American Dog (partially found original version of "Bolt" Disney animated film; 2007-2008)

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Original title treatment.

Status: Partially Found

American Dog was a Disney animated film written and directed by Chris Sanders (who also directed and written Disney's 2002 animated feature film Lilo & Stitch), that was due to be released in 2007. However, due to production issues and Sanders reportedly refusing to listen to the advice given by Disney executives on how to fix the film, he left the film's production and the film's concepts later became realized in Disney's 2008 animated feature film Bolt.


The protagonist of the film was a canine actor, Henry, who stars in his own show where he's a secret agent. Sanders described the plot 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."[1]

Henry would run into a giant, radioactive rabbit (named Mr. Buttons in the filename of a piece of concept art) and a cat with an eyepatch (named Spig in a piece of concept art) who had access to a classic car. He would con them into helping him get back home all the while learning how to interact with normal people and live without being served on hand and foot. John Travolta, Thomas Haden Chruch, and Mario Cantone were rumored to be the voices for the trio.[2] According to animator Daniel Chong[3], the cat and rabbit would have lived in a gas station where they kept retirement savings in a giant dinosaur statue. According to artist Mike Gabriel in the book, They Drew As They Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney's New Golden Age, during his travels Henry would come across 'The Lady In Black,' a circus performer from the 1930s who had done a fire act with a gorilla. She was now holed up in a mansion in the swamps of Georgia. A mutant girl scout named Ruth (or Ruthie) would have stalked the cat and rabbit at night. A sexy Vegas waitress named Jo Night[4], a fez-wearing, knife throwing gorilla[5], and a cast of characters inspired by Ocean's 11 were also part of the film in some way. According to an interview with Chirs Sanders,[6] Henry was bought at a kennel and grew up working on movie sets, so its all he knows. Then when filming was finished, he would be put in a dark room and his life would be on hold until the filming of the next episode. Once Henry gets loose in the real world, it seems the same to him, just without someone yelling "cut" or "action" and appears to be a bit duller. Because of this, Henry has "bravery born of ignorance", he is driven to do things, but doesn't actually know how to do them. For example Henry would go behind the wheel of a car, but can't actually drive, so a comedic scene of his awful driving skills causing a horrible situation could potentially occur (and thus why he needs the help of the cat and the rabbit).


Ultimately, the film was considered too surreal and "too bold" by the executives at Disney. Sanders got kicked off the project in late 2006 and replaced by Chris Williams and Byron Howard, spurring Sanders to leave Disney entirely and later join DreamWorks Animation.[7] According to the book Creativity Inc.: overcoming the unseen forces that stand in the way of true inspiration, one of the largest plot elements that caused the reworking of the film was Ruthie. "...somewhere along the way, the plot had also come to include a radioactive, cookie-selling Girl Scout zombie serial killer. I'm all for quirky ideas, but this one had metastasized...which while we prided ourselves on always remaining open to new ideas-seemed a tad dark for a family film. Despite our misgivings, though, we decided to give the movie a chance to evolve. Finding a movie's throughline always takes time, we told ourselves. But after ten months of Story Trust meetings-and very little improvement we concluded that the only option was to restart the project." Another issue was trying to rationalize Henry's actions.

Chris Sanders: It had a lot to do with rationalizing what this dog was. 'Can he drive a car or can he not?” The answer was yes and no. He can make the car go but, no, he can’t drive. And that would become a big sticking point. In my mind, that idea wasn’t that weird, it was pretty simple; in other people’s minds at the studio, it wasn’t making any sense.

In an interview with Slashfilm[8], John Lasseter also mentioned a lack of suspension of belief with the characters:

/Film: Oh definitely. What do you think the biggest change was in the direction that you took "Bolt" from what Sanders was doing to what it is today?

John Lasseter: Well I think part of it was focusing on the believability of this dog, and we could set it up so the audience can understand how this dog could believe that this is all real. And so there's a little focus on kind of making the animals in the film feel a little bit more like real animals

The film was soon re-written and became Bolt, which was released in 2008. Several of the animators from American Dog moved on to the Bolt production. In honor of American Dog, Sanders reused the eyepatch-wearing cat (who would become the character Mittens in the final film) as well as the rabbit in his webcomic, Kiskaloo.

Still, very little production material and artwork of American Dog has been released or leaked to the public and all that is known to currently exist of Bolt's original incarnation is test footage of the film shown at SIGGRAPH 2005.


Concept Art

Mark Anthony Austin

Gregorio Miller

Sean Eckols

Brian Kesinger

Mike Gabriel

Sai Ping Lok



Roger Borelli

Gregorio Miller

Phil Zucco

Dan Platt

David Mooy

Hal Lewis

James Stapp

Mark Anthony Austin

Raffaello Vecchione


Test footage from the film shown at SIGGRAPH 2005.

Compilation of test footage for the film. Animated by Gregorio Miller


ObscureMediaTV's video on the subject.

Model turn around from animator James Stapp (around 1:26)

See Also


Animation (Disney)

Animation (Pixar)


Live Action

Short Films

External Links