Blu-ray Review HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Bolt

Discussion in 'Blu-ray and UHD' started by Matt Hough, Mar 11, 2009.

  1. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    Bolt (Blu-ray)
    Directed by Chris Williams, Byron Howard

    Studio: Disney
    Year: 2008
    Aspect Ratio: 1.78:11080pAVC codec
    Running Time: 96 minutes
    Rating: PG
    Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
    Subtitles: English, Spanish
    Region: A
    MSRP: $ 39.99

    Release Date: March 22, 2009
    Review Date: March 11, 2009


    The Film

    4/5

    During the past two months, the Walt Disney Company has released three dog-themed films on Blu-ray: Space Buddies, Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and now Bolt. Are they canine crazy or something over at the House of Mouse? Regardless, Bolt leaves its brother features in the proverbial dust. It’s a very funny, often touching, and completely ingratiating adventure comedy. The fact that it’s a CGI animated feature seems almost not to matter. Its humor and its heart earn it tons of good will that it cashes in at all the right moments. Much more immersive than Disney’s last non-Pixar animated film Meet the Robinsons, Bolt grabs you early and doesn’t let go until its sweetly sentimental end.

    Television wonder dog Bolt (John Travolta) has no clue that he’s not the super dog he plays on television (he‘s actually not aware he is on television). One night, running out from his comfortable trailer on the studio lot, he gets accidentally boxed up and sent to New York City. Completely befuddled by his surroundings, the loss of his powers, and the absence of his owner Penny (Miley Cyrus), he sets out on a cross country trip to return to his “person.” Aiding him are a wise-acre alley cat Mittens (Susie Essman) and TV addict Rhino the hamster (Mark Walton), who, being a fan of his show, worships Bolt unconditionally.

    Yes, we’re in The Incredible Journey territory here with the story penned by Dan Fogelman and director Chris Williams. It’s not a problem, however, since the men have concocted an entertaining array of transportation modes and adventures between each ride they manage to catch. As it slowly dawns on Bolt that his powers are not temporarily gone but were never actually there to begin with, we begin to experience the dog’s disappointment and begin to root even harder for his small but significant victories. The writing and directing of the movie are very savvy to engage the audience’s sympathies in this way, and it doesn’t hurt to have the wisecracks of Mittens and the hyperactive take-no-prisoners enthusiasm of Rhino to leaven any mawkishness that might creep into the film’s tone. What’s more, some of the film’s action sequences are really terrific fun. We get to see one of the typical super capers that Bolt triumphs in on his television show in an extended ten minute sequence that comes near the beginning of the picture, and it’s a stupendously animated sequence, on a par with the great work in Pixar’s masterful The Incredibles. But later “real-world” exploits like the rescue of Mittens from the dog pound or the thrilling studio fire sequence with Penny trapped as flames and smoke surround her are no less skillfully managed. In terms of sophisticated animation and a heartfelt story, Bolt is unquestionably Disney’s best-yet effort at a CGI animated feature without the Pixar seal of approval.

    The voice casting is first rate. John Travolta gives a frisky demeanor to the title character, and nails the realization scene when Bolt’s super worldview comes crashing down around him. Susie Essman’s Mittens is the smart and sassy kitty who, in one of the movie’s most precious moments, gives Bolt lessons on how to beg food from humans. Mark Walton as the worshipful Rhino steals every scene he’s in with a pluck and passion that keeps the audience watching for his every word or deed. In lesser roles, Miley Cyrus does fine with Bolt’s owner Penny while Malcolm McDowell is evil personified as Dr. Calico, Bolt’s longtime scourge on his television program. James Lipton gets to be as unctuous in CGI as he is on his Actor’s Studio program as Bolt’s TV director while Greg Germann as Bolt’s agent has the insincerity down pat.


    Video Quality

    5/5

    The film is framed at 1.78:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Though some theaters featured a 3-D version of the movie, the version presented on the Blu-ray is 2-D, but high definition allows a sense of utter dimensionality anyway as the film magnificently captures the colors and textures of the various locales the trio visit on their journey back to California. Artifact free with no trace of banding, color bleeding, or damage (obviously having been taken from digital files straight to video), the picture is immaculate and imminently pleasurable to watch. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.

    Audio Quality

    5/5

    The DTS-HD Master Audio (24-bit) 6.1 track is one of the best audio tracks of the year. The first ten minutes that features a remarkable action sequence from Bolt’s television series is as active and astounding as any modern action movie with every channel fully functional and in constant use with amazing split surrounds and tremendous pans across and through the soundstage. There is also extremely deep bass that will shake your viewing environment. Elsewhere, the track also excels, knowing when quiet scenes are appropriate and when to ramp up the sound once again.

