Chris Williams, the writer and director of Bolt, shares insight into the making of a new Disney classic. Starring John Travolta and Miley Cyrus, Bolt is a can’t-miss.
Bolt arrives on DVD and Blu-ray March 24 and Disney has done it again with another entire home movie package worth its weight in gold. Mirroring Disney’s recent DVD/Blu-ray combination release of Pinocchio, Bolt is also released in the combination format.
Disney’s latest visionary honed his animated skills as a story writer on Brother Bear, Mulan, The Emperor’s New Groove and Chicken Little. Williams took a few moments away from his wife and his first child to talk about another baby of his, Disney’s Oscar-nominated Bolt.
Bolt of inspiration
SheKnows: As a writer-director, what is it like to have that initial rush of emotion surrounding your film when it hits the theatres with a second spotlight on your work when it debuts on DVD?Chris Williams: The thing about these movies is we don’t make them for ourselves. We make them for an audience. We want people to see it. When you work in these big animated movies, there’s a potential to reach a large audience and so it’s really exciting when we run in the theaters. Now, it’s going to be exposed to an even bigger audience. We’re all really excited about that.
Joining Disney legends
SheKnows: Anyone who has or visits anyone with kids can’t miss the army of Disney DVDs. As somebody who is a fan of the Disney work, what does it mean to you to have Bolt in that group on people’s shelves?Chris Williams: Gosh, when you say that, I got the chills there (laughs). That’s something that we do bear in mind. There’s Walt Disney, he created all of this and we were all moved and inspired when we were young by movies like Bambi and Pinocchio. To think this might be sitting on a shelf next to those films, it’s a very motivating idea. You really want to push yourself and make something really great that lives up to the legacy. We also have the one-two punch of having John Lasseter (Toy Story, Wall-E) serve as our boss. He is the greatest boss in animation. There’s the Pixar legend. So we knew this was going to be John Lasseter’s first Disney movie and we were doubly motivated to do everything we could to make this movie be special.
SheKnows: You make this for the audiences, as you said, and you don’t do it for the accolades, but the Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature must have been very special.
Chris Williams: It was really cool. My wife is a huge Oscar nut. She’s been watching it since she was a little kid. One of her dreams was to one day go to the Oscars. So that was nice to help her fulfill that dream. It was exciting because of the era we’re in in animation. Pixar came along and set such a high bar for animation and I think everybody in the industry — everybody has been pushing themselves to reach that bar and see that bar. That, to me, is one of the reasons why the nomination was really exciting. There’s so much good animation being done by a lot of different studios. We’re fans of Wall-E and Kung Fu Panda and to be in that company was really nice.
SheKnows: There are only three spots in that category.Chris Williams: Yeah, (laughs) which makes it that much more of an honor.SheKnows: In the end, an animated movie still comes down to a good story, where did Bolt’s story come from? Are you a dog person by chance?
A cat guy?
Chris Williams: No, I’ve actually (laughs) always had cats. I grew up with cat and I still have a cat. I’ve always loved dogs. I thought about getting a dog when we started this film, but my wife and I were getting ready to have a baby and that seemed like too much. A dog, a baby and a movie is just too much! For me, when we embarked on the story of Bolt, I really was interested in the fact that we had a dog as a main character — and we’ve seen there are lots of dog movies, right?SheKnows: There sure areâ€¦Chris Williams: Yeah, and too often, they don’t reflect what is true about a dog. I really wanted to be true to what a dog is — a dog is really defined by their loyalty and love for their owner. It’s what they are and that’s why we love them. They are so completely loving and loyal. That had to be a big part of the story. The story really had to be about loyalty and trust. It talks about the risks that come with giving yourself over to somebody. But, it argues that you have to take that chance because the reward is great. A dog was a perfect type of character to tell a story about trust. When we recognized early on that that was what the movie was about, that informed all the decisions.SheKnows: That’s really something — especially coming from a cat person.Chris Williams: Yeah (laughs). We certainlyâ€¦(laughs)â€¦people have accused us of making an anti-cat film. But, certainly our character Mittens is true to what cats are, but we reach to make her a vulnerable and heroic character by the end. That was important to me as well.
Working with Travolta and Cyrus
SheKnows: For you creating the characters, the voice is the connection to the audience. John Travolta and Miley Cyrus are big names, but if they can’t do voice-over, you have nothing. What was it like for you to be able to get them and have that type of talent for Bolt?Chris Williams: One of the things that’s nice about working on a John Lassiter film is that he will not cast a star just because they’re a star. He will also try to find the person who is the best voice for that character. In this case, John Travolta was fantastic casting. John has this innate charisma and likable quality that he has, he’s just such a sweet person. I got to meet him and get to know him a little bit. He was always so warm to everyone. That’s just who he is and there is that connection you make with people. He was trusting and loving with everybody. I thought, â€˜this guy is like a dog’ (laughs), such a thrill to work with him. And Miley, in the movie she has to pull of some very difficult scenes including a scene where she thinks she’s dying. All she wants is for her dog to live. She had to go to some difficult emotional places and she was 15 when we were working with her. I was really astonished by her maturity. She came in and listened to what we needed and was extremely prepared. She delivered. Miley Cyrus is going to have a very bright future as an actress. People are quick to write off young starlets but she’s really got the goods.SheKnows: For you, an animated film is a long process. Is there something you’re working on now that we will see in a few years?Chris Williams: I took a little bit of a break after Bolt. My wife had a baby while we were making Boltâ€¦SheKnows: Congratulations!Chris Williams: Thanks, there was plenty of time with the family and relaxing. But, over this month, I’ve been preparing some pitches for John (Lasseter) and getting some movie ideas together. I’m going to be pitching on April 1st. Hopefully, then we’ll embark on this madness all over again.