Review by Leonard Norwitz
Theatrical: Walt Disney Animation Studios
Blu-ray: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Runtime: 96 min.
Size: 50 GB
Case: Expanded Blu-ray case w/slipcover
Release date: March 22, 2009
Aspect ratio: 1.78:1
Video codec: AVC
English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (48kHz/24-bit). Spanish DD
English SDH & Spanish
• 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
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
"How does he do that if he's been raised in a trailer all
"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 . . ."
"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
"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?"
"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."
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:
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.
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'
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
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
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.
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.
March 15th, 2009