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Western Animation / Bolt

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A hero is unleashed!
Mittens: How do you say 'there's no way I'm doing this' in Crazy?
Rhino: Let it begin! LET IT BEGIN!

Released in 2008, Bolt is the 48th film in the Disney Animated Canon and the first film of the canon to be entirely supervised by John Lasseter. It stars 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... 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.


This film provides examples of:

  • Acrofatic: Not as much outside of his ball, but Rhino can run long and fast (which is Truth in Television), and is strong enough to use it drag a ladder along the ground.
  • Actor Allusion: Near the climax, Bolt escapes a burning building just like Billy Nolan did.
  • Actor/Role Confusion: Rhino is just as oblivious to Bolt being an ordinary dog as Bolt himself is.
  • Adult Fear: The scene where Penny's mother is frantically searching for her daughter in the confusion and chaos outside the burning building. "Have you seen my daughter? Has anyone seen my baby?"
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Subverted in that only Bolt can fit out this way, but Penny is too big.
  • All Just a Dream: The "Super Rhino" short, which is only available on the Bolt DVD.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version has a different ending theme called "Onaji Sora wo Miageteru" ("I Look Up at the Same Sky").
  • 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 Eyes: Well, animal eye. Dr. Calico has one in the Show Within a Show.
  • 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 rantings 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. However, 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: invoked
    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 that 18 to 35 year olds are unhappy. 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!?
    • And this:
    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."
  • Artistic License: Mittens' being a declawed cat is treated a bit differently than it is in real life. In real life the procedure involves amputating parts of the cat's paws. In Bolt, it's more like just her claws were removed.
  • Art Shift: "Barking at the Moon" shifts from real life places to 2D graphics in the style of the Waffle World 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. This is somewhat deconstructed, as Mindy from the Network is annoyed at how the production seems to have misplaced priorities and threatens to start firing people. invoked
  • Ascended Fanboy: Rhino — and his voice actor, too, interestingly enough.
  • Ass-Kicking Pose: Bolt takes the same pose every time he does the Super Bark.
  • Assurance Backfire:
    Bolt: Calm down, cat. You're with me.
    Mittens: That's the problem!
  • Award-Bait Song:
    • "I Thought I Lost You" by Miley Cyrus and John Travolta.
    • Discussed in-universe, when the Hollywood pigeons are discussing their idea for an episode: "We've got a great pop song for the end credits!"
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The director's Enforced Method Acting on Bolt may get great acting out of him, but it's expensive, requires intense effort on the staff, and puts the already low-rated show at risk. invoked
  • Balloon Belly:
    • Mittens, after exploiting Bolt's cuteness in order to get food for them. Her Lampshade Hanging provides the page's current quote:
    "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 Heroes: 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.
  • Brandishment Bluff: Mittens threatens to unsheathe her claws on any pigeon unfortunate enough to fail to bring her a proper tribute of food, all the while never actually brandishing said claws. Makes sense given that the owners who abandoned her also had her declawed.
  • 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.
  • Broken Bird: Mittens.
  • Broken Masquerade: When Bolt finally learns he's not a super hero.
  • Calling Card: Penny's preferred method of getting the attention of the bad guys was to roll a penny into their line of vision.
  • Canines Primary, Felines Secondary: Bolt the dog is the main character. Mittens the cat is the eponymous dog's Sidekick.
  • Captain Ersatz: Bolt has more than a few resemblances to Krypto the Superdog. And that's Lampshaded by Bolt early on, when he scoffs at being asked if he can fly.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Subverted, since Bolt and Rhino were domesticated pets as was Mittens, who is also declawed and thus unable to hunt.
  • Catchphrase: Several.
    Penny: That's a keeper!
    Penny's Agent: Let's put a pin in it.
  • Cats Are Mean: A Zigzagged Trope. Bolt sees all cats as servants of Dr. Calico early on, because the Show Within a Show plays the trope straight, and the cats on the set are legitimately being mean to Bolt by exploiting his ignorance for their own amusement. Mittens herself fulfills the trope at first, behaving like a Mafia don toward the local pigeons, but drifts away from it as the film progresses. When Bolt realizes that this trope simply isn't true (at least, not to the extent he thinks it is), it's the first major step in his Character Development.
  • Cats Are Snarkers:
    • Mittens definitely plays this straight.
    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.
  • Cliffhanger: Created in order to make the Show Within a Show more appealing to a maturing target audience against its competition.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Both Bolt and Rhino qualify.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: Despite being almost as detached from reality as Bolt, Rhino's knowledge of typical plot elements makes him unknowingly wise at several critical moments, enough to provide a couple of inspirational Rousing Speeches.
  • Creative Closing Credits: The credits are pastel-colored, lineless 2D sequences showing Bolt, Penny, Mittens, and Rhino's life together.
  • Critical Dissonance: In-universe. The real-life viewer can clearly see the Stylistic Suck of the Show Within a Show, and Mindy Parker informs the in-universe crew that 18-35-year-old audiences complain about each episode's mandatory happy ending making it too cheery and predictable. Yet, based on all the HUGE promotional posters we see when Bolt enters the real world and how everyone seems to have seen his show, it seems said Show Within a Show is incredibly popular.
