Bolt is the story that saw John Lasseter get comfortable at Disney, exercise some strength and prove his worth.
When Lasseter became involved in the project, Bolt had not yet begun animation but the story was well on its way. It was originally called American Dog, and featured much the same travel-across-America-to-discover-yourself storyline that ended up in Bolt. But it also featured a rabbit deformed from radiation, a dark desert wasteland and a large cat who worked as a junkyard mechanic. It was different, to say the least.
That’s to be expected, though. That story was being produced by Chris Sanders, who had previously created and co-directed Lilo & Stitch.
Lasseter, though, wanted some pretty heavy changes. It needed to be more family-friendly, more emotionally driven, less weird and more adorable. Sanders resisted, though, and was removed from the project and replaced with Chris Williams (writer on The Emperor’s New Groove and Mulan) and Byron Howard (an animator from Mulan, Brother Bear, Lilo & Stitch and Chicken Little). Lasseter, of course, remained executive producer.