Pixar (and especially Brad Bird) handle the CG output. I’ve tried to watch both “Chicken Little” and “Meet the Robinsons” on cable since seeing them at the theatre, and I just can’t sit through them a second time. “Bolt” looks like it may have the same effect on me.

  • There is a much larger version of the image here:

    It looks to be a paint up of some work in progress characters, complete with screwy perspective (look at the dog’s feet vs the ground and shadow, etc)

    While they aren’t final in this image, I really did like the Sanders version of the characters (which also weren’t final). I guess we’ll see how it all turns out next year.

  • and here is a small clip recorded at Siggraph of what could have been:

  • I whole-heartily agree with Mike Caracappa. Animated movies are lacking distinct creator’s marks, and things are getting pretty stale.

  • Anyone else find the cheap photoshop grass slicing through the middle of the painted backround amusing?

  • Fernando Ventura

    I never tought I’d miss Tom Schumacher’s regime, but I do. I like the different kinds of styles from those times.

  • I don’t dislike the new models and there are aspects of Sanders’ art I’m not in love with. Still I think Sanders’ version of this movie would have been more interesting than this one. Even if it wasn’t 100% perfect, like many others, I think it would have been different. The mere synopsis sounded more interesting. Bizarre, odd ideas are interesting to see. I would take a giant mutant hare over a generic hamster any day. I would take Las Vegas, guns, knifes and femme fatales over happy go lucky animals in New York any day. I don’t like the sound of Lasseter’s statement about the movie “being too quirky for its own good”. It sounds like “the film is peculiar so it won’t provide enough cash for us”. Being odd or different is not bad on itself, I would be happier if Lasseter had said that “the script didn’t work” or something, but that statement and then, this redesign…you have to admit, sounds really bad.

    I don’t know about Jan Pinkava and what happened exactly with Ratatouille, but I don’t necessarily applaude the change of director. Granted, Ratatouille was a good movie, I didn’t love it as much as some people did, but it was good. Still I don’t know how it would have turned out with Pinkava at all, I can only judge what I’ve watched. Still the idea of changing a director when it’s his own personal project is not very good or ethic, even if the movie turns out better. Yeah, maybe if the director is almost crazy and has really stupid ideas, but Sanders is great. I am biased with 2D animation, but Lilo and Stitch is a better movie than Ratatouille and even better than most of Pixar’s work in my opinion.

  • Ryan

    Boy, you’d think people would be willing to give John Lasseter the benefit of the doubt. But I guess not.

    This discussion’s pretty much done, but I’d like to add a few points:

    1. You don’t fire a director from his film because of a few disagreements. The film has to be fundamentally flawed and the director either doesn’t see it or can’t fix it.

    2. Chris Sanders was the co-director and co-writer on “Lilo and Stitch.” Yes, the original idea was his, and the film is mostly his vision, but he had Dean Deblois to balance and assist him. He was going solo on American Dog.

    3. The new director, Chris Williams, is not some neophyte hack. He’s been at Disney for many years and was a story guy on Lilo and Stitch. His short, Glago’s Guest, was what got him chosen to direct Bolt.

    I’m not trying to knock Chris Sanders who I feel is an immensely talented artist, but some projects just don’t work. Did you know Steven Spielberg directed a movie written by the writers of “Back to the Future,” Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale? It’s called “1941.”

  • Who’s entitled to say a project doesn’t work, though? Lasseter may be a pretty smart guy who knows the bussiness but ultimately it’s just someone’s opinion. I doubt Sanders’ project was a really really bad movie. Maybe it was not something for everybody, but that’s not bad on itself.

    I’m not bashing the final product or the new director. There is a chance it “works” better than Sanders’ idea. But Sanders’ project looked different. Even if it failed I think animation needs a lot more variety in its stories and this one sounded very different, and looked great too. I’d have loved to see some of the original artwork animated in 2d, that’s for sure. New models are cute, cartoony and have a lot of expression, especially the cat, but the more personal art and bizarre ideas in the old designs seemed more attractive.

  • Ryan


    I wasn’t responding to you, just to the general tone of the thread. Sorry if you felt singled out.

    A lot of this discussion hinges on assuming “American Dog” was a great movie, not just visually but story-wise as well. However, none of us have seen it (and those of us who have are probably not allowed to talk about it), and as long as that remains this discussion will eventually run in circles.

    Oh, Hollywood’s such a tricky business.

  • Why? Why would they do this!?

    Sanders’ original samples were amazing. Why would anyone shave them down to this?

  • Michael Sullivan

    Yeah. Pixar/Disney and Lasseter have just made clunker after clunker, films no one sees with no heart or character or redeeming qualities, and they’ve all gone belly-up at the box office. Who could ever trust them again? Please, people. Get a life, right after you get a clue. Or your own studio so we all critique you to death months before your next product. Sheesh.

