DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Disney Animated Classics Page | DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Search This Site

Bolt: Deluxe Edition DVD Review

Disney's Bolt movie poster Bolt

Theatrical Release: November 21, 2008 / Running Time: 96 Minutes / Rating: PG

Directors: Chris Williams, Byron Howard / Writers: Dan Fogelman, Chris Williams

Voice Cast: John Travolta (Bolt), Miley Cyrus (Penny), Susie Essman (Mittens), Mark Walton (Rhino), Malcolm McDowell (Dr. Calico), James Lipton (The Director), Greg Germann (The Agent), Diedrich Bader (Veteran Cat), Nick Swardson (Blake), J.P. Manoux (Tom), Dan Fogelman (Billy), Kari Wahlgren (Mindy), Chloe Moretz (Young Penny), Randy Savage (Thug), Ronn Moss (Dr. Forrester), Grey DeLisle (Penny's Mom), Sean Donnellan (Penny's TV Dad), Lino DiSalvo (Vinnie), Todd Cummings (Joey), Tim Mertens (Bobby), Kellie Hoover (Ester), Brian Stepanek (Martin), Jeff Bennett (Lloyd Spoon), Daran Norris (Louie), John Di Maggio (Saul), Jenny Lewis (Assistant Director)

Buy Bolt from Amazon.com: Deluxe Edition DVD with Digital Copy • 1-Disc DVD • Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Combo

Pixar walked alone when they made Toy Story over the first half of the 1990s, the only studio pursuing computer-animated feature filmmaking. It's a much different marketplace today, one which found 13 different CG cartoons released to American theaters last year from twelve different companies. Counted among that dozen is the Walt Disney studio, the oldest name in animation and for a long time the only one people knew.

Since dwindling returns led them to give up on the traditional method relied upon in some form for eighty years, Disney's feature animation department has made three CGI films: Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons, and Bolt.
In earnings, the three rank smack in the middle of their once fail-proof medium. Each has grossed more domestically than the types of flops and underperformers that drove Disney away from 2D. But one can't help but notice that based on recent track record, the longtime industry leader now pales in recognition and popularity to three competitors: practically perfect partner Pixar, top studio by volume DreamWorks, and safe, fortunate Blue Sky.

Perhaps more troubling than Disney Animation's standing with the public is that the studio's long distinctive identity has become somewhat unrecognizable this decade. The fairy tales, fantasies, and musicals that made Disney synonymous with great animation have become a fading memory as the department has adopted irony, allusions, and name casting. In ads, Bolt appeared to possess all three of those 21st century hallmarks.

Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus) and Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) get into their heroes' stances in anticipation of an elaborate good vs. evil showdown staged for primetime. Using a trash-retrieved Waffle World placemat, scrawny pigeon bully alley cat Mittens (voiced by Susie Essman) maps out the journey Bolt needs to take.

The 48th feature in the company's canon, Bolt tells the story of a canine who is the star of an action television series. His lightning-marked character is a superdog, wielding genetically-acquired powers that outwit even the most formidable of villains. Bolt doesn't know he's merely an actor, though. ΐ la The Truman Show, his show is crafted around him in real-time with hidden cameras but no shortcuts, reshoots, or impractical visual effects. Even though her ownership is the product of scripting and casting, teenaged actress Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus) has a genuine attachment to her onscreen dog. Likewise, Bolt is endlessly faithful and protective of Penny, making for some compelling Thursday night network TV (or so we're told).

At the end of shooting a cliffhanger episode, Bolt is determined to reunite with a supposedly kidnapped Penny. In his efforts to do so, the dog (who John Travolta speaks for when people aren't in sight) winds up in a cardboard box sent to New York City. There, he encounters a trio of streetwise pigeons (characters indebted to the Goodfeathers of "Animaniacs", with general New Yorkese replacing Scorsese parody), who refer him to Mittens (Susie Essman, "Curb Your Enthusiasm"), a scrawny, feared alley cat. Believing her to be involved in the (faux) scheming despite her claims of ignorance, Bolt ties himself to Mittens and the two set out to find Penny.

Along the way, they meet and join forces with Rhino (voiced by Disney story artist Mark Walton), an enthusiastic hamster and "Bolt" TV show fan who tends to stay in his plastic exercise ball. The three of them journey across the country, moving from one accommodating vehicle to another, using a Waffle World map placemat as guide.

One of Bolt's biggest fans, Rhino the hamster in the plastic ball shows off his lightning bolt mark and moves. Bolt encounters blood for the first time, after he and Mittens fall off a U-Haul truck somewhere in Ohio.

Bolt was originally announced back in 2004 as American Dog, a project that was to be Chris Sanders' follow-up to 2002's well-received Lilo & Stitch. The few pieces of information let out on the film came to change shape over the years, particularly after Sanders was removed at the end of 2006, just after being given an official greenlight. The helm was assumed by Byron Howard and screenwriter Chris Williams, two directing novices with few prior Disney animation and story credits under their belts. (Sanders, who receives no credit whatsoever here, soon moved to DreamWorks, where he's now said to be overseeing two upcoming comedies.)

