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Animation fans prematurely shoot off their mouths about "Bolt"

Jim Hill

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Animation fans prematurely shoot off their mouths about "Bolt"

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How many of you know the story of the blind men and the elephant?

I bring up this ancient Indian fable because ... Well ... I have to admit that I was highly amused by what happened last Wednesday. When the on-line animation community went completely bananas over those "Bolt" pre-release images.

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Now keep in mind that all we've seen to date of this Walt Disney Animation Studios production is the above photo as well as the teaser poster for this November 2008 release ...

Copyright 2008 Disney. All Rights Reserved

... But that was more than enough to send certain toon fans right over the edge. They took one look at that pre-release image of Bolt the dog, Mittens the cat and Rhino the hamster and immediately began bitching about how awful this Chris Williams movie was going to be.

Which was just silly. I mean, how can you form an opinion of a film you haven't actually seen yet based on a single pre-release image and a teaser poster? Shouldn't you at least wait 'til you've seen the "Bolt" trailer before you then write this new Disney animated feature off as a complete piece of cr*p?

Okay. I know. The real reason that so many animation fans already have negative feelings about this Chris Williams film isn't so much "Bolt" itself. But -- rather -- because this film's original director, "Lilo & Stitch" creator Chris Sanders, got booted off of the project.

Look, I'll grant you that (strictly from a PR point of view) John Lasseter & Ed Catmull could have handled the whole "American Dog" situation better. And I -- for one -- will really miss the quirkiness that was associated with Sanders' original take on this material.

Copyright 2005 Disney. All Rights Reserved

But that said, it's not like Chris was the first animation director to be forced off of a project that he originated. Let's remember that "Ratatouille" started out as a Jan Pinkava production. Only to have John & Ed pull Jan off of this floundering film in late 2005 and bring in Brad Bird to completely overhaul the project.

In fact, were you to look back over the production histories of some of the more popular animated features released over the past 20 years, you'd find that many of these movies lost at least one of their directors en route to the big screen. Take -- for example -- Disney's "Beauty & the Beast." Which was originally supposed to be this dark, music-free romance directed by Richard Purdum.

Working with a team of artists who had just finished animating "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," Richard tried to make his vision for this project viable. But as soon as then-Disney Studios head Jeffrey Katzenberg saw the leica reel, he declared that Purdum's "Beauty" was a beast and quickly canned this acclaimed filmmaker. Katzenberg then ordered Alan Menken & Howard Ashman (Who were fresh off of "The Little Mermaid) as well as Kirk Wise & Gary Trousdale (Who had just delivered "Cranium Command" to WDI) to overhaul the production that eventually resulted in the Academy Award-winning film that we all know today.

Disney's "The Lion King" experienced a similar change-of-command, with George Scribner being forced out so that Rob Minkoff could then become Roger Allers' new co-director. Ironically enough, just a few years later, Allers suddenly found himself in Scribner's shoes. George was booted off of "Kingdom of the Sun" so that Mark Dindal could turn this very troubled production into "The Emperor's New Groove."

Ask any animation industry vet and they'll tell you about the troubled projects that they worked on (EX: "Aladdin," "Toy Story" and "Shrek") where production actually stopped for months at a time before the studio finally straightened out their story problems. In all three of these cases, millions of dollars worth of finished material was ultimately tossed out in favor of taking a fresh approach to the film.

Which brings us back to "Bolt." Again, while it is a shame that we won't get to see how Chris Sanders' cat-with-an-eye-patch character ...

Copyright 2005 Disney. All Rights Reserved

... looks up on the big screen, we can at least take some solace in the fact that this character lives on in the "Kiskaloo" comic strip that Chris has just started over at his official website.

But as for the overhauled version of "American Dog" that Chris Williams is now in charge of ... Given that Williams earned his stripes at the Mouse House by first working on "Mulan" (Which was another WDAS production that really had to struggle before it finally found just the right mix of story elements) before joining the story crew assigned to "The Emperor's New Groove" ... This is a guy who actually knows how to turn lemons into lemonade, people.

So please try and keep that in mind before you make up your mind about "Bolt." After all, given that all we've seen to date of this November 28, 2008 Walt Disney Animation Studios release is that pre-release image and teaser poster ... Well, you wouldn't want to make the same mistake that the blind man did in that infamous S. Gross cartoon, would you? You know, the one where he declares that " ... an elephant is soft and mushy" ?

And speaking of mush ... If the snow is just too deep right now for you to mush on out to the mall to take advantage of those post-Christmas sales ... Well, why not click on the above Amazon banner?

If you do that ... You actually help support JHM. Given that we get a tiny little piece of whatever you spend over at Amazon.com. So please keep us in mind should you want to do any online shopping over the next month.

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  • Mr. Norman, did you go to the screening?  Do you know how much was finished animation?  How did the screening go?!?

  • Sorry, blackcauldron85. I would love to answer your questions, but no can do at this time.

    I can tell you I've had the pleasure of working with Chris and Chris on "Mulan" some years ago. That's Sanders and Williams. Anyway, both are very talented young guys, and I would storyboard for either of them any day.

    You'll find out about "Bolt" in due time. For now, I'm staying out of the doghouse.

  • Love it or hate it, I'm sure all of us posting here are going to see it for ourselves in order to get a sense of it. That's the thing about all this chatter- it keeps the interest up.

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