  • Ceaser

    We’ll never know what really happened behind the scenes, maybe Sanders wouldn’t cooperate with anyone, maybe the film was freakishly awful and he wouldn’t cooperate. Maybe he killed a hooker! Who knows! That image above doesn’t tell a story, its a picture! One that, as someone mentioned, isn’t even in the movie! We can disagree with its quality from Sanders’ (Sanders are original, I feel like I’ve seen that cat from ‘Cats don’t Dance’), but who knows what they’re doing. I’ll just reserve my judgements for the movie.

  • Your friendly neighborhood Lurker

    Hmmm yeah I agree with general consensus that Sander’s original stuff was alot better looking. These don’t look bad though, and I’ve been wrong. UTTERLY WRONG about other disney movies I thoght looked repellent. Emporers New Groove really suprised me, and ended up being wonderfully witty, and funny.

  • Robert

    Ryan makes some great points, particularly the fact that none of us were there for the first screening of American Dog. Perhaps if we all had seen it, we would agree with Lasseter’s decision.

    “But Sanders’ designs are better, Robert. How can you say it would not be a spectacular movie?”

    Art design does not define a great movie. To simply look at Sanders’ designs and instantly assume that American Dog was going to be a great feature is a HUGE assumption. The flipside to that coin is, of course, mediocre character design does not guarantee a terrible movie, there is actually a very positive buzz going around regarding Bolt.

    Ed Catmull designed incredible 3D art as one of the early pioneers of CG animation, but that does not mean he can create a great story. Which is why he hired someone who could, John Lasseter.

    “Why should John be able to decide the direction all Disney/Pixar animated features?”

    Frankly, he’s earned this position! His track record defines his success.

    “But Cars failed?”

    Did it? Billions of dollars in merchandise sales 2 years after theatrical release is considered failure? At a Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference, Bob Iger went on record regarding Cars. “According to Iger, Cars is the number one film ever made by Disney in terms of film merchandise sales.”


    “But the box office was a failure?”

    $460+ million is considered failure?

    “No, but it was less than Toy Story, he’s lost his touch.”

    Based on this logic, Walt failed with Pinocchio, Bambi, and Fantasia. Even though they may be considered works of art, they tanked at the box office and critics ripped them apart.

    We don’t have to like the character design for Bolt and I am not saying anyone should. But we cannot say that Sanders’ film would have been a lot better before actually seeing both of the films.

  • Of course Cars failed. Your spectacular box-office grossings don’t matter when you produce a bland, boring and incredibly generic film. Hell, Robert, according to your theories, Shark Tale was a smashing success and a brilliant piece of work.

  • Wow, that new image is doggie doo! The original Sanders art looked great. That new image looks like Disney handed the concept over to the most bland and conservative cartoonists on earth.

  • Robert

    So a film is a failure because you felt that it was “bland, boring, and incredibly generic?”

    Got it…

    I am not sure if my post was a little confusing or maybe I wasn’t clear but my “theories” would not prove Shark Tale to be a “smashing success and a brilliant piece of work.” My facts, not theories, prove that Cars is among the many animated feature films that have left an incredible impact on family entertainment. Based on fact, Cars continues to generate new popularity as time goes on. Similar to other timeless classics like Pinocchio, Fantasia, Snow White, Bambi, etc.

    Shark Tale, on the other hand, is a forgotten tale.

  • Robert

    For the record, I do feel that Sanders’ art for American Dog was stunning. But if the story was flawed in the way that the creative execs felt it was, then I would not want to sit through a beautifully designed film with a poorly executed story.

  • Why do the animals have to have human-looking eyes?

  • Scott Carter

    The film was very flawed. While Lilo and Stitch was a minor hit, it’s as good as it is because of the strong story talents of Dean DuBois. And frankly, Sander’s designs were all over the map. Most people, when asked, couldn’t tell that the main character WAS a dog.

  • You can’t be the only one who felt that way. I mean, if the only problem with American Dog was the story, there’d be no need to toss the visual style and character designs. (Or at least, not all of them.) But this new shot looks nothing like Sanders film whatsoever.

    So clearly, the ‘brain trust’ had a problem with the look of the film as well as the plot… and comparing the before and after art, it would appear that the problem was that it wasn’t boring enough yet.

    Most of us have not seen the rough cut of Sanders’ film and are in no position to weigh in on the story changes. But anyone with eyeballs can weigh in on the visual change. It used to look interesting, and now it looks tedious. No one has to feel guilty for pointing that out!

  • Amen, S.L. I was about to say something similar, actually.

