Thursday, December 6, 2012

Is This Really All That's Left of American Dog?

A Note From Me: I'm going to be in sunny CA this week! Instead of leaving the blog to stagnate, I've decided to re-post some of the stuff that I'd written waaay back at the beginning. A few of them are mission statements of sorts, explaining why I started this blog and what I hope(d) to accomplish with it. The rest are just rambling, nonsensical, poorly constructed crimes against the English language. I'll leave it to you to decide which is which.

From Disney's original American Dog press release:

"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 triumphs has come to an end, and his 2,000 mile trek through the real world is just the beginning."

Sounds a little like Bolt, eh? Well, there's a reason for that. American Dog was supposed to be director Chris Sanders' follow-up to Lilo & Stitch. Like Lilo & StitchAmerican Dog was a story that originated with Sanders, starring characters created by Sanders, and featuring Sanders' unique blend of quirky comedy and heartfelt emotion. Then John Lasseter took over Disney Animation, deemed the work in progress "too quirky for its own good," and fired Sanders from the film.

And what did Lasseter give us instead? American Dog: Neutered (a.k.a. Bolt).

With Lilo & Stitch, Chris Sanders established himself as a truly unique talent and animation auteur. His volatile yet vulnerable characters were unlike anything that Disney had produced before, yet they became instant, according-to-Maltin classics. By using his own artistic idiosyncrasies (thick, squat shapes; widely spaced eyes; curvy everything; etc.) as the basis for Lilo & Stitch's characters and environments, Sanders launched an art style that is still being referenced today. Along with co-director, Dean DeBlois, Sanders also found the secret formula for combining broad comedy with subtle drama in a manner that actually enhanced the seemingly disparate elements.

Whether or not Bolt was able to accomplish any of these things...well, I'll leave that up to you to decide.

American Dog, according to those lucky folks who glimpsed it at the 2005 Siggraph show, not only possessed all of Lilo & Stitch's warmth and humor, it was also set to be a game-changer in regards to how CGI was used in animation. Gone were the cold colors and hard shapes made popular by Pixar. In their place was a deep, rich color palate, more of that patented Sanders-roundness, and an almost painterly look to the backgrounds.

(You really don't need me to compare this to Bolt's by-the-book look, do you?)

While I genuinely love How To Train Your Dragon and am OBVIOUSLY looking forward to The Croods, I can't help but feel a little saddened that Chris Sanders has yet to release another film conceived solely in his cranium. The man's mind is a whacked-out wonderland full of fuzzy creatures and curvaceous girls. I don't know about you, but I'm hoping to see lots more of it on the silver screen before I die of an ice cream-related illness.

Until then, we have these sixteen pieces of production art from American Dog to ponder over. While it sucks to know that the film will never be made, there's no denying these images' wit and beauty. Enjoy!

The preceding pictures were culled from the following websites: Ain't It Cool News, Always Animated, Cartoon Brew, Jim Hill Media and Michael Sporn Animation. Thanks y'all!

This post originally appeared on 5/1/12

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