Directed by Chris Williams, Byron Howard
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:11080pAVC codec
Running Time: 96 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: March 22, 2009
Review Date: March 11, 2009
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.
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.
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.
“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 Bolt” shows 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.
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!