Your Favorite Disney Movies Were Almost Completely Different, This Director Says

Bill Bradley

The only constant in life is change. The same goes for animated Disney movies.

But as director Chris Sanders prepared to take on his first live-action film, “The Call of the Wild,” the supposed lack of change in that medium is what most intimidated him.

Coming from the world of animation, Sanders worked on a number of Disney classics, including “The Lion King,” “Lilo & Stitch,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Mulan,” and the director worried about having to “get it right the first time” when working on “Call of the Wild.” Based on the Jack London novel, the movie includes lead character Buck as a CG dog and also stars a very real Harrison Ford.

“In animation, we usually have a lot of latitude to throw out entire sequences, entire acts and just start again, which we really didn’t have that opportunity” in this new project, Sanders said.

To the relief of the filmmaker, he learned the editing process makes live-action a lot more malleable than he thought. It was still intimidating, Sanders said, but because of this malleability, “Call of the Wild” was able to join Sanders’ other Disney films by having one thing in common: dead parents? big changes.

During an interview with HuffPost, Sanders talked about the major changes made to his new film and some of the most cherished Disney classics, including how the ending to “Lilo & Stitch” was completely changed after 9/11 and why a critical “Lion King” issue kept stumping the production.

In the film version of “The Call of the Wild,” Buck was almost a totally different dog. 

Chris Sanders' own dog wound up being the model for Buck. (Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox and Disney)

In the film, Buck is a CG character, so actor Terry Notary plays his stand-in, meaning, yes, Sanders had to direct Harrison Ford petting a grown man’s head.

And if you’re wondering what it’s like to pretend to be Ford’s dog, Notary told us via email, “On the first day of shooting Harrison said, ‘I’m going to treat you like my dog,’ and I replied, ‘That’s great, well, I’m...

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