    Special Features

    3/5

    “Super Rhino” is a 4 ½ minute short feature with Rhino the hamster as the star of his own Bolt adventure. It’s presented in 1080p.

    “I Thought I Lost You” music video has Miley Cyrus and John Travolta singing a duet written in part by Miley Cyrus (which plays over the closing credits) and which features scenes from the movie as well as the duo recording the song. It runs for 1 ¾ minutes in 1080p.

    “In Session with John Travolta and Miley Cyrus” has the two stars of the film briefly talking about and recording the song in the music video. It only lasts for 1 minute.

    “A New Breed of Directors: A Filmmakers’ Journey” is a brief interview with Chris Williams and Byron Howard who directed this movie, their first time in the director's chair. Praised by animation department supervisor John Lasseter, the pair discuss the features of the movie that caused the most trouble and the non-shaving pact the animation department made near the end of production. It runs 4 ½ minutes in 1080i.

    “Act, Speak! The Voices of Boltshows some behind the scenes footage of actors John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, and James Lipton laying down vocal tracks for the movie. It runs 9 ¾ minutes in 1080i.

    “Creating the World of Bolt is an interesting discussion with the movie’s directors as they explain the use of painted backgrounds for the film rather than the usual CGI rendered backgrounds. Watching this featurette on how they used light to differentiate different sections of the country the main characters traverse will make a return visit to the movie additionally rewarding. This 1080i feature runs 6 ¾ minutes.

    There are two deleted scenes presented in storyboard form and which can be viewed with or without director introductions. Together they run 6 ½ minutes.

    “Bolt’s Be-Awesome Mission” is an exclusive-to-Blu-ray feature, an arcade style game (rather like the old Donkey Kong) of three levels putting Bolt through his paces trying to defeat his enemy, the Green-Eyed Man.

    Another exclusive to Blu-ray is the Bolt Art Gallery, dozens of storyboards and drawings arranged in four sections: Character Design, Color Script, Storyboard Art, and Visual Development.

    The disc is BD-Live compatible, but the network had not been turned on during the period in which the disc was reviewed.

    The disc contains 1080p previews of Monsters, Inc, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Princess and the Frog, and Bedtime Stories.

    Disc two in the set is a DVD copy of Bolt.

    Disc three in the set is the digital copy of the movie. An enclosed pamphlet includes the activation code and instructions for installation on PC and Mac devices.


    In Conclusion

    4/5 (not an average)

    Bolt joins an ever-growing line-up of superb looking and sounding animation titles on Blu-ray. The movie’s the thing here, a sweet and thoroughly engaging yarn whose very familiarity will provide it an easy viewing experience for the entire family. Recommended!


    Matt Hough
    Charlotte, NC
     
  2. BrettB

    BrettB Producer

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    Thanks for the review. Sounds like the feature is well delivered. I wonder why they didn't do a 3D release. I caught the 3D version in the theater.

    Extras seem sparse but done properly (HD).

    If I can find a decent price I'll buy it at the early date. I like that Disney is pushing Blu so hard.
     
  3. Bryan Beckman

    Bryan Beckman Second Unit

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    We're still pretty far off from consumer gear that can replicate the new theatrical 3D experience with polarized lenses, ultra-rapid monitor refresh rates, etc. The studios tried the red & blue (or green) anaglyph lenses approach with The Polar Express, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and the Hannah Montana concert, and consumer feedback has been that it just doesn't compare. I think the studios are wise to hold off on any more "3D" releases until the gear is ready for prime time.

    Oh, and can I mention that I'm excited for this release? I saw it (2D) with my kids in a first-run theater in mid-December and the print was so faded and the sound so weak I said to myself, "It'll be so much better at home!" Heck, when I saw that Randy Thom was responsible for the sound design, I knew it would be better at home! [​IMG]
     
  4. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    I'm most interested in how excited Matt is about the story itself!

    It's been a long time for me since I've enjoyed a non-Pixar Disney animated feature. Tarzan and Fantasia 2000 are the last ones to which I would give a thumbs up.

    I really wanted to like Meet the Robinsons because of my affection for the original children's book by William Joyce but it left me wanting in terms of the story.

    This would be a blind buy...but I am hesitant because of the Disney track record as of late.
     
  5. Patrick Mason

    Patrick Mason Stunt Coordinator
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    I believe this was the first Disney feature to be supervised by John Lasseter and others from of the Pixar team, after Disney bought out Pixar a few years back. The influence is immediately felt, after years of sub-par Disney releases, this feels like a real return to form. I'm excited to grab the Blu-ray when it comes out.
     