  • Scott Carter

    No. Visual style does NOT drive a film. If the story calls for it, fine, but it’s not what you start with. It comes during and after the story tells you what it needs to be. This is why a talent like Chris Sanders will always need a strong co-director. His ideas are fun and imaginative, but need lots of editing and structure to communicate clearly to an audience.

  • Robert

    Thank you for the input Scott Carter, and excellent points Sam Logan.
    Which actually brings up an open-ended question.

    Whether the designs are loved by the execs or not, when a new director takes over a project from another director should they set out to change both the character design and story as part of their mission?

    Should they be allowed to add their own signature to the film, no matter how incredible the previous art was thought to be?

    Similar scenario, after taking over Crood Awakenings from Aardman Animation, should Sanders set out to design his own character design that suits his style and approach, no matter how incredible the previous art was?

    Whether the ‘Bolt’ designs were created by Williams or by the character design department of Walt Disney Feature Animation, there is a huge difference in the artistic approach. But we cannot determine how great or how flawed Williams is as a storyteller and director by this art.

    In this article titled, “How to hook up your animated short,” as Lasseter continues to promote Disney’s new (re)adoption of animated shorts, it explains how Lasseter was extremeley impressed with Williams’ upcoming short titled “Glago’s Guest,” and how it earned him the position of directing ‘Bolt.’

  • Mr. Semaj

    If they kept Chris Sanders’ art after he pulled out, then it’s not really a Chris Sanders production.

    If it’s the story that was the problem, they couldn’t at least assign Chris Sanders to a co-director/writer? So one can focus on art and the other on story?

  • Robert

    Mr. Semaj, did you mean a “Chris Williams production?”

    That was kind of my message in the last post. By changing the character design, then it helps create ownership for Williams as “his” story.

    If Sanders and Williams had teamed up then I think we would all be in a “laughing place” right now. Lasseter’s approach with Ratatouille was of the same direction and there’s a possibility that that exact scenario was offered to Sanders and he simply did not accept the co-director approach, which then lead to his separation.

    Only the walls in Burbank will know. :)

  • Spock Foolish

    I’m going with “He killed a hooker”.

  • Now it looks like we’re getting an animated feature with boring visuals AND a trite Disney story. Way to go!

  • Scott Carter

    Disney DID give Sanders a “co-director.” And then Sanders quit Disney. And his designs are really fun.

  • Matt Sullivan

    I’ll reiterate:

    *Hiss! FFFFT!* * arches back and bares teeth at generic crap* *Mroowwwwrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!*

  • Missing the cat with the eye patch?
    Well, check out Chris Sanders first Kiskaloo strip on his blog! :)

  • The Obvious

    My guess is that any film promoted as “From the creator and director of ‘Lilo and Stitch’…” would have made as much or more money (and had more artistic integrity) than what Disney and John Lasseter have done with this Fankenstein-like project.

    Chris Sanders was the only thing remotely interesting about this project.

    Had no desire to see “Chicken Little.� Had no desire to see “Meet the Robinsons.� Have no desire to see “Bolt.�

    “generic crap�


  • Scott Carter

    Make that “From the CO-creator and CO-director of ‘Lilo and Stitch’”
    Dean Dubois did as much directing and creating of this film as Sanders, as anyone who worked on the film would tell you. They’d also tell you Dubois was the one who made sense of it all.

  • Robert

    Smile everyone!

    We are the stars of


  • Robots, and to a lesser degree the Ice Age movies. Beautiful design and top-notch animation, but bleh story. And to be brutally honest, Lilo and Stitch was fun and well done, but definitely NOT fresh. Can anyone even count anymore how many “don’t judge a book by its cover” stories Disney has repackaged constantly over the last couple of decades?

    Great point about whether Sanders will redesign the Aardman stuff he inherited too – might make some of the people with the reactionary comments think twice.

    I wonder if anyone has asked Lasseter as new head if he’d be adverse to releasing “Sweatbox”?

  • The Obvious

    My point was simply that you can not say, “From the creator and director of ‘Lilo and Stitch’…� now, which was the main point of interest for this film. How much Dean Dubois had to do with “Lilo and Stich� was not my point. If Disney wanted to hand the project off to Dean Dubois and tighten the story and keep the look they could still say “From the creator and director of ‘Lilo and Stitch’…�

    The story paintings, stylistic look, and original character genesis of “Lilo and Stitch” started with Chris Sanders, so I would lean toward giving him a little more credit though.

  • You may’ve been pleased with Ratatouille, but whose to say the preliminary designs and story idea for THAT weren’t light years better than the final product? We never saw them and weren’t teased years before release by how insanely unique and beautiful they were.. only to have it ripped from us because it was “too quirky for its own good”.

    As if Disney needed anymore fodder to feed the ever growing inferno of pissed off fans/peers. Lilo and Stitch pretty much saved the Disney 2D magic in my eyes. it was new and different. Nowits back to the same old cookie cutter bee-ess.

