Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: Bolt

Walt Disney Animation Studios`48th feature film.
Walt Disney Animation Studios`48th feature film.


My opinion right after watching film

My opinion right after watching the film is that it is a good movie. Nothing really spectacular or unique, but for what it is, it is good. It is not one that I would go out of my way to watch it by free choice, as I was a bit bored by the generic-ness of it. It is good, but I did not care much for it.


The film was initially called American Dog, with the dog being a TV Star, and finding himself in Nevada with a one eyed cat, and a huge rabbit, and they had to make it back, all while he is on TV. Things changed in 2006, with John Lasseter becoming a part of WDAS now, and him and Chris sanders had a few issues when it came to creative decisions, so Sanders left the studio (to only join Dreamworks to work on How To Train Your Dragon). The title got changed to Bolt, and massive changes were made to the film, with them completing it in 18 months. This is the first film in the canon to have most of its production completed under the Walt Disney Animation Studios title, and with John Lasseter’s input.


The story starts with a girl called Penny (Chloe Mortez and Miley Cyrus) going to the pet store to adopt a puppy named Bolt (John Travolta). We then skip 5 years, and we see Penny speaking to her “father” on the phone, and he tells her to not go home, because people are after them, and that she has the dog Bolt (who gains some superpowers and a bunch of stuff). They go to save Penny’s “father”, and Penny ended up getting kidnapped by the evil Doctor Calico (Malcolm McDowell)’s sidekicks.

The director flips out because in the film, there is a mic that is seen, and that Bolt could have seen that. Mindy (Kari Whalgrin) the director (James Lipton) does not see why the dog seeing a mike is the big deal, and the director tells her that the dog thinks the world is real, and that they do not re-shoot and keep him at the studio, so the illusion would come off as real when they film, which is why he does not know it is all an act, and it is why they never re-shoot.

Penny has to tell Bolt that she is fine, and the dog is still defensively looking out for her at the door, to see if anyone will come after her. This picture shows how unethical this is.  Penny wants to take Bolt home, but her manager refuses, and says that he needs to stay there, so he can make her (his client) money, and Penny is sad. It is really sad. The dog SHE adopted cannot even go to her home. We never even know that Penny is her real name. That is her character's name, and we never hear her mother call her by anything.
Penny has to tell Bolt that she is fine, and the dog is still defensively looking out for her at the door, to see if anyone will come after her. This picture shows how unethical this is.
Penny wants to take Bolt home, but her manager refuses, and says that he needs to stay there, so he can make her (his client) money, and Penny is sad. It is really sad. The dog SHE adopted cannot even go to her home.
We never even know that Penny is her real name. That is her character’s name, and we never hear her mother call her by anything.

When Penny leaves the trailer, a cat and a dog go to Bolt, and mess with him, and Bolt tells Calico’s “animals” that he is coming for him, and they laugh at Bolt. It is another day and another shoot, and long story short, Calico ends up kidnapping Penny, and they stop filming, as the director tells Mindy that cliffhangers will definitely boost ratings. This has Bolt freaking out, and Penny trying to go to him to let him know she is fine, but no one will allow her to do that. Bolt breaks out of the studio, and ends up in a box with  styrofoam in it. He ends up in New York City, and is lost.

So he meets these pigeons that speak in a New York accent, and this will be a common joke during the film, as when Bolt goes to a different place, the pigeons speak in a different accent.

Bolt tells the pigeons that he is looking for a black cat (Callico’s assistant), and they bring him to Mittens (Sussie Essman), who schemes and bullies pigeons out of their food, and threatens to take out the “paws” on them, so overall, she is pigeon enemy #1. Bolt angrily approaches her, and demands her to tell him where Penny is, and hangs her over a bridge with cars driving to get her to talk. She does not know what the hell he is talking about, and sees his collar say “Hollywood”, knowing that he lives there, and tells him that she will take him to his enemies, who are in Hollywood.

She gives him a map to tell him how to get there, but he forces her to come along with him, which angers her, since it was not the deal. They hop into a moving truck, and are on their way out of New York City, and back to Hollywood. Speaking of Hollywood, Penny’s agent (Greg Germann) tells her that she got a gig for The Tonight Show, and she is still saddened and could care less because Bolt is missing.