The movie we end up getting is nowhere near as quirky as the one first foretold. That's a mixed blessing. For now, Bolt can be widely embraced as something ordinary yet fun. Most who see it will call it a good time, whether they're on either end of a parent-child outing or simply brave enough to give a family-friendly animated film a chance. That said, while it would have seemed really special ten years ago, there isn't much now that will cause this to be remembered above the mounds of other CGI comedies being released on a near-monthly basis. Timing (i.e. opening in theaters just before Thanksgiving) certainly helped it earn the third nomination for the Best Animated Feature Academy Award over Fox/Blue Sky's Horton Hears a Who!.

This film feels vaguely familiar. A small group of viewers could each come up with a list of recent movies they were reminded of, without yielding much overlap. I was most struck by the Toy Story overtones; Bolt grapples with Buzz Lightyear-type existential delusion for more than half the film and is set straight by a Jessie figure with abandonment issues in her past. On the whole, it aspires to the look and emotional feel of Pixar, although in the latter arena it's closer to things like Shrek and Ice Age (sans flatulence).

Bolt's Manhattan pigeons Joey, Vinnie, and Bobby bear more than a little resemblance to Bobby, Pesto, and Squit, the humorous Goodfeathers of "Animaniacs." Penny's plus-sized Mom tries to comfort her Bolt-missing daughter in the dog's Polaroid-adorned trailer.

The humor is pretty spotty. We've seen the actor not realizing he's not on script before and in much funnier ways. We may not have seen it in a CGI family film, but it's merely a device for animals to talk fast, act silly, and occasionally get serious with score to match. The entertainment industry comedy is fairly toothless and the rest of it is either brash or obvious. Some of the biggest gags were spoiled in the trailers. The movie is quite a bit better when it's not trying to earn laughs; its best stretch considers what makes a dog a dog. And yet, the gentle sentimentality that arises isn't easy to take serious.

After crudely emulating DreamWorks' manners with the zany, charmless Chicken Little, Disney has since bore visual and structural resemblance to Pixar, which makes sense with department head John Lasseter serving as executive producer. The human characters seem pretty clearly modeled after those of The Incredibles (a film whose marketing color scheme is also borrowed).
Nonetheless, the animation truly impresses in its own right. The expansive locations are marvelously realized and the fluid character actions give them life (although there is some evidence of the late, marketing-minded decision to cast Miley Cyrus in a seemingly already-voiced part).

Disney fans are hoping that the studio is primed for a return to their old ways with their 49th feature, the traditionally-animated musical fairy tale The Frog and the Princess that's scheduled to open in theaters this December. Until then, they shouldn't fail to notice that Disney can make a pretty competent if routine computer-animated film too.

Taking a standard four months from its theatrical opening to home video debut, Bolt will come to Blu-ray on March 22nd and DVD two days later, assuming that retailers follow the studio's cunning directions properly.

Buy Bolt: Deluxe Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish;
Closed Captioned; Extras Captioned and Subtitled
Release Date: March 24, 2009
Two single-sided discs (1 DVD-9 & 1 DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Suggested Retail Price: $32.99
Also available in 1-Disc DVD and Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Combo


Unsurprising for an all-digital production, Bolt yields no picture or sound issues on DVD. The movie doles out much candy of the eye and ear varieties. The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is full of color, detail, and vitality while taking advantage of every available pixel. The Dolby 5.1 soundtrack is even more exquisite, delivering potent bass, crisp dialogue, and no shortage of well-conceived atmospheric and directional effects.

Seen on a nearby jumbo screen, Bolt's staged heroics are used to contrast with his back alley helplessness in this understandably deleted Las Vegas scene. Rolling down the hall in a big plastic ball like Rhino's, "Bolt" crew members party like it's Pixar circa 1999 in the featurette "A New Breed of Directors." Actors Studio dean emeritus James Lipton gets to put his theory to the test as the voice of the Bolt TV show's inflated director.


Bonus features are arranged into four sections.

First up are two deleted scenes, which run 6 minutes and 35 seconds
with their introduction by directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard. Mildly animated from rough storyboard sketches, both reveal Bolt's lack of superpowers. One lets him get beat up by a pair of Las Vegas alley dogs, while the other has him nearly drown trying to save Rhino from river rapids.

Backstage Disney supplies three short-ish featurettes.

"A New Breed of Directors: A Filmmakers' Journey" (4:34) gives us a sanitized look at production. Here, the excited first-time directors command in an atmosphere of fun that includes growing beards and rolling down the hallways in a giant inflatable plastic ball like Rhino. I guess it's unrealistic to expect even cautious, selective insight into the departure that thrust Williams and Howard into their positions.

"Act, Speak! The Voices of Bolt" (9:48) lives up to its title with a survey and showcase of 5 of the film's vocal actors. I don't like when Pixar DVDs neglect this area, yet I also don't like when DreamWorks ones overstate it. I'd like to think this is a happy medium. The video of talent is appreciated. But it's hard not to cringe when John Lasseter calls Miley Cyrus "the real deal."

