For those of you who've by some strange force of nature still haven't heard the story of American Dog, it goes a little something like this. Animator Chris Sanders, co-director of the classic Disney animated film Lilo & Stitch, was developing his sophomore Disney effort in 2005. The film was called American Dog and the plot was as follows:
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.Henry is a popular dog. He stars in his own television series, in which he is a James Bond style secret agent who manages to survive the most wonderful adventures. Henry is the toast of the town, but then one day one of the stunts in his show goes terribly wrong, Henry loses consciousness, and when he wakes up he finds himself on a train, thousands of miles away from his home. Henry has been a celebrity all his lifeand does not know how to handle himself in this new situation, but luckily he is able to make some new friends that he convinces to get him back home.After showing at SIGGRAPH 2005, the buzz began for what was going to be Meet the Robinsons' (then titled A Day with Wilbur Robinson) follow-up. Things seemed to be going well. A batch of lavish concept art was released to the public that drew inspiration of Edward Hopper and the film was on track for a summer 2008 release.
Well, all that changed in December 2006 when, in the midst of lay-offs at the Mouse House, Sanders was fired.
Rumors of the who and why began to fly but the now accepted version of the tale states that John Lasseter, the savior of Disney himself, gave the orders.
Why? Why would the creator of one of Disney's most succesful and marketable products in a decade be removed from a second go-around. It didn't suit Lasseter's tastes.
He called it “too quirky for its own good” and demanded a host of changes be made. Lasseter is noted for not liking Lilo & Stitch, so it's believed he didn't go into the American Dog screening room with an open mind. What changes were ordered? First off, there was too much style but not enough story substance in his opinion. Secondly, the Nevada location was too close to Pixar's upcoming Cars. Thirdly, the plot went up against Toy Story 3's. Who was going to win that fight when Lasseter was the referee?So after Sanders refused to make changes to his baby, he was given the boot and replaced with the same rescuer of another, quite similar story of drastic change - the director of The Emperor's New Groove.
It's believed Lasseter wanted to play it safe with his first CGI Disney film where he had full-jurisdiction. It's said he wants to bury any knowledge of the existence of Chicken Little and he also pushed changes with Meet the Robinsons but joined the game too late to fix all he wanted.However, this time, he knew the movie he would release would be a testament to his managing savvy and so he wanted to create something that had no risks to it. The old story was just 'too risky' for him.
What changed? The deserts of Nevada became the streets of New York.
- Henry, the misshapen even moose-looking brown dog became Bolt, the American White Shepherd.
- Ogo, the eye-patched cat became Mr. Mittens - your typical street ruffian feline.
- The unnamed gargantuan, nuclear-waste morphed bunny became Rhino, an otaku highly excitable hamster in a ball.
- Henry went from getting lost but knowing he was just a star with no powers, having to come to terms with no longer being pampered to being Bolt, a dog who believes he's actually has powers and is solely focused on rescuing his owner Penny.
Therefore, I began to come to terms with the switcheroo. No sooner had I begun to accept the change than did the wound get opened again when I read Cartoon Brew's review of The Art of Bolt book.
I held out hope some hope some remnant of Sanders would show up. Did it? Nope. Nothing. Not one image. Not even his name. Yet they still have the gall to claim the inspirtation of Edward Hopper - that was Sanders' big buzz line.Sanders has moved on over to DreamWorks but expressed deep sadness and anger over losing his pet project. His comments echoed mine - why would Lasseter, a man who claims Disney is now a "director-driven studio" - so strongly go against his own mantra? Maybe those bright hawaiian shirts should just be business suits, after all.
It seems Disney just wants to wipe their hands clean of this whole debacle.
Because of this, I've made my own art of "book". I've collected every image I've ever attained from Sanders' American Dog and posted it below. Enjoy. If you have any more pieces, or know the name of that bunny - please contact me!
Theatrical Poster for American Dog
The Display At SIGGRAPH 2005
Original Concept Sketches For Henry
Original Concept Sketch For Ogo
The Film Was To Take Place In The Deserts Of Nevada
Perhaps Ogo Channels Kill Bill?
Henry Had To Learn To Overcome His Ego And Meet Normal People
Henry Seems A Bit Scared Of His Soon-To-Be Companions
A Still Shows CGI Henry, Ogo, and Radioactive Bunny at the Magic of Disney Animation at MGM Studios
Stills From Footage Shown at SIGGRAPGH 2005