Byron Howard, along with Chris Williams, directed the hit animated film Bolt, which will be available on DVD on March 24 but is currently available on a special three-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo set right now. Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment sent over a brief interview with the director and here's what he had to say.
Was there a delicate handing over of the reins when it was felt that American Dog was not working?
Byron Howard: Instead of putting Band-Aids on stories that are not working, it is a smarter decision to take it down to the ground floor and figure what about this movie is going to work and where do we want it to go and then building the pieces from there.
How did you achieve the emotional impact in Bolt?
Byron Howard: That doesn't come easily. Chris predominantly over-saw the story of the film and he and John Lasseter were all about creating believable characters. You have to believe that the little dog loves the little girl. If you go too silly with it and don't treat it seriously people will not invest in it and won't react emotionally. Nothing is real on the screen and it is a miracle of animation that your mind forgets that you are watching animated characters and you invest yourself in them. We knew that we needed a character to be the antithesis of Bolt, so that's where Mittens came from. Even the color of the dog and the cat was important. We wanted this white, iconic dog and then to contrast the black, cynical cat. We completed the trio with this hamster who believes almost more in Bolt than Bolt does himself. Rhino was a great foil for the cat because you now have two crazy characters on the trip. At first - before Ratatouille came out - Rhino was going to be a rat. But it seemed that a domesticated animal in the trio would make sense. Someone suggested a hamster in a ball and we stopped for a second to wonder if anyone had done that before, because it was such a great idea.
What about the character of the showbiz agent in Bolt?
Byron Howard: We do know people like that, they do exist. It is a kind of loving poke at Hollywood. We knew that if we were setting the movie in Hollywood we had to embrace some of the stereotypes. Bolt does not have a true villain - the TV show might be thought to be the villain because it keeps the dog and the girl apart - but the agent character, who has been swallowed by the system, is a kind of a villain. He is completely about his job. He is what could happen to Penny is she goes down the wrong path. She could lose her humanity.
How did you get the dog's characteristics so right?
Byron Howard: It is all research and John (Lasseter) is very big on research. Whenever we dive into a new subject on a movie there is an expectation from John Lasseter that we will know our stuff. We had to do research on dogs and cats and hamsters and look at their fur and how they move and what makes each animal unique. John noticed the entertainment value of the pigeons early on and he said we should look at tons of footage of pigeons and try to capture something real about them and understand why they move they way they do.
What breed of dog is Bolt?
Byron Howard: We wanted a white, heroic dog but then we looked at different breeds. We saw a puppy of a White American shepherd and thought it was cute, but we kept shrinking him down to a tiny dog that could do incredible things. We wanted it to be so flexible that people saw their own pets in Bolt.
How was the experience of working with Miley Cyrus?
Byron Howard: She has some parallels to Penny, her character in the movie. Both of them are surrounded by Hollywood hype, glamour and glitz. When Miley came in to record the first time she was very tired but very excited and the next day she was starting her movie. Her schedule was very full but for someone who was 15 years old she kept it together and was very impressive.
Did you solely focus on Bolt during the two years or were you working on other stuff at the same time?
Byron Howard: All we could think about was Bolt. You wake up, eat breakfast quickly and it was long days and late nights when we focused solely on Bolt.
Bolt comes to DVD on March 24 and you can find the three-disc Blu-ray/DVD on the shelves now.