Chris Williams was the co-director alongside Byron Howard on Bolt, which is coming to DVD on March 24 and is already available in a three-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo set. Walt Disney Home Entertainment sent along a brief interview with the director and here's what he had to say about working on this film.
How did you decide on the first big action sequence in Bolt?
Chris Williams:The first scene is a very quiet one to get people to connect with the characters and then there is a shock to the system with this really over the top action set piece. I am a big fan of action movies, so we wanted to have something that would really surprise people. So we drew from Casino Royale, The Bourne Identity and classics like The Road Warrior, The Terminator and The Matrix - all those action films. And of course we looked at The Incredibles which shows what you can do with action in animation. We wanted to go as far as we could with it and we thought we had; then John Lasseter came along and said we could go further! So we did.
How did you achieve the emotion impact in Bolt?
Chris Williams: The fun has to be funny and entertaining but there has to be also an emotional truth; a core story that will affect people. That is something that John Lasseter always strives for. One of the things that you learn with John is not to be afraid of sincerity. If you are trying to find an emotional truth, then really go for it. With that in mind I think we were able to achieve some of those moments when big, burly men have admitted made them cry. I take that as the highest compliment when someone says it affected them emotionally. It is a great reward for us to hear a bit of sobbing going on when people watch Bolt.
Originally Bolt was a film called American Dog. When John Lasseter brought you on board, did you start again from scratch?
Chris Williams: Basically we kept the high concept of a dog that was raised on a TV action show and has become to believe all the fiction of it and believes he has certain powers. But beyond that John did not ask us to keep anything. So I had to ask myself what story I wanted to tell. So we started from scratch and re-invented the characters and the story. It would have been a mistake for me to see how I could reassemble things or keep certain things. It had to be a personal story. To me the story was about a dog and there have been lots of dog movies but sometimes the mistake that people make is that they will treat it like it is a person in a dog suit. There had to be something true about this dog, I wanted it to be true to what dogs really are and dogs are loving and loyal, beyond all else. There really is not much else to them. That absolute love and trust they have with their owner is really special and that is why we love dogs so much. I wanted that to be a big part of the main character and for it to be central to the theme of the story. I talked with John Lasseter about how this was a movie about trust and the risks and rewards of trust. We demonstrate that opening yourself to somebody has its risks and you can be hurt. But ultimately the movie says that it is worth the risk and you have to give yourself over to achieve true happiness.
Was there a delicate handing over of the reins when it was felt that American Dog was not working?
Chris Williams: We needed a clean page. Everyone realized that it would not benefit anybody to take bits and pieces of things and try to salvage things. So it was a do-over. As soon as we changed direction we were creating new characters and building new personalities.
How did you get the dog's characteristics so right?
Chris Williams: If you are going to make a movie about a dog, you are going to have to bring in dogs and draw dogs and film dogs and study them. We looked at classic Disney films and looked at the observations that the hand drawn animators made in animating dogs. Then you have a wealth of animation to draw from and you can find those tiny little mannerisms.
What extras might be on the DVD of Bolt?
Chris Williams: We were filmed doing some things on the movie. One thing that will be on it I think is the exact moment that Mark Walton received the news that he was to do the voice of Rhino. We sprung it on him and he went a little crazy, smashing things and jumping up and down. We captured that on video. They are also planning a game for the Blu-Ray.
What breed of dog is Bolt?
Chris Williams: We were inspired by the American White Shepherd but we borrowed elements from lots of many dogs.
How was the experience of working with Miley Cyrus?
Chris Williams:She is quite a phenomenon. We have had big voice talent in our movies, stars like John Travolta and Tom Hanks. But our producer was inundated with requests from people who wanted to bring their kids in to meet Miley Cyrus when she came to record. Of course he had to refuse. As far as working with her is concerned, I was really very pleasantly surprised, she is such a huge star but all that matters to us was that she could act the scenes. I was impressed, she came prepared, she delivered everything we asked for. There were some challenging emotional scenes that she had to pull off and she nailed them. I was impressed by how professional she was and a lot had to do with her parents. Her mother was there for most of the recording sessions. She is very connected with her family and that has kept her grounded.
Bolt will be coming to DVD on March 24 and is already available in a three-disc Blu-ray/DVD set now.