  6. Adam_S

    Adam_S Producer

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    Bolt is definitely the best Disney product since Lilo and Stitch or Tarzan, I was really stunned at how enjoyable it is. Particularly the insanely brilliant opening fifteen minutes and especially the director and network executive dialogue. a truly brilliant satiric opening that manages to send up Disney Channel kid-power shows as well as the whole action genre in general.

    The film is packed full of homages, Inspector Gadget, The Incredible Journey, Animaniacs, The Incredibles, I thought it was rather bold of the film (which to a degree is about a tv show) to reference famed animated TV shows. [​IMG]

    I was especially surprised at how the character of Penny was treated and the all too professional, near compassionless response she gets from the adults who also expected her to manage a comparable professional get-over-it attitude as well.
     
  7. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Patrick & Adam: [​IMG]

    Those are very exciting, positive notes. I am now definitely leaning towards checking this out. The positive video/audio reviews don't hurt, either! [​IMG] ...but, for me, it's so much more about the story and the way it's told.
     
  8. Adam Gregorich

    Owner

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  9. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie
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    Loved this in 3-D. Matt's mentioned parallels between this and The Incredible Journey, but there are also strong parallels to the original Toy Story. A fun movie even if missing a "dimension". I'll probably pick this up.
     
  10. Brian Borst

    Brian Borst Screenwriter

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    No mentions at all in the supplements about the first version of this called 'American Dog' and Chris Sanders, the original director of this film? He was removed by Lasseter, because the latter didn't like the direction the film was headed. I can understand Disney wants to avoid all controversy, but they could mention him?
     
  11. Bryan Beckman

    Bryan Beckman Second Unit

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    A little more trivia: in Ratatouille, as Remy is making his way out of the sewers to (as he will soon discover) the Parisian skyline, he encounters a barking dog seen only in shadow. According to Brad Bird and Brad Lewis' commentary, it was the on-screen debut of the lead character in the upcoming "American Dog" movie . . . now known as Bolt!
     
  12. DaViD Boulet

    DaViD Boulet Lead Actor

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    Can't wait to get this! As usual, my screener copy is running late [​IMG]
    But your great-review as usual has me chomping at the bit..

    I didn't see the movie yet and can't wait to enjoy the first viewing in my HT in 1080p... though digital 3-D at a theater would have been even better.
    Fingers crossed for the BDA getting their 3-D act together for real-3D on Blu-ray in the coming years.
     
  13. Stephen_J_H

    Stephen_J_H All Things Film Junkie
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    agreed. The one thing I really liked about the 3-D in Bolt was that it wasn't gimmicky; rather, it was an attempt to add real depth to the movie.
     
  14. Richard Gallagher

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    I saw BOLT in a theater in December, and I was pleasantly surprised at how good it is. It's an animated film which will delight both children and adults.
     
  15. Edwin-S

    Edwin-S Producer

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    I still think BOLT is a pretty decent film, but after looking at the concept art for this film, when it was known as AMERICAN DOG, I can see now that it could have been so much more. Lasseter screwed the pooch when he canned Sanders off of his own film. Lasseter's action, with regard to Sanders, just shows that he is full of hot air when he talks about supporting director driven animated films.

    At one time, while helping to develop Pixar, Lasseter could have been called visionary. However, now that he is the head of the whole animation arm of Disney it appears he has become just another Disney management drone. He thought Sander's AMERICAN DOG was too quirky. Well, that is exactly what Disney Feature Animation needed. It needed animation directors with the guts to try something different. The last thing it needs is yet another generic fairy tale musical like THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG.

    I really thought that Lasseter was exactly what was needed to re-energize Disney's Feature Animation division. After seeing what he did to Sanders and his AD project, I have my doubts that Lasseter has any vision for that department.
     
  16. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    So, David, you finally got that 1080p projector you've been wanting? Congratulations!
     
  17. Frank Ha

    Frank Ha Second Unit

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    Wow! This film was low on my radar, but now you guys have got me excited about seeing it. Hopefully, our video store will have it available for rental.
     
  18. TravisR

    TravisR Studio Mogul

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    That's an incredibly bold and presumptious statement to make when you're basing it on looking at production art.
     
  19. Mike Frezon

    Mike Frezon Moderator
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    Hey, Matt!

    How sure are you of that 3-22-09 release date? I've seen that date in numerous places (it's a Sunday, BTW) for the Blu-ray release, while I'm seeing 3-24-09 (a normal Tuesday release) for the SD-DVD version.

    Any thoughts?
     
  20. Matt Hough

    Matt Hough Executive Producer
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    I'm very certain about it. In the press release that accompanied the Blu-ray review copy, Disney made it emphatic that the Blu-ray was was getting a two day head start on the DVD release by being made available on Sunday.

    Dreamworks has done Sunday releases with some of their recent animated pics, so I guess Disney is testing the waters.
     

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