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Released in 2008, Bolt is the 48th film in the Disney Animated Canon, featuring the voices of John Travolta and Miley Cyrus.Bolt is a genetically altered dog with numerous superpowers. Alongside his 'person' Penny, he fights the evil forces of Dr. Calico, a Mad Scientist who has kidnapped Penny's father......at least on TV.In truth, Bolt has spent most of his life on a Hollywood set, believing that his powers and adventures are real, while the crew carefully hides anything that might reveal the Truman Show Plot to the canine star. When a network executive demands the show become more interesting to a key advertising demographic, the crew chooses a cliffhanger plot where Penny is captured by Dr. Calico — causing Bolt to escape from his trailer to try and rescue her for real (and is accidentally shipped to New York in the process). With the help of an alley cat named Mittens and an easily-excitable hamster named Rhino, he makes his way back to Hollywood and Penny, realizing along the way that his powers aren't real as well as learning what it means to be a normal dog.The film went through several years of Troubled Production, beginning life with the title of American Dog and featuring a very different plot that still centered around a television dog that believed himself to be inside the show. Originally directed by Chris Sanders, friction after Pixar's integration into Walt Disney Animation led to Sanders being replaced and the film undergoing a significant overhaul into Bolt. The dust up led to Sanders departing Disney altogether, leading to his creation of How to Train Your Dragon for rival DreamWorks Animation.Though the final film performed modestly, easily besting Meet the Robinsons in box office and critical reception and even picking up an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature, Bolt was overshadowed by Pixar's mega-hit WALL•E and DreamWorks' Kung Fu Panda, as well as opening up against teen girl powerhouse Twilight. Despite this, Bolt was a much-needed success for the studio after several years of difficulty in the market it once dominated.
American Accents: Several textbook examples displayed by the pigeons, mostly imitating LA, New York, and Midwestern accents.
A Minor Kidroduction: The film opens with Bolt as a puppy getting adopted, which may or may not be part of the show-within-a-show.
Amplified Animal Aptitude: Although Bolt is the hero, he is also an extremely smart dog and can move his limbs well enough to deliver karate chops. The replacement Bolt isn't nearly as smart, nor are the dogs in the pound. Mittens the cat can actually read.
...And That Little Girl Was Me: Even though she never actually comes out and says it, it's pretty obvious that Mittens' rant about human companionship is the story of her own troubled past.
Rhino did the same thing earlier in the movie, saying how he dreams of doing something really awesome, and Bolt was the one who inspired this dream, in order to motivate him to rescue Mittens. Although he let it slip that he's referring to himself.
Animal Superheroes: Subverted - Bolt in the show is one of these, Bolt in real life isn't.
Animal Talk: Shown several times with Rhino's angry mutterings being heard as cute squeaks by humans, or where Bolt's attempts to "super bark" Mittens down from a tree is nothing but a yapping dog and yowling cat to an animal catcher.
Anime Hair: Penny's in-show dad has…an interesting hair style. It looks like a soft-serve ice cream swirl!
Anti-Villain: Mindy from the Network. Yes, she was threatening the director with canceling the show if the ratings dropped, and she also wanted to convince Penny to replace Bolt to continue the series. However, she was just doing her job; a poorly-rated show is bad for a business like a TV network, and if they didn't continue the show, many people would lose their jobs. Arguably, there wasn't even one evil bone in her.
Such people also earn themselves their very own spot in The Scrappy gallery. Ratings and maintaining a network are not viable excuses for the expense a dog's mental well-being, endangering a young girl's life, and once again stifling a director's creative control (along with possibly corrupting any integrity he may have had before her first appearance). Not to mention this spectacular "award-winning" line:
Mindy Parker: Wow. Okay, you want reality, here you go chief. The show's too predictable. The girl's in danger, the dog saves her from the creepy English guy, we get it. There's always a happy ending. And our focus groups tell us they're not happy with happy. So maybe you should, I don't know, spend a little less time worrying about the dog's method acting, and more time figuring out how to stop 20 year olds in Topeka from changing the channel. Because if you lose so much as half a rating point, so help me, I will fire everyone in this room, starting with you! How's that for real!?
