UPDATE: Apologies for posting old news, but, like I said, I haven’t been keeping up on the development of American Dog, which has been rechristened Bolt. AICN ran some info on this project last week, and they posted a picture comparison between the Sanders version and the Lasseter-approved Chris Williams redo. They’re pretty drastic, and indicative of the direction in which Lasseter wants to take Disney Animation. Shockingly, I’m hearing he favors a more traditional approach, which certainly explains his distaste for Sanders’s very un-Disney designs.
But, as Moriarty reports, Sanders has found a home at Dreamworks Animation, where he’s working on Crood Awakening, a caveman tale penned by John Cleese. With Aardman gone, perhaps Sanders is just the guy to class up Dreamworks Animation.
When John Lasseter took charge of Walt Disney Animation, most people figured guys like Chris Sanders, the creator of Lilo & Stitch, would finally be free to make the kind of formula-free films the studio largely resisted throughout the Michael Eisner era. Perhaps this will ultimately be the case… for everyone who isn’t named Chris Sanders.
The ever-in-the-Disney-know Jim Hill Media is reporting that Sanders has been removed from the production of American Dog by Lasseter himself. What’s more (though this is unsubstantiated), Sanders might very well be gone from Disney altogether. As a huge fan of Lilo & Stitch (the sole non-Pixar animated work of genuine vision and quality to get released by the studio over the last decade), this makes me incredibly sad; and while I hadn’t been keeping tabs on the progress of American Dog, the fact that Sanders was finally following-up his unexpected gem from five years ago was one of several reasons to look forward to 2008.
Lasseter, however, is apparently not a fan of Lilo & Stitch – though it’s impossible to determine from Hill’s piece if this was the deciding factor in Sanders getting the heave-ho. Whatever the reason, Chris Williams (of Mulan and the rather enjoyable The Emperor’s New Groove) is now frantically re-tooling American Dog (which may undergo a title change) in order to deliver the film for a year-end ’08 release. In the process, Sanders’s premise has been almost completely overhauled. According to Hill, this was the gist of Sanders’s take:
"Henry, a famous TV dog, finds himself stranded in the Nevada desert. Out in the world for the first time, Henry’s tidy life of scripted triumph has come to an end, and his 2,000 mile trek through the real world is just beginning."
Now, it’s about a canine TV star who believes he’s an actual superhero like the character he plays. And when he’s inadvertently shipped from the safety of his studio confines to New York City, he resolves to use his non-existent superpowers to return home. I sense a journey of self-discovery in the offing. Or, as Hill astutely observes, a very miniscule variation on Buzz Lightyear’s character arc from Toy Story.
There’s lots more going on behind the scenes with American Dog (or, possibly, Hollywood Dog), and it sounds like certain parties are doubting Lasseter’s decisions on this one. Even though Lasseter missed (artistically) with Cars, I still have a hard time believing that he’d fuck up a good thing. While I’m still looking forward to whatever Williams slaps together, I’m terribly disappointed that Sanders has been drummed out of the Mouse House.