Bolt is an animated combination of the live-action Homeward Bound and Underdog movies with some Bowfinger elements as well. This dog was raised on a Hollywood television set by his person Penny (Miley Cyrus). The show’s director (played over-the-top by Inside The Actor Studio’s James Lipton) believes the cameras will capture more realism from Bolt if he believes his canine superpowers are real. The studio goes to great technical lengths to secretively convince Bolt that he really has a forceful super-bark, incredible strength, and laser bolts that shoot from his eyes.
Bolt must face harsh reality when he is accidentally shipped across the United States in a box. He quickly realizes that his superpowers are gone, something he explains away as being a side-effect of evil styrofoam peanuts. Anxious to get home to make sure his person Penny is safe, he listens to some humorous New York pigeons who direct Bolt to a local alley cat named Mittens, a jaded former housecat whom they claim knows the way to where Penny is being held captive, something he believes since cats are evil characters on his TV show. They both embark on a cross-country trip to Hollywood.
Experiencing hunger for his first time, Bolt learns how to beg for food at a mobile home park. It’s here that they meet Rhino, a pint-sized hamster who is an obsessed fan of Bolt’s TV show and believes in Bolt. The three of them overcome various obstacles on their journey back home, but for Bolt, the journey becomes one of self-discovery as he learns to accept reality and embrace what it means to be a real dog.
The voice work by John Travolta brought a tough, yet sweet quality to Bolt’s character. The rising superstar Miley Cyrus helped make Penny a believable girl. Both Travolta and Cyrus sing an inspired duet called “I Thought I Lost You.” The best breakout success story from this production is the voice work by long-time Disney animator Mark Walton, who lent his voice to the hamster Rhino early on in pre-production. He said “it was generally assumed that, at some point, they would choose a professional actor to record the final voice, but about a year went by, and my voice stayed in screening after screening.” Mark’s voice contained humongous energy for such a small hamster.
“Along with the humor, you have to have heart,” says John Lasseter, who oversaw Bolt as his first production in his new role of Executive Producer of Walt Disney Animation. This film nearly approaches the pedigree of the Pixar library with humor that flows out of the personalities of the characters that is funny to both children as well as adults alike. It also contains the emotional connection Pixar is known for. This dog feels pain, hunger, and loneliness for the first time and then manages to learn that you don’t need superpowers to be a hero and have purpose in life. This is the first Disney animated feature conceived for 3D and it makes appropriate uses of the medium. The film is a vast improvement in animation and storytelling for Disney Animation and a welcomed addition to the Disney canon.