Mindy: Look kid, it's time we are honest with you. If we don't get back in the production, people are gonna lose their jobs. Good people with families.
Penny: But Bolt is still out there. And I...
Mindy: I know, we feel for you. And the last thing we wanna do is ask a little girl to make a grown up decision. But it's come to that, we need you to move on. We need you to let Bolt go.
Arc Words: (spoken by Penny) "You're a good boy. You're my good boy."
Art Shift: "Barking at the Moon" shifts from real life places to 2D graphics in the style of the Waffle Barn map earlier in the movie.
Artistic License – Film Production: In real life, the scenes of a television show are rarely filmed in the order they're scripted (The "cliffhanger" of Penny's capture certainly wouldn't have been saved for last). Not to mention, putting so much effort into Enforced Method Acting for a dog would be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming.
"Hey! Look! My stomach's distended! How great is that?"
Mittens was shown with an actual Balloon Belly in the original theatrical release of the film, but strangely, it has been censored on the Blu-ray for reasons unknown.
Big Damn Animals: Several times, both in the show and out of it, such as the rescue of Mittens. The replacement Bolt actually flips out and botches his first one we see, causing the fire that is the climax of the film.
Bratty Half-Pint: Bolt, towards Mittens, until he finds out he doesn't have superpowers.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Rhino is shown singing along with the background music while he and Bolt go to rescue Mittens from the animal shelter. Justified, because the music that's playing is the "stealth theme" from the infiltration segment of the Show Within a Show; Rhino is singing the music from the TV show he'd been watching.
Brick Joke: When Bolt has decided to return to the studio for Penny, a trio of pigeons stop him with an idea for his show: "Aliens". Then, at the end of the movie, we see the show had been retooled to include... aliens. Who abduct Penny and Bolt, just as one of them was ranting about while they were accompanying Bolt.
Bolt: I will Super-Bark you out of that tree! Mittens: Go nuts. Let's see how that works out for ya. Bolt barks Mittens: Oh, the super-bark. Scary, scary.
The skinny black cat who works on the set with Bolt is another example.
Chained Heat: Bolt invokes this between himself and Mittens, due to his belief that all cats are evil underlings of his show's Big Bad (which he believes is real), and that she must know where Penny is due to that association.
Chekhov's Gun: The mock-up villainous helicopter that's being driven around the studio lot when the animals arrive, which later crashes to the floor during the fire.
Chekhov's Skill: Two of them. Bolt's "zoom-zoom" skill from the TV show later comes in handy pulling Penny through the smoke from the fire. Observing Rhino use an air vent to magnify his voice allows Bolt to call for help when trapped in the burning building.
Cheerful Child: Rhino. Bolt becomes this when Mittens teaches him how to be a dog, but he goes back to his serious attitude. or maybe he just stayed that, as the end credits show him being cheerful
Mittens:Slow down! You're scraping the fur off my*clang*ahhh....
Cuteness Proximity: Invoked and exploited in the campgrounds by Mittens, as she has to coach Bolt on doing cute puppy-dog faces to get food. Bolt's begging works wonders, coaxing food out of an entire RV park.
Rhino: How dare you disrupt their relationship with your evil? Die! Die!!
Dirty Coward: Most of the people in the studio. When a fire starts while Penny is literally tied up in the set, most of the people are in such a hurry to get themselves out that they don't even take a few seconds to help untie Penny. This nearly causes her death. Subverted when three of the crew try to reach her, but are overwhelmed by the smoke and forced to escape.
To be fair, she easily escaped her harness. They may have assumed she would get out on her own.
Distant Reaction Shot: The explosion of a helicopter in the opening knocks over a paper cup several miles away.
Dogs Are Dumb: Subverted with Bolt, who is naive but not stupid (despite the cat who plays Calico's Right-Hand Cat believing otherwise), and played straight with the dogs in the animal shelter.
Bolt is an American White Shepherd, which is a genetic off-shoot of the German Shepherd. They are highly intelligent, fairly easy to train, and extremely loyal to their owners, so perhaps Bolt really is smarter than the average housepet.
Every Car Is a Pinto: In the Show Within A Show, naturally, but even more so when (in the real world) a sign falls on a truck with a propane tank on board.
