Miley Cyrus. That’s the first thing I think of when I think of Disney’s 48th animated film, Bolt. Love her or hate her, she’s got the name recognition that is supposed to sell at the box office. And, yes, when it came out in 2008, it did sell at the box office. It sold just under $310 million world wide which, according to Box Office Mojo, was just over two times it’s budget. That’s nothing to be ashamed of.
With that being said, I never saw it in theaters. Was it the fact that I thought Miley was being over used at that time? Was it the fact that I had seen so many “meh” animated films over the course of the 2000s that I had such low expectations? I’m just going to say “Yes” to both, but hindsight shows us a lot of things. This film is way more than just one name and had way more to offer than the “meh” films I was used to. Had I been paying more attention to what was going on behind the scenes, I would have been a lot more excited about this film.
Despite my reluctance with seeing this film when it came out, and outside of the interest that I gained when I found out more of who else was involved, when I sat down to watch it I actually really liked it. Bolt, played by John Travolta, is a puppy on a TV show raised to believe that he is the genetically altered superdog with super powers and his whole goal is to protect his human, Penny, played by Miley Cyrus.
It is the studio’s job to make sure that he never finds out that what happens on the show isn’t real. However, to appease the studio execs, there is a cliff hanger added to the script. Bolt, not knowing what to do when he thinks that Penny has been kidnapped, breaks out of the studio looking for her. As he tries to make his way from NYC to Hollywood, he adds two friends along the way: Mittens, a jaded alley cat who’s all about realism, and Rhino, the fan boy hamster who has seen and believes every episode of the TV show. Together the three are a perfect trio of ridiculousness.
The story was well written and hits all the right beats and adds a touch of sentiment when appropriate. John Travolta did a great job at playing the part of Bolt, I loved Susie Essman as Mittens, and I didn’t even mind Miley. The art was well done and the whole movie just felt good. I was pleasantly surprised with all of it.
I mentioned hindsight at the start. It’s interesting to look back and see that this really wasn’t just another film for Disney. This was a proving ground for many great films to follow. The powers that be at the big ‘D’ liked how it turned out so much that creators, Byron Howard and Chris Williams were brought back to work on other big projects that have ultimately helped shape the brand into what it is today. Byron was co-director on both Tangled and Zootopia. Chris was also brought back to direct Big Hero 6, and is slated as one of the co-directors on Moana along with the great Ron Clements and John Musker. (He was also a story artist on Frozen and speaking voice of Oaken the lovable shopkeep. #NBD)
Speaking of Ron Clements and John Musker, as I think of the creative leadership that came out of this film, I can’t help but think of the 1986 film, “The Great Mouse Detective.” Just as that was the jumping off point of the Renaissance of the ’90s, in 2008, Bolt helped train and prepare the way for the people that would help bring us what we are calling the ‘New Renaissance.’
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes