John Lasseter talks about BOLT
Directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard talk about BOLT
ON THIS PAGE… the story, how the film was made, meet BOLT and his friends, and meet the filmmakers
For super-dog BOLT (voice of JOHN TRAVOLTA), every day is filled with adventure, danger and intrigue--at least until the cameras stop rolling. When the star of a hit TV show is accidentally shipped from his Hollywood soundstage to New York City, he begins his biggest adventure yet--a cross-country journey through the real world to get back to his owner and co-star, Penny (voice of MILEY CYRUS). Armed only with the delusions that all his amazing feats and powers are real, and the help of two unlikely traveling companions--a jaded, abandoned housecat named Mittens (voice of SUSIE ESSMAN) and a TV-obsessed hamster named Rhino (voice of MARK WALTON)--Bolt discovers he doesn't need superpowers to be a hero.
BOLT serves as the animated feature-film directing debut for filmmakers CHRIS WILLIAMS (The Emperor's New Groove, Glago's Guest) and BYRON HOWARD (Lilo & Stitch, Brother Bear). The film is produced by CLARK SPENCER (Lilo & Stitch, Meet the Robinsons) and executive-produced by JOHN LASSETER (The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL·E). The screenplay is by DAN FOGELMAN (Cars, Fred Claus) and CHRIS WILLIAMS.
Clearly, a computer-animated story about a television superhero dog engaged in a trek across the country with a super fan hamster and a super cynical cat could not be construed as even slightly autobiographical for anyone behind the film. But in a way, for the executives, filmmakers and talent at the heart of Walt Disney Animation Studio's upcoming release, BOLT, there is something that the onscreen animals and off-screen humans share in abundance--ENTHUSIASM.
The zeal with which directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard discuss their feature film directing debut is palpable. Williams was hand selected by John Lasseter (Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and Principal Creative Advisor, Walt Disney Imagineering) to helm BOLT, given his talents clearly on view in Chris' first CGI animated short, Glago's Guest.
Chris felt an immediate and positive connection to the project. He remembers, "I felt that there was a great potential to create really rich characters--that's sort of our overall goal as filmmakers. We thought we could come up with a trio that the audience could spend a lot of time with. And I really feel that we did that. For me personally, I'm just excited to be working at Disney under John Lasseter--you really want to make a movie for him. He's the best boss you could possibly have in animation. He's very engaged and involved, and feels passionately about any film that comes out of Disney or Pixar."
Indeed, during BOLT production, John met with the filmmakers once a week, if not more, to offer his invaluable advice in every area as the project progressed. Chris quips, "Pixar movies aren't consistently great by accident."
That passion for animation is also evident in the impressive career path of director Byron Howard, a member of Disney Animation Studio's "Story Trust," a hothouse group of artists creating and developing stories for the Company's short and feature-length offerings. Byron's keen sense of animation is put to superlative use in BOLT, where a painterly world--one that owes a great deal to the American artist, Edward Hopper--is inhabited by fully-realized CG characters who feel right at home. Byron explains the rule for this successful combination: "Something that John really stresses is believability--the world you create doesn't have to be realistic, but it has to be believable, and everything in that world has to obey its own logic. You can see within the animation of Bolt some actual dog mannerisms that have been captured--the more that Bolt gets away from his TV show in Los Angeles, the more he starts to act like a real dog. So the animation incorporates more 'dog' physicality. We watched video, we researched some of the dogs of classic Disney films, we brought in dogs to the offices and sketched them. And you can really see it in the character. That's really gratifying to all of us."
For producer Clark Spencer, working on BOLT is a continuation of his segue from the world of finance to feature film--it is his third stint as a producer. The Harvard Business School graduate joined the Company in 1990 in finance and planning, ascending up the organization ladder until he was asked, in mid-1998, to produce the animated film Lilo & Stitch. Clark supplies, "I find that producing animated features for Disney is a great way to combine what I was trained to do with what I love doing."
That same infectious sense of passion linked with purpose could be termed John Lasseter's informal calling card. John's name is connected to some of the most successful CG animated projects of all time--a winning recipe of heartfelt tales rendered with astounding (and groundbreaking) artistry. So it is somehow fitting that BOLT--a story about a winning combination of belief and action driven by the heart--is the first picture he fully shepherded, from inception to delivery, in his new tenure at Disney.
John believes in the alchemy that occurs within the Disney Animation Studio, when wonderful artists are brought together. Driven by a desire to create, the animation filmmakers and artists have the enviable task of bringing dreams from the ether into tangible reality. For him, his coming to Disney as CCO in 2006 might have been foreseen as inevitable--the Studio seems to run in his blood…one of his first jobs was as a Jungle Cruise Skipper at Disneyland in Anaheim. His from-the-ground-up (and first-hand) experience and knowledge of the Studio and its rich history has resulted in a life-long love affair with the place. For the new CCO, coming to work everyday is a joy.
Bolt believes that he is a lucky canine with superpowers, which he actually doesn't, but in the end, he finds that his belief and his acting on that notion is enough. In a way, just as the Disney artists do, Bolt becomes the dog, the hero, he always wanted to be by the action he takes.
MEET BOLT AND HIS FRIENDS
Bolt is one lucky dog. He could never have imagined what his life would be like when he was adopted as a puppy…now, a typical day includes adventure, danger and intrigue for him and his owner, Penny. That's because Bolt is the star of his own action-adventure television show, where he plays a genetically enhanced dog charged with protecting Penny from falling into the clutches of the villainous Green-Eyed Man, Dr. Calico, and his legions of evil cats. But there's one little hitch--Bolt doesn't know that he's on a television show. He actually believes that he really has super dog powers, like incredible strength and speed, laser vision and the obstacle-flattening superbark!
So, when he's accidentally shipped from his Hollywood soundstage to New York City, he does what any superhero would do--he kidnaps a New York alley cat named Mittens (since all cats are in league with Dr. Calico), and convinces her to lead him to the Green-Eyed Man, so he can free his beloved owner Penny once and for all. On their way cross-country, the devoted dog and confused cat meet up with a TV-obsessed hamster in a ball named Rhino, who happens to be the number one fan of Bolt's television show. Now, living out his own ultimate dream, Rhino joins in to help his hero Bolt on the dog's most important mission ever. The trio have several adventures of their own before arriving in Hollywood, where Bolt ultimately discovers that he doesn't really need superpowers to be a real hero.
BOLT - "That information is classified."
· Raised from a puppy by Penny, Bolt is truly girl's best friend--and he adores his owner.
· Having never left the soundstage where his television series is filmed, the only reality Bolt knows is the one that the show has created.
· Bolt is always vigilant, ever on the lookout for the nefarious Dr. Calico and his evil minion of cats, and constantly aware of his life's work--to protect his owner, Penny.
· Nothing changes in Bolt's mind when he accidentally arrives on the very real streets of New York City. He takes a cat named Mittens prisoner thinking she is one of Dr. Calico's minions, and convinces her to lead him to where the Green-Eyed Man has taken Penny.
· Joined on his mission by the kidnapped cat and the super fan hamster, Bolt slowly begins to doubt his superpowers.
· Bolt, in a word: super dog, devoted, loyal, optimistic, daredevil, big-hearted, vigilant, superbark!, sweet, hero
MITTENS - "I'm just a little concerned about the number of lunatics on this trip. My limit is one."
· Mittens is a street-smart survivor who trusts no one and has never had a friend in her life. She runs a racket with a group of pigeons--they give her food and she gives them protection.
· A brash, street-wise, New York alley cat, Mittens is taken prisoner by Bolt and forced to accompany him on his cross-country mission.
· She has a pessimistic outlook and a sarcastic sense of humor, which doesn't exactly go along with Bolt's superhero take on life.
· Once Rhino joins the party, Mittens is determined to get these delusional characters to Hollywood as quickly as possible, so she can return to her own life.
· During the journey, something about Bolt and his strong sense of devotion and loyalty helps Mittens to realize that you can trust others, and you can even call some of them friends.
Mittens, in a word: alley cat, pessimistic, street-wise, crafty, realist, sassy, exasperated, self-sufficient, loner, survivor
RHINO - "Ring. Ring. Who is it? Destiny. I've been expecting your call!"
Living in his trusty plastic hamster ball, Rhino can always be found in front of the television.
· Rhino is a diehard super fan of Bolt's television show, and knows every detail of his hero's adventures by heart.
· The little hamster is blown away when his idol, Bolt, arrives out of nowhere on the doorstep of his home.
· Given what he knows is the chance of a lifetime, Rhino rises to the call of duty and pledges to be a valuable addition to Bolt's team.