"Creating the World of Bolt" (6:45) addresses the film's style of "painterly" backgrounds, meant to honor Disney tradition. It's an interesting piece on a topic you won't likely notice or appreciate beforehand.

Hannah Montana (Miley Cyrus) and Danny Zuko (John Travolta) duet in a promotionally-dressed studio for their "I Thought I Lost You" music video. The all-new bonus short "Super Rhino" envisions the hamster as a fearless hero. Rhino, Bolt, Mittens, and you see America from a train car on the animated main menu.

Under Music & More, we find two items pertaining to the movie's end credits theme. "In Session: With John Travolta and Miley Cyrus" runs just a minute, barely enough time for Travolta to compare Cyrus to Olivia Newton-John and for Cyrus to explain why the song is special.

This is logically followed up by the "I Thought I Lost You" music video (1:45), which applies the traditional juggle of studio footage and film clips to the stars' duet.

Listed last but most likely to excite fans is the all-new bonus short Super Rhino (4:25). Written and directed by storyboard artist Nathan Greno, this brief cartoon puts the couch potato hamster into action hero mode, as he helps Bolt and Penny outwit Dr. Calico.
Then it's pop star time, in an ending that will be most enjoyed by fans of Miley Cyrus' meal ticket. This is the only bonus feature included on the standard DVD.

One minor annoyance is that Disney didn't encode most of these extras with usual time code information. If you weren't wise enough to consult this review, you won't have any idea how long a feature runs before watching it, not that any demands a huge commitment.

The FastPlay-equipped disc opens with promos for Disney, The Princess and the Frog, the "original" Lilo & Stitch's concurrent 2-Disc Big Wave Edition, Bedtime Stories, Disney Blu-ray, and Disney Movie Rewards. The menu adds sneak peeks for Schoolhouse Rock! Earth, Monsters, Inc. Blu-ray, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Black Cauldron: Special Edition, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Disney Channel's Princess Protection Program, and Disney XD.

The main menu offers a view of scenery from the moving train. Other menus are static but scored.

The second disc holds only a digital copy of the film in your choice of iPod or Windows Media formats. Remember the days when two-disc sets were the standard and norm for successful new films? How about the days when premium editions actually used two discs instead of counting a DVD-ROM that will be worthless in a year (and for many people, right now)? I sort of miss them.

Per present policy, all Disney sent for review was Bolt's Blu-ray release, whose three discs include everything on the Deluxe Edition DVD. While I can't comment on the DVD versions' packaging, the Blu-ray combo holds a large ad booklet and another booklet with the one activation code that will net you both your included digital copy and your earned Disney Movie Rewards points. I would imagine the Blu-ray's holographic, embossed cardboard slipcover is similar to the Deluxe Edition DVD's, only with different dimensions and the different border.

Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino admire the colorful sights and sounds of Las Vegas in a shot that probably unintentionally calls back to a Times Square moment from "The Wild." Bolt discovers the magic of sprinklers, one of many canine curiosities Mittens introduces him to.


Bolt is an adequate, entertaining movie from a studio still struggling to find its place in the world of computer animation. While it doesn't get enough right to really make it fly, it also doesn't flounder enough to add it to Disney's sparse dud pile. At another company, it'd rank as a triumph, but at the Mouse House, it's like a Great Mouse Detective or a Rescuers Down Under; definitely not bad, but unlikely to be remembered and singled out as a favorite by many.

There are no complaints to be made about the DVD's first-rate feature presentation. But this is one lightweight Deluxe Edition. Everything could fit on one disc and indeed it does, only now Disney's asking you to pay a premium for these features and the digital copy disc you probably won't use. Although I'd normally advocate choosing the best version if you like a movie enough to own it, there's so little here that you might be fine saving the $6 and just settling on the standard disc.

Buy Bolt from Amazon.com:
Standard 1-Disc DVD / Deluxe Edition DVD with Digital Copy / Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
New to DVD: Lilo & Stitch: 2-Disc Big Wave Edition • Beverly Hills Chihuahua • Pinocchio: Platinum Edition • Air Bud: Special Edition
Recent Disney DVDs: Oliver & Company: 20th Anniversary Edition • Space Buddies • Mary Poppins: 45th Anniversary Edition
2008 Animated Films: WALL•E • Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa • Kung Fu Panda • Horton Hears a Who! • Star Wars: The Clone Wars
From the Writers of Bolt: Cars • Fred Claus • Mulan • The Emperor's New Groove
Meet the Robinsons • Chicken Little • Toy Story • Toy Story 2 • The Incredibles • Ratatouille • Valiant • The Wild
Brother Bear • Home on the Range • Benji the Hunted • Underdog • Lady and the Tramp • 101 Dalmatians
Hannah Montana: The Complete First Season • Wild Hogs • 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure • Firehouse Dog

DVDizzy.com | DVD and Blu-ray Reviews | Disney Animated Classics Page | DVD & Blu-ray Schedule | Search This Site

Search This Site:

DVDizzy.com Top Stories:

Reviewed March 13, 2009.