A QUESTION AND ANSWER WITH DIRECTORS CHRIS WILLIAMS AND BYRON HOWARD
Q: What do you want people to take away from this film? What are the themes, the messages…?
CHRIS WILLIAMS: I think that I've always felt the movie was about the idea of trust, and the risks and the rewards that come with trust. I think the movie argues that if you do trust somebody, if you really give yourself over to someone completely, then you make yourself very vulnerable to hurt. And everyone knows, that's the worst sort of emotional pain, when you've believed in somebody and they've let you down or rejected you. And so, the movie says that yes, that is a risky thing to do, and gives examples of how it can be risky. But then, it argues that in spite of that fact, you do have to give yourself over to people, you do have to trust people, in order to achieve true fulfillment. So I think that's it in a nutshell, and that that really goes to the relationship between Mittens and Bolt. Mittens is the ultimate doubter, initially. And Bolt, of course, being a dog, loving Penny, completely trusts that she is who he thinks she is. And that becomes a crucial question, between Mittens and Bolt. And ultimately Bolt learns that it is risky to believe in somebody, but it's the right thing to do.
Q: One last question. If you could have worked on any classic Disney film, which one would you have worked on?
CHRIS WILLIAMS: Everybody talks about Dumbo, and I agree. I mean, Dumbo is one of the great achievements.
BYRON HOWARD: It is great. There's something about that movie…because, I think, it was a smaller crew. I don't think it was the feature crew, I think it was a lot of guys that had done the shorts. So it seemed like an underground project somewhat, and that appeals to me. And there is something so emotionally sweet about that film.
CHRIS WILLIAMS: There is a sweetness to that film, and I suppose if it was one classic Disney movie, I would have to say Dumbo.
BYRON HOWARD: Yeah, I think I agree, that's a good choice.
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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 he pitched the idea and wrote the story that became 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.
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.
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