So Bolt hops out of the moving truck, as a bunch of styrofoam falls on him, thinking it is causing his “powers” to delay, and both him and Mittens ends up in the middle of Ohio. He flips out over never seeing blood before on him, and she realizes that he is scared of styrofoam, so she uses it against him, to get him to release her, but he of course refuses. He soon gets hungry, and flips out, never knowing the feeling of getting hungry before. I call BULLSHIT on this. How in the hell in his 5 years of existence NOT know what hunger feels like? Has he NEVER been fed by the studio? There is NO living animal in existence that has NEVER not been hungry at one point or another. Oh, and the “Bolt thinking realistic things are so unrealistic and crazy” is not funny. I get that it is a part of the plot, but trying to make it humorous fails on its behalf. It gets VERY old.

Because they are hungry, she takes him to a barbeque, and tells him to beg and make the “dog face” to get them to give him food, and he does not know what that is. She teaches him how to beg and to make the dog face, and he proceeds as he scams the entire RV trailer park area, and gets a bunch of food, while they ignore Mittens, because she is “ugly”. Rhino (Mark Walton) is a hamster stuck in a hamster ball, and he joins them when he sees Bolt (which is his favorite show and character). Rhino knows it is a TV show, and actually thinks that Bolt is a real character, with real powers, and so on and so on. So overall, Rhino thinks it is a Reality TV show.

Mittens soon realizes that Bolt is the dog from the TV show, and causes her to panic, as Bolt forces them to go on a crazy plan, and ends up on a train, to only fly off.  As all of this is happening, Penny is looking for Bolt, and putting lost signs up, but the production for the show stalled, and they tell her that she needs to move on from Bolt, and that they have to use this new dog (which they tried to pull off as Bolt, but Penny knew better to believe it, and knows her dog).

So she tells Bolt that he is a fake, has no powers, and is an actor for a TV show, but he refuses to listen (though all of the evidence is there), and tries to superbark her down the tree, but fails, and only catches the attention of Animal Control, who takes them away. Mittens is bitter because the pretty animals like Bolt get saved, while the others like her rot until their deaths. That is pretty sad, and I like how they do address certain things about the animal world in this film.

Bolt manages to escape the animal control, thanks to Rhino., and realizes that he is nothing but a normal dog and that his life is a lie. He is cheered up by Rhino, and they both decide to save Mittens, which she is really grateful and touched by. Everyone starts to get along, and she gives Bolt a pep talk about being a dog is a great thing. There is a montage song, titled Barking at the Moon, and it is there to show the three animals bonding, as Bolt is taught to do the typical dog stuff, and the moments between these three are really genuine and really touching, as they have fun. But the good times have to end sometime, as they are stuck in Las Vegas, and Mittens makes a home out of 2 boxes for them to stay at, and he tells her that he can’t stay in Las Vegas, and is going back to Penny.

Mittens brings Bolt to a billboard of his show, and says that everything (including Penny) is a fake. She tells him that Penny is an actress for a role on a show (though PENNY bought him; smh), and that there IS NO PENNY, and that……that is a good point. Her role on the show is named Penny, but when they are not on camera, she is not identified with any name, so there is a good chance that her name is not Penny. She also tells him that humans pretend to love animals, but they abandoned them, and we learn that she is de-clawed, and is bitter about being abandoned, wondering what she did wrong. I like this insight we got of Mittens, and it makes her character so much stronger.

Rhino soon realizes that Bolt left, and tells Mittens that they go with a friend and to never leave a friend behind, whether he asks to or not. Bolt is on his way to Hollywood, and makes it to the studio to see Penny embrace a new dog that looks exactly like him, which makes him walk off sadly, for her to only be sad when she lets go of replacement Bolt. Mittens and Rhino make it to Hollywood, and they reunite with Bolt.

When they have to shoot a new scene, the new Bolt is scared of his surroundings, with the shockers, and the fire, and panicks, accidentally causing the studio to go on fire. What in the hell did the producers expect? This is trauma for animals, and it is not like the animals know it is all fake, so it makes sense why this new dog would act like this from their unethical method of acting. Penny is stuck in the studio because she was tied on the rope, and Bolt rushes to the studio to save Penny, but they both suffer from smoke inhalation, with the hospital coming to rescue them both. The damn agent tries to convince Penny to stay with her job, only for her mother (Grey DeLise) to throw him out, and to quit for Penny and Bolt.

For the show, they completely recast the girl (and the excuse for the script of her looking different is her face needing to be rearranged, which ACTUALLY happens in shows, so it was hilarious), and we learn that Penny and her mother adopted Mittens and Rhino, and the 5 of them are living happily in a spacious area, and Penny goes to play with Bolt in the backyard.

This film is a very good film. While it is not one of my favorites, it is a very cute, sweet, and a surprisingly deep movie. They touch on things like the ways of the film lot, the animal abandonment and the life of an animal, and the bond with a little girl and her animals. There is always something happening in the plot, the characters are enjoyable enough, and I like how there is not really a set antagonist, because in many situations, there is not any set antagonist or villain. I wish that film interpreted this more. You can have conflict in a film, and pull it off well without there being a villain, and this film did it well. This film was the very first sign that Disney was back, and to see the depths usually in Pixar films in a WDAS output.


About the characters………….., I honestly do not have a lot to say about the characters, and that is for a few reasons. One is that they are not the most memorable characters, and another is that they are not the strongest when it comes to characterization. They are likable, and they fit their roles really well, so that is a very good thing.

Well…..I think director Byron Howard says it perfectly: ““A dog is so pure. A dog is loving, loyal and practically nothing else. So to be able to take a character like that, who is so trusting, and put him into a premise like this really seemed to work.” And he is absolutely correct. He is likable, sympathetic, and a strong enough main character, but there is not a whole lot to him to make him stand out.
Mittens reminds me a lot of Megara, and they do have some similarities in personality, but the biggest similarity is that they both have a big heart that they bury under their mistrust and snark. She is very wise, clever, intimidating, and knows what she wants. She is a strong character, and easily the best character in the entire film.
There is not much to Rhino……like at all. He is the comic relief, and is super loyal to Bolt and takes loyalty and friendship very seriously. He is obsessed with television and the TV show Bolt (actually, not any more, which we see in the final sequence).
Penny is nothing but the typical, generic preteen girl who loves her dog. I have to say that Miley did a decent job voicing her. (though Chloe Mortez recorded the entire thing, but they chucked out most of her dialogue for the Hannah Montana star to replace her and to promote the film -_-)


The animation is a HUGE improvement from Meet the Robinsons and Chicken Little. There is a lot of detail in the textures, more realistic designs, appealing but not gimmicky backgrounds, and a decent scale. The special effects and the colors they use for this film is truly brilliant. You can tell with this film that WDAS mastered CGI animaiton.


The music………………….I do not remember much about the music. I have to say that the score is pretty basic, and the one song in the film is basic, so overall…….I think the music is basic.

Reception at Release

When it was released on November 21, 2008, it opened at #3 in the box office, behind Twilight and Quantam of Solace, making $26,223,128, and went up to #2 the following week. Eventually, it went on to make  $114,053,579  domestically (closing on February 22, 2009), and $195,926,415 internationally, with a total of  $309,979,994.

It did well critically as well, getting a lot of positive reviews. People said that it is the first film since Lilo & Stitch to actually feel like Disney, and that it had a lot of charm, and is a true family film, being enjoyable to kids and adults.

It was nominated for a BUNCH of awards(nominated by both the Annies and Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature), but lost most to WALL-E, and even lost a Kid’s Choice Award to Madagascar:Escape 2 Africa what were they thinking?.

Reception Today

Today, some people (but not a whole lot) say that this film started to bring the Disney magic back to the studio, and many claim that it is the end of the Post Renaissance era, but that does not mean too much, as Disney rarely acknowledges the film, and this film overall is not talked about much, nor does it have a big fanbase.

Final Score

Story: 8.5/10

Characters: 6.5/10

Animation: 8/10

Music: 7/10

= 30/40 = 75%

Next Time…

Review: November 17th, 2014
Review: November 17th, 2014

11 thoughts on “Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: Bolt

  1. Saw bits and pieces to this movie a while back. From what I saw, it was pretty good. I seem to remember you putting this on your Underrated list a while back. Do you still think it belongs there? Or does it go a bit up or down on the list?

    Do you think this film is the last of the Lost Era or the beginning of the Restoration/Revival Era? To me, this film feels more like the former than the latter. I don’t know, to me, it just feels that way. But what say you?

    The next film, The Princess and the Frog, I enjoyed, but its success got bogged down by a few things (outside of its characters, story, etc.) that I’m sure you’ll cover in your review next week.

    Oh, I posted on your Pixar post my thoughts on Toy Story 4 and a couple other films scheduled for release by Pixar. Just thought you should know in case you didn’t. I would have posted a bit sooner, but I didn’t know about it until yesterday.

    Great review! Keep up the good work!

    1. I think this is the second last film in the Lost Era (I will explain more about it next week). While I can see why this film can be in both categories when it comes to quality, it did not….restore or revive anything for the studio. No one speaks about this film. Sad, but true.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s