  • Robert

    Funny you should mention this, Edel.

    Here is a link to a story by Jim Hill about how/what Ratatouille (“Rats”) may have been prior to the Ratatouille we know of today.


    I, too, would like to think that Lilo and Stitch saved 2D animation but it was a few 2D Disney bombs later that led Eisner to shutting down the 2D animation department of the Walt Disney Company.

    How does Lasseter feel about that decision? He’s actually been very vocal about that decision…

    ‘”The whole notion that the audience didn’t want to watch hand-drawn animation any more was ridiculous,” Lasseter says. “It would be like saying the audience didn’t want to watch something made with a particular camera. Give me a break!”

    Lasseter is also sensitive to another notion — that the fabulous success of Pixar’s computer-generated films, from his own Toy Story to this year’s Ratatouille, has killed the commercial appetite for the old ways of Walt Disney.

    “You can’t say that,” Lasseter says with fire in his belly. “We’ve never ever believed that. It’s not technology. It never has been. It’s what you do with it.

    “It’s storytelling. No one goes to a movie to see a particular technology. They go to see story and characters. They go to be entertained. What it was is that 2D became the scapegoat for bad storytelling.”‘

  • Franklin

    Really…who believes a WORD of what “jim hill” types? Trash.

  • Robert


    I generally agree with you regarding Jim Hill’s report on rumors and any behind the scenes activity in both the feature and theme parks subjects.

    These two articles, however, are basic analysis of well known information with quite a bit of fact to them.

  • Franklin

    Well, why not give the person doing the reporting some credit? All hill did (and does) is repeat what’s already been written–better–by others. Only he sets a tone of scandal or intrigue. LOTS of films have changed directors–live action AND animated.

    I’m glad the animation community has caught on to his scum and stopped giving him credit or props of any kind.

  • Dutchduck

    Scamp’s Adventure, anyone?
    The dog REALLY looks like him!

  • Going from the original released images, which I can still visualise clearly from years ago – to this mulsh. Hands down the most depressing ‘evolution’ I have ever witnessed.

    If this isn’t why the terrorists hate us, then it damn well should be. The terrorists hate us for stupid reasons. They should be hating us for ruining our own artwork through an unstoppable process of homogenisation. I demand better quality from my terrorism dammit!

  • Confused

    I don’t know, it’s going to be impossible to compare Chris’ original idea and the latest one when people are going to say you can’t judge it until you see both of it.

    The thing is, you are never going to see Chris’ version. And from visuals I can tell it was really interesting enough, a dog driving a car and acts like human, thinking he is a real star? Compared to a dog who stands on four? I’m not sure if Bolt actually talks, or the many other details, or is he just another Scamp’s Adventure, but only until the movie’s trailer is released, one can only tell somewhat.

    I seriously miss Chris’ works though. :( I have faith in the story plot being good. After all Lilo and Stitch was really good in my opinion. And if you actually look around on some art sites you do get quite a lot of Lilo and Stitch fan arts around more than any other Disney or Pixar’s arts.

  • ridgecity

    Am I the only one that didn’t like Lilo & Stitch? I love the designs and looked really nice in motion with the water, but I didn’t like Stitch, it was just “So cool and irreverent” kind of like Poochy The Dog, I really like his crazyness until he started dressing as Elvis, I know he is an alien but I think there really is no good antagonist for him, he was just “too cool to be still”…

    And those previous designs for the movie were awesome, but looked too “anime” something popular with kids a couple years ago but now everyone hates, and changing it into a more “american look” which is what everyone says “it’s too bland” of course, it has been the base for Disney for decades, WB might fit more with those crazy designs or even Dreamworks, but Disney wants to go back to the core, not distance itself even more…

    THAT DOESN’T EXPLAIN HOW HE LOST HIS JOB. Lasseter is known for doing this and really doesn’t care for personal agendas, but a guy like Chris Sanders deserved a little more respect, that’s why he left…

    Hopefully he can do his story again down the years, and kids could care less about same themes on movies, and Disney is famous for ripping whatever else is making money, and there have been zoo movies and penguin movies running at the same time, and both got their budgets back, why not give them a taste of what he can do with freedom….?

  • Hi,

    should have a look to this site dedicated to Bolt / American Dog:


    If you hurry you may still see an early preview clip of American Dog, with its amazing 3D background (the background is probably still the same in Bolt if not better, but the dog has changed since, as you know).

  • Not going to Betray Chris Sanders so im not watch Blot. To watch Bolt is like Agreeing with them that Let go of A Great Storyteller at Disney, that was Chris Sanders, by making him feel Unwanted and Unappreicated as they all did by taking over his Project American Dog.