Bolt, released in 2008, was the 48th film from Walt Disney Animation and the third computer animated movie from the studio. After John Lasseter joined the company, Bolt received massive rewrites and changes following the firing of writer/director Chris Sanders from the project, then called American Dog. Eventually, Chris Williams and Byron Howard took over the directing duties and the film was renamed Bolt.
The story follows the life and career of a TV star dog named Bolt and the actress who plays his “person” named Penny (fans of The Rescuers will no doubt recognize this name). After Bolt gets separated from Penny, we follow him on a journey where he discovers who he really is.
The conceit of the film is brilliant- the opening of the film doesn’t immediately reveal to viewers that it is a film within a film. Before too long, though, we begin to see the plot unravel and are invested enough to see where Bolt- and the film- takes us.
Going behind the scenes in the life of a dog actor is a clever decision by the writers. The film explores some deep messages about the entertainment industry, particularly with child stardom. The studio was able to bank on the success of Hannah Montana by casting Miley Cyrus as Penny. This turned out to be a wise move, as Cyrus does a great job voicing this young actress. For the voice of Bolt, they got the one and only John Travolta who also does excellent work here.
Upon its release, perhaps surprisingly, the film achieved success that the studio hadn’t seen since Lilo & Stitch. Though Chicken Little grossed almost $315 million worldwide, it received negative reviews overall. Conversely, Meet the Robinsons was very well-liked by critics, but was considered a box office bomb. Bolt was both critically and financially successful, setting a standard for the next several years of Disney animated films. For this reason, this next era has appropriately been called the “Disney Revival”.
Like Meet the Robinsons, Bolt breaks the mold by creating an interesting and often surprising story that surely will entertain children and adults alike.
Live-action remake: There is no live-action remake planned for Bolt.
Bolt in the theme parks: Bolt is not currently featured in any of the theme parks.
Bolt is available to stream on Disney+.