Bolt was more than just another animated feature from Disney ‘ it was the first film to come out of the famous Mouse House since the company teamed up with Pixar and brought in John Lasseter to lead the studio.
The results were strong, with the film not only earning solid reviews, but pulling off the incredibly rare feat of earning more at the box office its second week in release than in its first.
Bolt was directed by the duo of Byron Howard and Chris Williams. A 12-year veteran of Disney’s story department, Williams also got screenplay credit and agreed to chat with AMO about the film’s release on Blu-ray and DVD.
Preparing Bolt for Blu-ray and DVD meant going back to the movie and making sure it would look as good as it possibly could, Williams says.
‘We have a pretty incredible team with Paul Felix, our art director; Adolph Lusinsky, the head of lighting; and John Murrah, our visual-effects supervisor. Before the theatrical release, they’ve watched the movie hundreds of times with the sound turned off. They really are passionate about getting the picture just right, getting the color just right,’ he says. ‘Then as you prepare for DVD and Blu-ray, for them, it starts all over again and they really want it to be true to the original vision and they took that very seriously.’
Among the highlights of the DVD extras are two deleted sequences, shown in storyboard form, and an original short film called Super Rhino. The short, starring the film’s fanboy hamster in a bit of wish fulfillment, received the most attention of any of the DVD features. ‘It was directed by Nathan Greno, our head of story, and I was so happy with how it turned out, and it was just so much fun,’ Williams says.
Looking back on his first directorial effort, Williams says he learned a lot about animation and about leading in a creative environment.
‘One of your main jobs is to make sure that everyone’s working toward the same goal,’ he says. That means making sure that ‘what the effects people are doing and what the animators are doing, what the lighting people, the layout people are doing, is all contributing toward the same story point or the same idea. If you can give them that, then they’ll be in good shape.’
Working with Lasseter on the film was a learning experience in itself, just from watching how he worked and following his lead, Williams says.
‘He really gets you jazzed and gets you excited about working on these movies and it’s just so effortless for him,’ Williams says. ‘To have someone who can give you really concrete advice and be a great teacher, but also really inspire you to want to do good work for him, that’s a real rare thing I think.’
For example, Williams says Lasseter and Pixar co-founder Ed Catmull deserve credit for opening up the creative process. ‘Everyone felt their voice could be heard and I embraced that completely,’ Williams says. ‘I loved getting reactions from people, getting feedback from people and making them know what they were doing made a difference.’
After taking some time off to spend with his family, Williams says he’s eager to get back to work on new projects. ‘I’m preparing some pitches and I’m going to be presenting stuff to John on April 1 and starting this craziness all over again,’ he says.
Bolt is out now on Blu-ray and DVD.