Everyone Owns A Mac: In the opening sequence, a woman on the train that Bolt lands on is seen typing on an Apple laptop.
Executive Meddling: In-universe network executives (as represented by Mindy Parker) ordered the Bolt studio to do something to keep the production profitable and stop audience members from "changing the channel" to the competition. The cliffhanger production that results is much to Penny's dislike, and spurs the main plot of the movie itself.
Expy: Mitten's pigeon mobster underlings are most definitely not the Goodfeathers from Animaniacs.
Face Palm: A mook in the opening does this after accidentally blowing up a helicopter. Hilariously, he forgot he was wearing a taser gauntlet at the time.
Fake-Out Opening: You'd think that this was a movie about a superhero dog if you haven't seen the trailers, but then it shows Penny and Bolt wiping out an army of Mooks and calmly walking into a trailer a short distance away.
Rhino is soGenre Savvy that there are at least two points where the entire plot would have ground to a halt had he not known exactly what was "supposed" to happen next. And hewasright.
Gilligan Cut: "YOU'VE GOT NOTHING. No super strength, no super bark! ...And no heat vision."
Growling Gut: Mittens' stomach growls during her first scene, and she uses it as a tactic to scare one of her bird servants. This also happens to Bolt, and he freaks out thinking the growls of his stomach are caused by a poison that Mittens implanted in him.
Happily Ever After: As the executives complain, every week of the show turns out this way.
The movie itself ends in this way.
Hate Sink: Seeing as this film has no real antagonist, Penny's agent, who is the only character that the film really shows in a negative fashion, qualifies as this. The director and Mindy qualify as wellnote The director due to his odd... "vision". Mindy due to her telling Penny not to keep searching for her dog while she works with a replacement for the show., however the former isn't seen very much at all after that (and his "vision" is implied to be crushed due to Bolt's disappearance. Notice how Bolt's replacement is treated more like a regular dog) and the latter shows up later to to regretfully inform Penny that she needs to move on, because peoples' jobs are at stake.
Heel-Face Turn: As noted in Cats Are Mean, Mittens starts out as a petty criminal who intimidates the New York pigeons into bringing her food, but redeems herself by helping Bolt.
Hypocritical Humor: Rhino also believed that Bolt's powers were real, despite it not being realistic (in-universe anyway), then at the end of the movie when he watches a new episode of Bolt that incorporated aliens into the storyline, Rhino turns off the TV in disgust while commenting on the idea "being totally unrealistic".
Impairment Shot: Played with: Penny in the Show Within a Show — her vision goes from blacked out to immediately clear as her bandages are removed with no transition for her eyes adjusting to the light.
Ink-Suit Actor: Averted with most of the characters, but Penny's agent bears a pretty remarkable resemblance to his voice actor, Greg Germann.
Invincible Hero: The Network Executive's criticism of the show is that there's no tension since Bolt never loses, and every episode ends with him victorious, thus prompting the cliffhanger and thus, the plot of the movie.
Dr. Calico: Aliens! [cut to Rhino sitting on a couch] Rhino: That is totally unrealistic.
Karma Houdini: The somewhat-crazed director of the TV show is never shown get any form of punishment for his... questionable method of making Bolt believe everything in the show is real.note On the other hand, playing mind games on a dog is not illegal, and might not even be unethical if Bolt was a realistic dog. Also, since the director's ideals where hinged upon Bolt not learning the truth, it's pretty easy to assume that his "punishment" was not seeing the fruition of his methods come to life, due to Bolt having gone missing and being forced to work with a new dog that wasn't as restrained as Bolt was.
The movie seems to take the position that the director and Mindy From The Network are both honestly doing their best to make the show as good as it can be, and therefore are not doing anything wrong (other than Mindy's part in solely concerning herself with ratings, over human compassion, mush less a little girl's feelings over her missing dog). The only other character treated as a villain is the smarmy agent, who is actively dismissive of his actor's feelings and only wants to turn everything into publicity (and therefore to his own benefit).