· In addition to joining in on Bolt's mission to rescue Penny, Rhino is charged with keeping his hero's spirits up when Bolt starts to doubt himself and his powers.
· Rhino, in a word: hamster, pint-sized, super fan, excitable, awestruck, TV-obsessed, single-minded, spirited, believer.
PENNY - "Bolt. SPEAK!"
· Penny is the smart, strong-willed twelve-year-old girl who plays Bolt's owner on the TV show--but she's also his loving owner in real life.
· When Penny chose Bolt as both her co-star and her own dog, she never imagined that she wouldn't be able to take him home and that he would live his entire life on the soundstage.
· She is concerned for Bolt's welfare, in a constant state of vigilance while never leaving the television soundstage. She knows this isn't the life for Bolt, but she is powerless to change it.
· Penny, in a word: Bolt's owner, Bolt's co-star, bright, strong-willed, athletic, misled, concerned, loving
DR. CALICO - "World domination is within my grasp!"
· Dr. Calico is an evil genius, bent on world domination…but only on the "Bolt" television show.
· He commands a loyal force of felines (hence Bolt's mistrust of cats).
· Dr. Calico has kidnapped Penny's father to gain his scientific secrets, and is in constant battle with the little girl and her super dog, Bolt.
· Because one eye is cat-like, he is also called the Green-Eyed Man.
· Dr. Calico, in a word: villain, evil, megalomaniac, feline leader, kidnapper, dangerous, threatening, arch-enemy, untrustworthy, dark
THE PIGEONS - "This is ridonculous. I know that dog."
· The pigeons in New York City are named Vinnie, Joey and Bobby.
· Although they think they recognize the white dog, they can't recall how they know his face.
· When Bolt asks them where he can find a cat to get some answers about Penny, they lead him straight to Mittens, to get back at her for using them to gather her food.
· Their thick accents really define them as being native "New Yawkers."
· The pigeons in Los Angeles are named Blake, Tom and Billy.
· When they meet Bolt, their first thought is to pitch him an idea for a script.
· The pigeons, in a word: regional, humorous, colorful, scatterbrained, talkative, group members, outgoing, not very helpful, working an angle, New York wise guys, Los Angeles agents
PENNY's AGENT - "Let's just put a pin in that for now."
· This humorous Hollywood agent purportedly works for Penny, but routinely makes decisions for her based on her career and his on salary…not her life as a 12-year-old girl.
· Enabled with the gift of gab, he can talk incessantly…in, around, over and through subjects, without ever really having said anything at all.
· He routinely ignores Penny when she asks to take Bolt home with her away from the set--he pretends to consider the issue, and puts her off by saying they should "put a pin" in the subject for later consideration.
· Instead of seeing Penny and Bolt as a little girl and a pet dog, he sees them as dollar signs. He's not mean, just a businessman.
· The agent, in a word: quick-talking, quick-witted, savvy, confident, self-serving, self-centered, a bit of a hustler, mover-and-a-shaker, very "Hollywood," persuasive
ABOUT THE FILMMAKERS
CHRIS WILLIAMS (Director) has been an important part of the Walt Disney Studios for 14 years, joining the Florida Animation Studio as an intern in 1994. Williams was a key member of the Mulan story team, the first feature film done entirely at the Florida Studio. After completing his work on Mulan, he relocated to the California Studio, where worked on story for The Emperor's New Groove. Chris was nominated for an Annie Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement for Writing in an Animated Feature Presentation for his work on The Emperor's New Groove.
During Chris' time in the story department, he has led the development of several feature and short film ideas. Most recently he wrote and directed Disney's first CG short, Glago's Guest, which premiered this spring at the Annecy International Film Festival. John Lasseter was so impressed with Chris' storytelling and directing that he hand-picked Chris to helm the studio's Thanksgiving 2008 feature, Bolt. Williams makes his debut as a feature animated film director alongside Byron Howard on the project which will be released domestically November 21, 2008.
Chris earned a fine arts degree from the University of Waterloo, as well as completed two summer programs at Sheridan College. Growing up in Canada, he recalls his mother's wish for him to attend the nearby, well-known Canadian art school, Sheridan College. He also recalls not fully realizing his interest in the animation field before attending the two summer programs at Sheridan.
