If this is what computer animation means at Disney, then I wish they’d made the switch years earlier. The new pieces of art shown at SIGGRAPH 2005 for Disney’s forthcoming AMERICAN DOG, directed by Chris Sanders, look just as gorgeous as the first examples of AMERICAN DOG art released last year. Does the film really look like this, or perhaps more appropriately, could the film really look like this? This is the type of animation art one typically only sees in the pre-production phase before it is watered down for the “needs of production;” the lush painterly quality of light and restraint in color styling are a refreshing departure from the aesthetic norm of Disney features. And dare I say, the Sanders style of character design translates even better to these images than they they did to his hand-drawn effort LILO AND STITCH. Yet another sign of promise is that Sanders is the sole director of the film, a significant change from the studio’s standard filmmaking-by-committee style of production. Sanders is, in fact, only the second director in modern Disney times to take the solo helm of a major animated feature. The first was Mark Dindal, who directed THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE (as well as the upcoming CHICKEN LITTLE) by himself. So far, everything about this film looks great, and the story sounds entertaining as well. If AMERICAN DOG somehow manages to deliver on the promise of these visuals, I predict the studio is going to have a major hit on its hands.
UPDATE: Scott Graham wrote to let me know that Sanders will not be the second, but the third modern director at Disney to helm a feature solo. Steve Anderson is directing the forthcoming A DAY WITH WILBUR ROBINSON by himself, and that film is scheduled for release before AMERICAN DOG.