Kryptonite Factor: Bolt assumes Styrofoam packing peanuts took his powers away when he first discovers he doesn't have powers. However, he refuses to believe he doesn't have the powers he thought he had, so he assumes on one occasion that the object he's trapped in (a dog catcher's truck) is made out of Styrofoam.
Lack of Empathy: Penny's agent is annoying enough without his complete inability to relate to Penny on the grounds of basic human decency, especially when she's visibly worried for Bolt's wellbeing. Look closely at his face when Penny asks to take Bolt home, the prick rolls his eyes before turning round and pretending to be her best friend in a painfully transparent attempt at softening the inevitable "no." Not to mention his enthusiastic suggestion that Bolt and Penny's near death experience in the studio fire be used for publicity and suggesting this to Penny's already distressed mother. Yeah, he had that punch coming.
The Director: Let me ask you, Mindy from the network, what do you see here? Mindy Parker: Uhh... the dog? The Director: "The dog" she says. Oh, Mindy. Poor, poor Mindy. Mindy Parker: ... am I missing something? The Director: You're missing everything, Mindy. You see a dog. I see an animal that believes, with every fiber of his being; EVERY FIBER; that the girl he loves is in mortal danger! I see a depth of emotion on the face of that canine, the likes of which has never been captured on screen before. NEVER, Mindy from the network. We jump through hoops to make sure Bolt believes everything is real. It's why we don't miss marks. It's why we don't re-shoot. It's CERTAINLY why we do NOT allow the dog to see BOOM MIKES... because, Mindy from the network... if the dog believes it... then the audience believes it.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Rhino is shown singing along with the background music while he and Bolt go to rescue Mittens from the animal shelter. Justified, because the music that's playing is the "stealth theme" from the infiltration segment of the Show Within a Show; Rhino is singing the music from the TV show he'd been watching.
Load-Bearing Hero: During the climax of the film, Rhino uses his own hamster ball to prop open the collapsing entry into a burning studio while Bolt dashes inside to save Penny. Hilariously, he poses as if holding up the debris with his own two paws despite the fact that they're not even touching the inside of his ball (though it does crack under the pressure). Mittens gets him safely out of the ball before it shatters from the weight.
Lucky Translation: "Bolt" has many meanings in Russian as well, but the most popular and widespread is "screw". Thankfully, "Volt" wonderfully goes with the existing lip sync and bears a connotation related to electricity, which sort of explains all the lightning signs, and the Cyrillic letter 'B' is actually pronounced 'V', so even the movie title looks sort of almost right to Russian viewers.
Mama Bear: Penny's mother punching out the agent when he tries to tell them they can use Penny's burns from the accident at the end of the film as publicity.
90% Of Your Brain: it would seem this (or something close) is at least part of what the Show Within a Show uses to justify the powers Bolt is given as the alterations include extra connections in his brain.
No Antagonist: Various characters cause problems for the heroes—the studio executives, the dog catchers, etc.—but there really isn't any villain of the movie. (Though Bolt spends a good part of the movie assuming Dr. Calico, the bad guy in his show, is behind everything.)
No Name Given: Various examples, but Penny's acting agent and the director of the Show Within a Show stand out, as they are highly quotable characters who have to be referred to by description rather than by name. Penny's real name (as opposed to her show name) is also never given.
No OSHA Compliance: The in-show studio went up in flames really fast; apparently it was full of flammable materials, which, considering they were filming with a lot of torches in the set, was very stupid. Also, nobody had a fire extinguisher handy, nor did the building appear to have any manner of suppression system.
The Nth Doctor: When Penny quits the show, her replacement is Handwaved in-show as a result of facial reconstruction. Amusingly, the replacement actress has bright green eyes, while Penny's eyes are brown. Reconstructive surgery can't do that.
The Other Darrin: In-Universe, another dog takes on Bolt's show role while he is gone; the actor Penny immediately recognizes it's not "her" Bolt, but continued on for the sake of the show.
Perspective Reversal: This movie involves, earlier on, Bolt believing that Penny's love for him was sincere, and Mittens believing that it wasn't. Later in the movie, Bolt sees Penny hugging another dog, assuming himself to have been replaced, and walking away before Penny can even see him... then Mittens sees Penny sobbing at the real Bolt not being there, and figures she was wrong about Penny. After this point, it's Mittens who thinks Penny's love for Bolt is sincere, and Bolt believing that it wasn't.
