Release Date: November 21, 2008
Director: Chris Williams and Byron Howard
Production Company: Walt Disney Pictures
Bolt is a unapreciated gem from the Walt Disney Animation Studios. The story is about Bolt, a German Shepherd (voiced by John Travolta), who stars in an action-adventure tv series as a bioengineered dog working with his teenaged owner, Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus, and by the way, nice trick of getting teen idols of different eras working together). The conceit of the movie is that the entire production crew treat Bolt as if he is a dog with super powers in order to get the most natural performance from him. In this sense, it’s basically a doggy version of The Truman Show.
When Bolt escapes from his trailer in Hollywood and accidentally mailed to New York City he must find his way back home. Helping him in this The Incredible Journey type of story is a cynical but tender-hearted alley cat, Mittens (Susie Essman), and the energetic hamster, Rhino (Mark Walton), who recognizes and reveres Bolt as a superdog from watching the tv show. Along the journey, Mittens has to convince Bolt that he’s an ordinary dog – reminiscent of Woody convincing Buzz that he’s a toy – but with heartwarming scenes of Mittens teaching Bolt to enjoy regular dog things.
I’ve pointed out some similarities that Bolt shares with other movies, but even where Bolt feels familiar, it pieces these elements together in a fresh way. It’s also a very funny movie, I particularly like the recurring pigeon characters. In many ways it feels more like a Pixar film of that era (it came out not too long after Ratatouille), than a Disney Animation film of that same period, and perhaps would’ve been better received if it was released as a Pixar movie. Perhaps not surprisingly this is also the first movie developed after former Pixar chief John Lasseter had control over all of Disney’s animation studios. And it can’t be denied that Lasseter had good judgement in making movies, even if he is a lousy person who sexually violated his employees (good riddance!).
If you like funny and heartwarming family films, and you like heroic dogs, you can’t go wrong with Bolt.