Animated films from Walt Disney Studios have been around for nearly 60+ years. Back then, these were of the typical 2D variety, but now CGI and 3D have taken over the animated film landscape. At the same time, Disney’s animation department has fallen off as the leader of making animated films. Since then DreamWorks and Pixar (once owned by Disney) have overshadowed Disney as the creators of the most popular animated films from recent years. Bolt is only Disney’s third CGI-animated film that didn’t come from Pixar, but how does it compare to the greatest efforts from Pixar and DreamWorks?
Bolt is all about a Hollywood canine action star named Bolt (voiced by John Travolta), of course. The problem is that Bolt doesn’t know he is a Hollywood action star. As the lead in a hit television series, Bolt spends his day defending “his person” Penny (Miley Cyrus) from a stream of bad guys with his heat vision, karate-chops, and super bark. Accidentally separated from the show, Bolt finds himself shipped to New York City, making it his mission to return to California and soothe a worried Penny. Taking a street cat named Mittens (Susie Essman) as his prisoner, Bolt is forced to confront a world where his “powers” are on the blink. Befriending an enthusiastic admirer in Rhino the hamster (Mark Walton), the trio trek across the country, with Mittens teaching Bolt the realities of life as an average dog.
The story is formulaic, featuring elements of various films including The Truman Show, The Incredibles, Homeward Bound, and of course Pixar’s own Toy Story. You can’t help but notice the similarities between canine Bolt, who thinks he is a superhero (which is where The Incredibles comparison comes into play as well) instead of an ordinary dog, and Buzz Lightyear, who doesn’t think he is an ordinary toy. They both have to realize who they really are in the end. This premise also has some Truman Show elements, since Bolt doesn’t know he is also in a TV show. Later, the story turns into your standard “buddy road trip comedy” featuring animals trying to find their “home”, just like the talking animals in the non-animated Homeward Bound film. So overall the story should be a familiar one to many people.
That doesn’t mean that the voice casting, visuals, and jokes aren’t any good, because they all are. John Travolta and Miley Cyrus are the lead stars, and they appear to be an odd combination, but they actually work well as a team. The secondary characters are voiced by unknowns for the most part, but they are still funny and often steal many scenes (especially that wacky hamster). There is a good mix of jokes aimed towards kids and adults. There are some jokes that might go over the heads of younger children, but overall the jokes are solid. The same can be said of the visuals. Most of the 3D action is really outstanding to watch.
When you compare Bolt to the greatest animated films that Pixar has released to date, like Finding Nemo and Wall-E, it doesn’t quite live up to those high expectations. But comparing this film to the other 9 animated films that seems to get released each year from various other studios, and Bolt is better than most. The voice casting, visuals, and jokes are all solid and good. Not the greatest in any of those categories, but nothing is really medicore except the lack of originality in the script. In the end, every member of the family will be entertained by Bolt in some way, and that alone means that Bolt is an above-average CGI-animated film.
This set contains both the Blu-ray and standard DVD version of this film. The video on the Blu-ray disc is presented in 1080p/AVC at the 1.75:1 anamorphic widescreen color ratio, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs of course. This transfer is fantasic. Everything looks crystal clear and the colors are vibrant and rich and true to the theatrical version of this film. The video for the standard definition DVD is presented in anamorphic widescreen color at the 1.75:1 ratio. This transfer is great and above-average for other new release DVDs out there. There is really not much difference between either version to the average eye, but the Blu-ray version does have more of a 3D effect than the standard version.
The audio included on the Blu-ray disc is available in either English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Surround sound or Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English and Spanish as well. The audio included on the standard DVD is available in either English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound, or French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English, Spanish, and French as well. Both discs feature dialogue and music that come out loud and clear. In fact, this is one of the first films to fully make good use of “surround sound”. As expected, the Blu-ray disc sounds a little better than the standard definition DVD, but there is really not much difference between the two versions. No major problems on either disc here either.
The first “exclusive” for this Blu-ray DVD set of Bolt that should be noted is that not only does this set contain the Blu-ray DVD of Bolt, but also the standard definition DVD and digital copy of this film as well.
“Bolt’s Be-Awesome Mission” Video Game –
This is a three-level game that has players use their keys to make Bolt run left, right, jump, fire laser eyebolts, use his superbark, karate chop people, and unleash the hamster! You collect clues, maintain power levels to keep going, and avoid villains and fire to try to make it past the first “burning warehouse” level. It’s a pretty hard game for both kids and adults.
Art Gallery –
This is more of an in-depth photo gallery that includes pictures of storyboards, character mock-ups, etc. This is arranged in the following sections: Visual Development, Character Development, Storyboard Art, and Color Script Images.
Found on the Standard Edition As Well…
Deleted Scenes –
There are 2 scenes that didn’t make the final cut of the movie, and they total 6 and a half minutes. There is an option to hear an introduction from directors, Chris Williams and Byron Howard, about why these scenes were cut. Mildly animated from rough storyboard sketches, both reveal Bolt’s lack of superpowers. One lets him get beat up by a pair of Las Vegas alley dogs, while the other has him nearly drown trying to save Rhino from river rapids. Nothing really “must-watch”, though.
“A New Breed of Directors: A Filmmakers’ Journey” Featurette –
This runs 5 minutes and it gives us your standard look at production behind this film. They show a fun atmosphere of fun behind this film that includes growing beards and rolling down the hallways in a giant inflatable plastic ball like Rhino. Nothing really worth watching here, but entertaining nonetheless.
“Act, Speak! The Voices of Bolt” Featurette –
This runs 10 minutes and it showcases 5 of the film’s vocal actors. Lots of footage of the actors lending their voices to this movie. The usual stuff here.
“Creating the World of Bolt” Featurette – This runs 7 minutes and it talks about the film’s style of “painterly” backgrounds, meant to honor Disney tradition. This is extremely interesting, since you likely didn’t notice this beforehand.
“I Thought I Lost You” Music Video –
This is a two minute music video from one of the songs in the film sung by John Travolta and Miley Cyrus. Studio footage and film clips are shown during the stars’ duet. Nice to see Travolta go back to his roots.
“In Session: With John Travolta and Miley Cyrus” Featurette – This runs 1 minute and it’s basically the “making of” piece on the aforementioned song. Travolta compares Miley Cyrus to Olivia Newton-John and Cyrus explains why the song is special to her.
“Super Rhino” Animated Short –
This is a 5 minute animated short featuring that wacky hamster named “Rhino” from the film. This one is written and directed by storyboard artist Nathan Greno, and features the couch-potato hamster into action-hero mode, as he helps Bolt and Penny outwit Dr. Calico.
Bolt is an above-average animated film. This Blu-ray set does cost about $5-10 more, but you do get the Blu-ray version, the standard DVD release, and digital copy version of the film. The BD includes some extras not included with the regular DVD and some slightly improved visuals and audio. Still, if you are a parent who’s just upgraded to Blu-ray technology, Bolt is a good way to start your collection.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment presents Bolt. Directed by Chris Williams and Byron Howard. Starring John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell, and James Lipton. Written by Dan Fogelman and Chris Williams. Running time: 97 minutes. Rated PG. Released on DVD: March 22, 2009.
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