Either downplayed or subverted; the pound is never portrayed as a "prison" for anyone but Mittens. The dog catcher's van, on the other hand, is a clear parallel to a prison paddywagon, but one could chalk this up to Rule of Drama.
Power Trio: Bolt, Mittens and Rhino (more or less).
Product Placement: Penny's agent wields a first-generation iPhone, while during Bolt's escape scene there's a whole shot of a guy editing on a Mac in what appears to be Final Cut Pro.
There's a whole scene that takes place on a U-Haul truck.
In beginning of the train boarding scene, the train is led by two surprisingly well rendered EMD SD 70 locomotives with the CSX Transportation logo and paint scheme. Also, many of the background vehicles are late 60's Ford F-series trucks, with the bold FORD letters on the tailgate.
Proscenium Reveal: The movie opens with an extended action sequence in which Penny and Bolt battle a horde of mooks. After Bolt vanquishes the last of them with his Super Bark, Penny picks up Bolt and walks away — to a trailer with Bolt's name on the door. As they step inside, a bell rings, and the film crew wander into shot and start striking the set, while the "dead" bodies get up and walk off.
Punch Clock Villain: A literal example, as Dr. Calico and his minions are just actors and extras.
Puppy-Dog Eyes: Mittens teaches Bolt to do these to beg for food. It doesn't work as well when she tries it out herself. Rhino also does these at a few points, though out of his personal excitement rather than for any practical purpose.
Reality Ensues: Bolt's early attempts to use his superpowers in the real-world never end well. It takes him awhile to start learning that he doesn't actually have any.
Real Life Writes the Plot: An in-universe example. After Penny leaves the show, she is replaced with a different actress. Her different appearance is basically Handwaved with plastic surgery.
Reasonable Authority Figure: Mindy Parker, despite coming across as a Jerk, is only doing her job: letting people in the business know what they need to do to keep theirs. She may had been cold towards the director's vision, but as she said, many people don't enjoy his vision and it was killing the ratings. Later, it's pretty clear that she doesn't actively enjoy having to tell Penny to let go of her best friend, but she also didn't want people to lose their jobs, especially when another solution (get a replacement dog) was readily available.
Road Trip Plot: A large portion of the movie features Bolt and his friends traveling across America.
Running Gag: A few, one minor one involves a pair of college-age men moving across the US from New York presumably to somewhere in the West. They cross paths with Bolt and friends a few times, though the two groups only notice each other once or twice.
Also, Penny's slimy manager looks a lot like Glenn Beck.
It's been acknowledged that Penny is named after the Penny from Inspector Gadget.
Hmm, an All-CGI Cartoon movie in which a guy thinks he's a superhero, gets separated from his owner, gradually warms up to an annoyed naysayer companion, depressedly learns that said companion was right all along, and then gets reassured by the same companion that he's not so worthless. Where have we seen that before?
Stylistic Suck: The scenes from the Show Within a Show are an acute (and rather vicious) parody of most modern children's entertainment: an escapist fantasy with an inane premise, dumbed-down and shortsighted morals, and embarrassingly atrocious scriptwriting. Bolt realizing how pathetic and shallow that world is as compared to the real one is more or less the entire point of the movie. The show even Jumps The Shark in the end.
Take My Paw: Bolt to Mittens while on the train. Subverted in that she ultimately refuses to do so, causing Bolt to have to grab her by the neck to get her to come along.
True Companions: Only Penny and Bolt at the start, but Rhino and Mittens eventually fit in, as well. Rhino even points this out during his speech before he goes after Bolt in the last stretch to Hollywood.
Truman Show Plot: The director of Bolt's show implemented a perfect example of this trope: he believes that by making Bolt believe that his show is real, the audience would react to the show in a similar manner.
Underside Ride: This is the means by which Penny and Bolt infiltrate the lair of their show's Big Bad. It is reprised a twice in the film, once when Bolt and Mittens hide under a couch to get loaded into a moving van, and later Mittens and Rhino catch a ride under the stretcher that's taking Bolt and Penny to the hospital.