That's what I was thinking as well. Now that we know he is still involved in the picture we can start thinking logically about this.
This isn't anything new and Lasseter is known for these sort of decisions, even before he became one of the big wigs at Disney. First, Finding Nemo was heavily altered before it was released. The voice actors didn't work and many scenes didn't sell the film well enough. True, this was Eisner's doing, but I'm sure that Lasseter agreed to it and now the film is a beloved film.
Then came the Tinker Bell films. If the rumors are to be believed, the first versions were really bad. So Lasseter ordered to delay the film and work on it some more. As far as I know, people have seen the film at "El Capitan" and think it as a good, if not great, film.
Now "Meet the Robinsons". While he liked the film Lasseter ordered the director to change many story elements, focus more on Lewis' story (since it was inspired by the director's own life) and tighten the narrative a little more. The film was a surprise hit, especially since "Chicken Little" impressed so little.
Er. You do know Meet the Robinsons did about 33% less box office than Chicken Little? $98m compared to $136m? Enough with the Chicken Little bashings.
People think that Lasseter fired Chris Sanders. According the stories I heard I believe Sanders refused to change the film and thus quit. It seems like Lasseter was just using the same suggestions he did on "Robinsons". Except that Sanders was too proud of it and thus got fired/quit the project.
It adds up to the same thing though. Bolt was Sanders, it was his idea, his story, his baby. No matter how involved Anderson was with Meet the Robinsons it wasn't really "his" story - it was an adaptation of somebody elses. So I can see him being more open to suggestions (which let's face it, were orders). I find Sanders dismissal offensive because Sanders created the single most marketable character for Disney in decades when left to his own devices, and could easily have done so again. (Pixars' films tend to be ensembles). In fact, Disney management had huge doubts about Lilo and Stitch at the time.
While "Bolt" may not be the prettiest film ever the reaction at "Comic-con" was a surprisingly warm one. I think what happened to "Chihuahua" will happen to "Bolt". People are so strung over the Sanders issue and the film's visuals that they might miss out on an honest to goodness film.
It's an animated film. Visuals are important.
Like I mentioned earlier, Lasseter is no saint. When there's money and time involved you sometimes HAVE to be rough in order to get the best results. But he doesn't look to be the type of guy that would kill anything that doesn't meet his taste. He was an artist. He worked on small films before creating his first movie. He didn't get where he is today just because he pushed and shoved all the way to the top. He had to work hard and impress people. Its just that now, he's the one calling the shots.
I agree and the same can be said of Jobs (another business leader who's often seen as a saint. Remember his temper tantrum about closing iTunes a couple of weeks ago just because he couldn't get his own way? Just like his public temper tantrums about Eisner during the Disney/Pixar distributor/purchase negotiations?).
I've nothing against Lasseter, Jobs, Eisner or whoever being businessmen, but I get annoyed when people can't accept that the public personna which is probably carefully controlled and managed isn't the real personna.
The problem is that ever since the Pixar merger some fanatics are so high strung over it that they now see whatever they do as evil, vile and killing the Disney company. Last I heard, Disney still has control over many things. Second, if High School Musical and Hannah Montana haven't killed the Disney brand, nothing will
Finally, now that we know that Glen is still involved with "Rapunzel" I think we should wait till the film (the same with "Bolt" and "Princess and the Frog") is released before claiming that Lasseter "killed it".
It's amazing everyone was screaming at Eisner, but nobody cares about the HSM/HM marketing. It's clear these are limited run properties for Disney (the actors will grow up) and yet Disney seems to be placing a heck of a lot of faith in them at the moment. But that's another issue for another thread.
I just find it odd people accept "management" changes when they come from John, but scream and shout when they came from other management in the past. Katzenburg did make some good artistic decisions (he also made some bad ones). Even Eisner made some good ones - remember it was Eisner who insisted on the Lion King stage musical.
Lasseter's decisions for Bolt do seem to make it sound generic, and overtly familiar too. That's why I'm down on Bolt. It appears "Disney"* just doesn't have the gall any more to do anything sufficiently different. If that attitude was around in the late 90's/early 00's who knows how Lilo and Stitch would have turned out? Cute fluffy alien pet wrongly accused of crimes helping an alien princess pursued by a wicked alien empress, helped by a young teenage earth boy just to the boy and the princess could fall in love?
