Exclusive: How Disney Made Bolt

But when he failed to see eye to eye with new Disney honcho John Lasseter over the concept and execution, he left the project.

Chris Williams took over what had been a project already at the animation stage.

“The premise is what we took from American Dog - we liked the idea of a dog who is the star of a really OTT action show who comes to believe in the fiction of the show.

“We needed a clean page. Everyone realized that it would not benefit anybody to take bits and pieces of things and try to salvage it. So it was a do-over. As soon as we changed direction we were creating new characters and building new personalities.”

Next: Pressure & Pleasures


"We also understood this was John Lasseter's first Disney movie, so people would be paying special attention to the film.

“So there was pressure in that regard, but I think anyone who works on an animated movie is going to be under a lot of pressure, because you're always up against serious deadlines.

“And anything that is collaborative in animation sometimes has no right to turn out any good because you've got 450 people working on one piece of art over the course of years, it doesn't add up to me that it would ever turn out any good. But it's the result of the commitment of these talented artists.”

Next: Pooches %26 Paintings


The lead on a leash had to be real ...

Williams’ big idea was to focus on Bolt as a dog – to change how canines were portrayed on screen.

“One of the things I wanted to bring is to examine what it was about dogs that we love so much, because you've seen lots of dog movies and there'll be plenty more - but sometimes I feel like they make the mistake of assigning any old personality to a dog. They forget what is so special about them - that they're true and 100% loving and trusting.

“That's something I wanted to bring to the movie and make central to Bolt as a character and therefore to the film. I wanted it to be the engine that drives everything.

...while the backgrounds got the painterly touch

One of Bolt’s big achievements is the beautiful, watercolour-inspired backgrounds. Williams admits he didn’t spearhead that.

“I'd love to take credit, but I can't. That was our art director Paul Felix, who is a real legend in animation, he's one of the most respected artists in the community.

“He was on board before I was. He's a student of Disney history and a great painter himself. He loved that warmth and texture you get from those hand-painted backgrounds.

"He wanted to find a way to apply that feeling of atmosphere and depth to CG, because CG will try to fight you in that regard, and try to make things cold and clean and mathematical.

“We had this amazing crew of artists and programmers who tried to figure out ways to make that work, so ultimately I was able to concentrate on the characters and the story and things like the look of the film, from my perspective, took care of themselves because we had people like Paul making Bolt look the way that it did.

“People always think you as the director make the movie, but not really - I helped co-ordinate people's efforts towards the same goal. That's what you're really doing.”

Voices & Visions


Next: Feedback From Pixar


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Freelance Journalist

James White is a freelance journalist who has been covering film and TV for over two decades. In that time, James has written for a wide variety of publications including Total Film and SFX. He has also worked for BAFTA and on ODEON's in-cinema magazine.