Like millions of people I grew up watching animated movies. You can just about tell a person’s age by determining the first Disney animated movie they remember. It has become a rite of passage for a parent to take their kids to one the current Disney flick and memories are passed down from one generation to the next. This has been going on for just about three generations now and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Disney created the foundation for animated movies and over the many decades that have passed has kept up with the times. Now they are in association with Pixar they are rolling into the twenty first century with flair and style. Pixar started out as one of the founding fathers of computer graphics and have only gotten better with time. While some may argue that the warmth and charm of handmade drawings has been lost Pixar films have such a degree of detail and emotion that they are in a class by themselves. The latest Pixar blockbuster to hi the theaters and now the world DVD and Blu-ray is ‘Bolt’. It is a tale of needing to fit in and realizing you dreams. Like all Disney and Pixar films there is such heart to this movie that it will enchant but young and old alike. At the center of this story is the relationship between a little girl and a puppy. This does anchor it with the traditional plot device; cute talking animals. Now before you grownups dismiss this because of that fact rest assured that this movie will be fun to watch. It is exactly the touch of whimsy that we all need to provide a distraction from the trouble we deal with every day. There is a lot of talk about your inner child. This movie will not only prove that you have one but reintroduce you to him. Recently Disney has been embracing the new high definition trend with both DVD and Blu-ray. If you have a choice at all go with the Blu-ray or better yet the nee 3D version. The additional resolution for the audio and video is well worth it. It has been said many times before but this is truly a film for all ages. The best way to appreciate it is to make some popcorn or order a pizza, gather everyone around the TV and sit back ready for a really good time.
The responsibility of creating the screenplay fell to Chris Williams and Dan Fogelman. Williams worked on the story for another Disney classic, ‘Mulan’ and had a few other animated flicks behind him. Fogelman was in on the writing for ‘Fred Claus’ and a previous Pixar mega hit, ‘Cars’. It does take a special skill for an author to writer for animation. You are free to be more inventive than you could pull off with live action but the other side of that coin is the story has to be strong enough to root the characters enough in reality so the audience can emotionally connect with them. There is also the additional requirement in a story like this. It has to present a morality play with strong family values while still retaining its entertainment value and not come off as overly preachy. This story works out well in this regard. The little titular pup, Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) is a regular pouch that is used in a popular television series. In that show Bolt has a plethora of fantastic super powers. The trouble comes in because Bolt truly believes his powers are real. Every kid has played Superman, or any suitable super hero of the time. For kids the line between imagination and reality is finer than for adults so they will identify with the plight of Bolt. For the adults this will help us remember those days when anything was possible and the change that occurred when realized the difference. Of course there are the usual plot devices we have come to know and love. There is a cute kitten, Mittens (voiced by Susie Essman) to offset the action oriented puppy and a faithfully friendly little girl, Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus) who owns Bolt. The story is propelled by the usual Disney moral values encompassing such qualities as the meaning of friendship and believing in your dreams.
Chris Williams also directed the film alongside Byron Howard. While Williams had a smaller film also done last year this is the first time at bat for Howard. They both go beyond what is expected for an animated film and give the audience a well crafted and amazingly coherent story. The film was originally designed to be viewed in selected theaters in a new variation of the 3-D process but neither the DVD nor Blu-ray release has a copy on it. Still, the astounding Pixar animators give the film a full three dimensional look that works even on a regular flat presentation. Many try to compare this movie to its fellow Oscar nominee and winner of Best Animated feature, ‘WALL-E’ but that film was so special, so wonderful that it will be a very long time until we see something surpass it. That the directors did here was achieve the main goal of animation; let the audience forget that they are watching a cartoon. Not only are the characters and backgrounds rendered so realistically there is a personality to the animals and people in the film.
Bolt is a regular little puppy who is adopted by the little girl Penny. The pouch hit the jackpot when he is selected to play a dog with super powers on a television series that soon becomes the most popular show in the country. Since he has lived his whole life on the set of the show he has no idea that he is not his character. All Bolt is aware of is each week he uses his powers to thwart the dastardly schemes of the evil Doctor Calico (Malcolm McDowell). When Bolt thinks that Penny has been kidnapped he escapes from his trailer to save her but falls into a shipping box and is taken away from Hollywood to New York City. Lost on the streets he becomes friends with Mittens, a stray cat who bullies the pigeons out of their food. He is desperate to find Penny and get back to his life but his powers no longer seen to work. Along the way they add a hamster, Rhino (Mark Walton), who is a big fan of the Bolt show to their band of misfits and continue to try to get Bolt reunited with Penny.
One of the more subtle messages in the film relates to Mittens who was once a housecat but her owners had her de-clawed and abandoned her on the street, helpless to fend on her own. The problem of abandoned house pets is unfortunately a growing one and it is great that a film informs both children and parents about it. You might think why waste high definition on a cartoon. One viewing of this movie, and you will want many more, will show you that a film like this serves the best possible audio and video. The 1080p resolution provides the clarity and color palette to bring out every nuance of the characters and their surroundings. There are such rich, vibrant colors and shadings here that you only get the full measure of the magic on High definition. The DTS HD soundtrack brings out a level of realism that will enfold you in a sound stage that pulls you into the action. There are also a wide variety of extras that will keep the entire family entertain long after the film is over. This is destined to become yet another Disney-Pixar classic.
Disney is moving along at an excellent pace remastering some of their best regarded animated features in the new Blu-ray 3D format. They are not only addressing their classic animated canon including the beloved Princess tales but have extended this new technology to the more recent works encompassing some of the incredible films animated by Pixar. ‘Bolt’ is among this set of releases and as you might expect the results are spectacular. First of all this is a full blown four disc set offering several methods of viewing this move; Blu-ray 3, Blu-ray High Definition, Standard DVD and a Digital copy. The Bonus features are pretty much identical to the previous, 2009 Blu-ray release as noted below but the real reason to seriously consider purchasing this film even if you already own it is the additional level of enjoyment your entire family will get from the addition of the new dimension.
The video is the latest standard for contemporary home 3D, 1080p/MVC-encoded video. The 3D effects are quite noticeable and true to the high bar Pixar has always set for itself they are natural in presentation. In many recent 3D films the directors are still playing with the technology so many of the 3D effects come across as exceptionally contrived. In this case Bolt’s canine snout pokes out in a believable way so that you think the puppy was at your feet. The one caveat is there is a trade off that still plagues the home presentation of 3D. There are some slight bur still perceptible artifacts in the video. The details are noticeably softer than the crisp, well defined edges in the high definition version. The color palette is warm and inviting with an audio that is simply beyond reproach. It offers a full, solid sound field that compliments the 3D video perfectly.