L  e  n  s  V  i  e  w  s

A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Bolt [Blu-ray]

 

(Bryan Howard & Chris Williams, 2008)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Walt Disney Animation Studios

Blu-ray: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: A

Runtime: 96 min.

Chapters: 16

Size: 50 GB

Case: Expanded Blu-ray case w/slipcover

Release date: March 22, 2009

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC

 

Audio:

English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz/24-bit). Spanish DD 5.1 Surround

 

Subtitles:

English SDH & Spanish

 

Extras:

• Disc 2: Digital Copy

• Disc 3: DVD of the feature film

• Super Rhino Short Film (4:27)

• In Session with John Travolta & Miley Cyrus (0:59)

• Music Video

• Act! Speak! The Voices of Bolt (9:48)

• A New Breed of Directors: A Filmmakers' Journey (4:34)

• Creating the World of Bolt (6:45)

• Deleted Scenes (6:37)

• Bolt's Be-Awesome Mission Game

• Bolt Art Gallery

 

 

The Film:

Every so often I find myself wondering how the movie I am watching was pitched. As Bolt skipped along, I thought: Enchanted, Lady and the Tramp, Mighty Joe Young.

The pitchman says: "OK – remember those fairy tale characters from Enchanted who found themselves in real-life New York City? Well, how about a dog that is raised to be a superhero for a TV show and one day he finds himself in the real world where his powers don't work. On the show – we can call it Bolt, same as the dog, and we can paint a lightning bolt on his side, kinda like Captain Marvel – well, on the show he can fly a bit and he's got superpowers like a stare that melts steel and a bark that can disintegrate tanks. Of course all these powers are merely the work of the special effects team, but the dog comes to think he's really got what it takes to save his owner, Penny, and her father from the clutches of the evil Dr. Calico. He doesn't know from
the world outside the studio and one day he finds himself on the other side of the country and has to find a way to get back."

"How does he do that if he's been raised in a trailer all his life?"

"Ah – so Bolt meets up with various critters – they can all talk, by the way, but not with humans – and eventually he teams up with this cat. And here's where The Lady and the Tramp thing comes in: You see, the cat – it's a girl cat, but there's no interspecies romance here – the cat is really street smart, a mutt in cat terms, a loner, owes nothing to nobody, but she feels a reluctant sympathy for Bolt and a fascination for this dog that thinks he's got super powers. Bolt is always talking about getting home to his 'person' and Mittens – that's the cat – is always trying to point out the realities about pets and humans and how fickle humans are when they tire of their . . ."

"Toys?"

"Er, right. Toys. Pets. Same thing. That's good. Well, they pick up this sidekick along the way – a hamster in his plastic ball – he watches Bolt on TV and Bolt's his hero and everything, and the hamster – how do like the name "Rhino" for the little bugger? – Rhino would give anything to be fighting the good fight alongside his hero. . . Now you gotta admit: that's original!"

"I'm thinking Buddy from The Incredibles. Does the hamster turn evil?"

"Not a chance. Bolt needs all the help he can get."

"I like the ball."

"Great. So, remember in Mighty Joe Young the disgraced ape saves the kids from a burning house?"

"Hmmm."

"And did I mention this would all be animated?"

"Who do you have in mind for the voices?"

"I was thinking Miley Cyrus to bring in the young crowd and John Travolta kinda for old time's sake."

"And just who did you have in mind for creative consultant and exec producer?"

"Well, that would be you, Mr. Lasseter."

"Sold."

 


 

Image: 9/9
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

We would expect a digitally derived image to score big on Blu-ray, and so it does, though I thought it was trifle soft overall – that may have been intentional. Textures – except for Bolt's fur, surfaces, shading, color purity, movement, expression is all there. The backgrounds are deliberately softened at the source (see Extras). I found no evidence of transfer artifacts or enhancements. As we should hope, the color palette and contrast changes as Bolt makes his way across the country. Very nice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 9/8
The DTS HD-MA mix has got it all: thunderous bass and stirring dynamic amplitude during the action and dramatic segments – as when dad is first in danger or when the fire breaks out in the studio. Dialogue is generally clear, focused, balanced with the music and effects. When called for, the surrounds are engaged and we're right in the middle of it. Music and dialogue balanced nicely without the one overpowering or being swamped by the effects or the other getting lost or changing focus improperly.

 

 

 

Extras: 6
The good news is that all the bonus features are rendered in high definition, even if they are not exactly what I would call highly resolved. I felt that some of the material was just a little embarrassing in its back-slapping and hero-worshipping naiveté. There was one moment when the directors were giving credit to Miley Cyrus for being able to step up to the plate and emote. Duh! She's an actress, for heaven's sake. The two segments with Miley and John are strictly for those who can't get enough of Miley especially, darling pup that she is. The "In Session" piece is mercifully brief – half of it is taken up by the directors' introduction.

The featurette "A New Breed of Directors: A Filmmakers' Journey" is sad for the excesses of its title. (Does someone actually get paid to come up with these things!) John Lasseter introduces Bryan Howard & Chris Williams, two guys who look old enough to still be in college, and what they do - the "new breed" thing here had me wearing out my jeans with knee slaps – which is to recite the party line about story, character and team work. Their comments about the challenges of dealing with animating the leash was interesting.

I had hopes for the Super Rhino short, but found it disappointing and not all that funny. Too many story lines for one so small to manage, even though I liked the little dream that Rhino has where he thinks he's Miley Cyrus in concert. We've seen segments like " Act! Speak! The Voices of Bolt" before but if we hadn't I think we would rate this one high. There's something that actually feels like real people at work here.

The Bolt Art Gallery made use of easy and sensible navigation. Better than most. And Bolt's Be-Awesome Mission video game has the honor of having the best remote function instructions I've ever seen for a feature such as this on HD video.

The two high points for me were "Creating the World of Bolt" which pretty much focused on how they decided on painterly, relatively 2D backgrounds and blended them into the 3D animation. My appreciation of the movie just about doubled as I watched this. The other was the sneak peak for Snow White, due out on Blu-ray this October 6. Sweet!

Finally, just to have all the bases covered, included are a Digital Copy disc and a DVD of the feature film with all the bonus features except the Art Gallery and Video Game.

 

 

Bottom line: 8
Bolt received a deserved Oscar nomination for Best Animated film, along with Kung-Fu Panda. Against WALL-E if course, it didn't stand a chance, for all its charm. The voicing is quite good, as long as I don't actually imagine John Travolta at the mike for Bolt. The lossless audio mix is awesome and the image appears faithful to the source. There's even a nice song or two – one sung by Miley and John. I don't mean to hold it's various inspirations (let us not go so far to call them "rip-offs") against it – in fact, I felt the movie stands on its own nicely. It has lots of great gags, visual and otherwise, and it doesn't create relentless opportunities for cultural references. Animated expressions are often priceless and subtle (consider the pigeons!) I loved that Mittens teaches Bolt how to be a dog, but thought they didn't get the animation of Bolt enjoying sticking his head out the window with quite enough air flow. By the way, am I the only person who thought that "1/16 wolf with a little wolverine in there somewhere" was one wolf too many? Charming, Exciting, Heart. Clever. What more do you want. Warmly Recommended.

Leonard Norwitz
March 15th, 2009

 

 

 

 


 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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