It’s not Pixar, but Bolt carries many of the same charms and laughs the latter premier CG animation studio in the world provides. First-time directors Byron Howard and Chris Williams have created a film with lively characters, enjoyable action, fun plotting, and admittedly the usual round of animated clichés. Bolt is fast-paced fun throughout.
Bolt is an action TV star dog, taking apart villains on what appears to be the most expensive TV show ever filmed. Believing the entire show is reality, he slowly comes to realize he’s not the super dog he plays while traversing across the country searching for his missing owner. It’s a simple story, but one filled with clever moments, sharp writing, and great characters.
Par for the course when it comes to animated movies, the sidekick takes over and owns the movie. Rhino, a hamster stuck inside his plastic ball (and also believing this is all real), tags along on Bolt’s adventure. Voice actor Mark Walton brings the character to life with an eccentric, hilarious voice that helps Rhino become the best part of the film.
A few minutes into Bolt, a large-scale action sequence is designed for multiple purposes. First, it’s spectacular animation and a wonderful showcase if the movie was viewed in a 3-D theater (shame the home experience can’t replicate it). Second, the kids are immediately drawn into the world of Bolt and his character. Thirdly, it sets up everything to follow, by showcasing Bolt’s supposed powers and the belief he’s truly out of the ordinary. It works on all levels.
On top of its laughs and charms, Bolt is a jaw dropping piece of animation. The gorgeous backdrops are mostly paintings, and mesh flawlessly with the CG characters. In actuality, you can hardly tell when the action picks up what’s animation and what’s not. A strong color palette means the kids will love watching this one too.
While it may not throw out any curveballs in terms of its story, Bolt wins the audience over with a funny and warm story of a dog looking for its person. The adventure is fun, the action is superb, and the animation top tier. Bolt rightfully stands amongst the best animated features of ’08.
As with previous Disney animated Blu-rays, Bolt is hi-def perfection. Color is outstanding, and picture sharpness doesn’t get any better delivering a clean, clear presentation. Contrast is flawless, with no black crush or blooming whites. Detail is astronomical, from Bolt’s fur to crevices on the sidewalk. There are no moments of artifacting, banding, or aliasing. This is what hi-def media is made for.
A powerful DTS-HD Master is another showcase. The opening action sequence has it all, from subtle surround use to crushing bass. Every action sequence delivers perfect tracking in all available channels. The stereo speakers have plenty to work with during non-action downtime, with screen-specific dialogue hitting all of the proper channels. The highs are crisp, and lows resonate powerfully.
Bolt finally falters when it comes to the extras. A fun short, Super Rhino, continues the adventure of the hamster with additional laughs. Two deleted scenes (both in storyboard form) feature an introduction by the directors. In Session is a look at the making of the Miley Cyrus/John Travolta musical duet that runs over the end credits of the film, and the music video follows that up.
New Breed of Directors is a short featurette on (what else?) the co-directors and reeks of self promotion. The same goes for Act, Speak which looks at the voice talent. Creating the World of Bolt is the best feature here, looking into the art style of the film and the creative choices. A collection of art galleries, Disney’s standard BD-Live menu, and an on-disc game round things off.
Annoyingly, Disney has packaged Bolt in a thick case with a DVD version of the film and a digital copy. Not only does this defeat the point of having thinner cases with Blu-ray, there’s no option to purchase the film without these features for those who don’t want them.