Sanders work to me was exciting. Pixar's and Lasseter's so much is not, even it it is solid and satisfying.
The simple truth is, we'll never know if Lasseter's decisions were good or not. No one will see Sanders' Bolt. No one will see the original Meet the Robinsons. We can only take them on faith.
You know, as an aside, we seem to be getting far more studio politics stories now, than when even the dreaded Eisner was in charge.
* I use Disney is quotes, because this doesn't appear to be the thinking behind Pixar's own films which are increasingly experimental. Perhaps the problem is down to location and some people don't have as much access to Lasseter as others do to convince him of their story pitches?
This is going to be a long one to reply, but here goes...
1. About "Robinsons": I am aware that the film underperformed at the box office. But when I say "it was a surprise hit", I meant that after "Chicken Little" became a critical bomb people began to wonder if this was going to be Disney's animated future, and thus expectations were low for "Robinsons". But it seems that the film was strong enough to bring Disney back to the spotlight.
Also, the film underperformed for the same reason a lot of CG films, Pixar included, underperformed. The film suffered from the over saturation of CG films in theaters. It seems that ever since the end of 2005 CG films have been doing less and less, with only a few films becoming huge hits. Even then, people think they still underperformed when compared to the figures of yesteryear.
2. About Chris Sanders and his "baby": People seem to forget one thing...When you pitch an idea to a major studio (be it a videogame studio, movie studio, comic book studio, anime studio etc.) it doesn't matter if you are emotionally attached to it, if you have been working on it since you were a baby, if it means a lot to you or if you cherish is greatly. As soon as you pitch the idea you are allowing other people, including corporate suits, to work on it, change it to see it fit their agendas. Long story short, the idea and story stops being yours. The project now belongs to producers, directors, artists, animators, the big wigs signing the checks etc.
Its a harsh reality. If you want your idea to be seen by the world you have to swallow your pride and give in to the demands of the studio. Why? Because they are heavily investing on it. So can you blame them if they think the current version of the idea doesn't work? They are allowed to change it, and even put someone more dedicated and experienced to handle it if they think its important.
I agree that ideas handled by other people are never the same as the original one. But I think that if you want to turn an idea into something you just have to accept that the people working on it will see their take on it, bring new ideas forth and even change it completely. The ONLY way you can make sure your ideas are left untouched is if you are a well known, accomplished artists with YEARS of experience under his or her belt. And even then, they are still forced upon the people working on the picture.
If you don't want this to happen, the best way is to go solo, distribute your work independently.
3. About people giving Lasseter more credit: The reason I believe people are willing to accept (to an extend) his ideas and changes over Katzenberg is because when Katzenberg first entered the animation business he know absolutely NOTHING about it. He thought animated films were handled the same way as live action films. So the changes he demanded were seen as silly. Lasseter, on the other hand, has been working in animation for years. He has run a studio for years now and has experience working in films. So people are willing to take him more seriously because he has the experience and know how, while Katzenberg had to learn WHILE he was head of the animation department.
And yes, Steve Jobs is seen as a monster, but is also one of the best geniuses in the industry.
Regarding "Lilo and Stitch", I honestly think both Sanders and Disney got VERY lucky on this. I thought it was a neat little film with plenty of quirky humor. But it was also pretty forgettable. The TV series was a Pokemon rip-off and the three DTV movies (two which were basically extended episodes of the series) were alright. I think Disney got overly excited because the movie was one of the few hits of the year and they went crazy.
I wouldn't be surprised if somehow this success got to Sander's head and thought he could go into "Bolt" and expect the story unchanged.
Look, before I sound like I am bashing the guy, I think he has great talent. His style is very soft and quirky and he does have instances of genius. But he isn't THAT great and again, he just got lucky on one project, and Disney milked it for all its worth.
Yes, I think we have said enough on the matter. Glen Keane is still involved in the picture, the film will still move along and nothing will ever change (for now at least).