Chris resides in Los Angeles, California, with his wife and daughter. READ AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS WILLIAMS
BYRON HOWARD (Director) chose his career path while vacationing at Walt Disney World in 1988, when he first heard of Disney's plan to open an animation studio there. "I changed my focus at school to animation, moved there in 1990, and took three years and five portfolio submissions to get in," he says.
While waiting for his persistence to pay off, he stayed close to the source, joining Disney in November 1991 as a host on the animation tour at Disney-MGM Studios in Orlando, where he guided visitors through such attractions as "The Voyage of the Little Mermaid" and "Honey, I Shrunk the Audience."
Byron officially joined Walt Disney Feature Animation in April 1994 as an inbetweener on the title character of Disney's Pocahontas. He next served as an animator on the team that created the soldier Yao and Mulan's ancestors in Disney's 36th animated feature, Mulan. On the Disney animated short, John Henry, Byron worked on all the characters as a supervising animator. He served as supervising animator on the social worker, Cobra Bubbles, in the animated feature film Lilo & Stitch. He served on the animation team for Lilo's sister, Nani, and also did character design work for several miscellaneous characters for the film. Byron went on to supervise animation for the bear, Kenai, in the third and final animated feature to come from the Florida Studio, Brother Bear. He earned an Annie Award nomination for Outstanding Character Animation on Brother Bear (Kenai).
Since relocating to the California studios, he has worked as story artist, character designer and finally, director. A member of the "Story Trust" at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Byron has been developing several ideas for short and feature-length films. Bolt marks Howard's debut as a feature film director, along with fellow director, Chris Williams.
Byron, who was born on Misawa US Air Force Base in Japan, went to college to study live-action film, but rediscovered his childhood love of animation after seeing Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and The Little Mermaid. He quickly switched to animation. The college had no animation studies program, so he structured his own education by writing for curriculum advice from animators Frank Thomas and David Block. He earned his bachelor of arts degree from Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.
In addition to a passion for animation, Byron's interests include art, music, theatre, travel and animals (he has four cats). He says that if he didn't work for Disney, he would probably write film music or pursue a career in the sciences. He currently resides in Glendale, California. READ AN INTERVIEW WITH BYRON HOWARD
JOHN LASSETER (Executive Producer) is chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and principal creative advisor, Walt Disney Imagineering. He is a two-time Academy Award-winning director and oversees all Pixar and Disney films and associated projects. John directed the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed films Toy Story, A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2. Additionally, he executive-produced Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and WALL-E. Lasseter returned to the director's chair in 2006 with the release of Disney·Pixar film, Cars.
In 2004, John was honored by the Art Directors Guild with its prestigious "Outstanding Contribution To Cinematic Imagery" Award, and received an honorary degree from the American Film Institute.
Under his supervision, Pixar's animated feature and short films have received a multitude of critical accolades and film industry honors. He received a Special Achievement Oscar in 1995 for his inspired leadership of the Toy Story team. His work on Toy Story also resulted in an Academy Award-nomination for Best Original Screenplay, the first time an animated feature had been recognized in that category. Finding Nemo, released spring 2003, became the highest-grossing animated feature of all time, and won the Oscar® for Best Animated Feature Film.
As creative director of Pixar, John enjoyed the critical acclaim and box office success of The Incredibles in 2004. The film was recognized with a record-breaking 16 Annie Award nominations and several "Best of" awards by The Wall Street Journal, American Film Institute, National Board of Review and many others.
He also has written, directed and animated a number of highly renowned short films and television commercials for Pixar, including Luxo Jr. (1986 Academy Award nominee); Red's Dream (1987); Tin Toy (1988 Academy Award winner); and Knickknack (1989), which was produced as a 3D stereoscopic film. Pixar's Tin Toy became the first computer animated film to win an Oscar when it received the 1988 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.
Prior to the formation of Pixar in 1986, John was a member of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm Ltd., where he designed and animated the computer-generated Stained Glass Knight character in the 1985 Steven Spielberg-produced film Young Sherlock Holmes.
John attended the inaugural year of the character animation program at California Institute of the Arts and received his BFA in film there in 1979. While attending California Institute of the Arts, the budding animation filmmaker produced two animated films, both winners of the Student Academy Award for Animation: Lady and the Lamp in 1979 and Nitemare in 1980.
John's very first award came at the age of five, when he won $15.00 from the Model Grocery Market in Whittier, California, for a crayon drawing of the headless horseman. READ AN INTERVIEW WITH JOHN LASSETER
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