  • Curse Cut Short:
    Mittens: Slow down! You're scraping the fur off my— (slams face-first into into mailbox) 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. It doesn't work so well for Mittens, though.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Mittens is a declawed cat who was abandoned by her owners. "They leave her... wondering what she did wrong." She now no longer trusts any humans.
  • Darker and Edgier: The network executive basically forces the show's director to steer the show into this direction in order to grab ratings.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Mittens the cat and Mindy Parker from the Network.
  • Deathbringer the Adorable: Rhino the hamster.
  • Die for Our Ship: A hilarious in-universe Lampshade Hanging occurs when Rhino first meets Mittens and assumes she helped kidnap Penny.
    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.
  • Disappeared Dad/Missing Mom: Both — Penny has only a mother, but her in-show role is a character with only a father.
  • 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.
  • Dog Walks You: "Bolt, zoom-zoom!" In the Show Within a Show, Penny invokes this trope in order to get to places in a rush, using Bolt's super speed to drag her and her scooter. In the real world, she also uses this, complete with the same catchphrase, to get Bolt to lead her to safety.
  • Enforced Method Acting: The whole premise of the movie is this trope taken to its extreme to the point of a "Truman Show" Plot, with the director of the Show Within a Show using this In-Universe to make Bolt truly believe that he's protecting Penny with superpowers.
  • 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.
  • Evil Laugh: Rhino chew the scenery a bit when he gets out of his glass ball to rescue Bolt.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Fantastic Racism: Several varieties:
    • The cats who play Calico's cats clearly look down on dogs.
    • Bolt sees cats as "degenerate creatures of darkness", at least early on. This is because his show's villains are Dr Calico and his cat minions. He realizes later this is not true.
    • Mittens seems absolutely convinced that no human ever had real love for an animal. At least until she saw Penny genuinely sad that Bolt wasn't there.
  • Fat and Skinny: The two guys moving the couch that Bolt and Mittens hitch a ride on into a U-Haul truck.
  • Female Feline, Male Mutt: Mittens and Bolt.
  • Flashy Protagonists, Bland Extras: At the start of the Show Within a Show, Bolt is the only one of his siblings to be a White Shepherd.
  • For Want of a Nail: In an effort to simply boost ratings, a TV show loses its biggest star, resulting in his sub-par replacement almost killing his co-star, who quits shortly after, as is forced to make up a convoluted plot to cover it all up which (presumably) ends in its cancellation.
  • Freudian Excuse: Not only was Mittens abandoned, but she was de-clawed. This meant that she couldn't fend for herself after her family left her. And in an earlier draft, it was revealed that her name was actually Mr. Mittens because her owners never bothered to check if she was a boy or girl.
  • Gas-Cylinder Rocket: A gas tank in the animal shelter's back room loses its nozzle, shoots out into the parking lot, and knocks a neon sign over, destroying a car.
  • Genre Savvy: When Mittens invokes This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself, Rhino insists that this often results in a need for backup and follows Bolt anyway.
  • Gilligan Cut: "YOU'VE GOT NOTHING. No super strength, no super bark! ...And no heat vision."
  • Growling Gut: Mittens uses her growling stomach as a scare tactic on one of the pigeons she extorts food from. Later, Bolt, who's lifestyle has caused him to never experience hunger, feels his stomach growl and freaks out, assuming Mittens has poisoned 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 , 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.
  • Heroic BSoD: Bolt has one for a short time after realizing that most of his life has been not at all what it seemed. It only takes a quick pep talk from Rhino to snap him out of it, though.
  • Heroic Canines, Villainous Felines: In Bolt's show. This causes Bolt to think all cats are evil, so he is very distrusting towards Mittens until he learns better.
  • Heroic Fire Rescue: Bolt running into a burning soundstage to rescue his girl Penny.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Averted. See Load-Bearing Hero below.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Bolt does this to a mook in the TV show, and again in the real world when he does this to Mittens and she says anything to avoid being dropped.
  • The Homeward Journey: Bolt somehow ends up cross-country in New York, away from his "human", Penny. He spends most of the film making his way back to her in Hollywood.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Mittens' opinion through most of the film, not without reason.
  • 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.
  • Interspecies Friendship: Bolt the dog, Mittens the cat, and Rhino the hamster.
  • 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.
  • Ironic Echo: Lampshaded by the pigeons in a Don't Explain the Joke situation.
    "We had a deal!"
    "The deal's just expired."
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Play straight during the TV show. Subverted when Mittens plays along to Bolt's delusion in order to save herself from being dropped off a bridge.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mittens.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Penny's agent, who at first seems to sympathize with Penny's mother in her distress, but then tries to persuade her to use the disaster for publicity.
  • Jumped at the Call: Lampshaded by Rhino.
    Rhino: Ring, ring! Who is it? Destiny? I've been expecting your call.
  • Jumped the Shark: invoked The Show Within a Show after Penny quit.
    Dr. Calico: Aliens!
    [cut to Rhino sitting on a couch]
    Rhino: That is totally unrealistic.
  • Keet: Rhino.
  • 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 well being. 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.
  • Large Ham:
    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.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • The reason Mittens is singled out and taken prisoner by Bolt, is because the pigeons she was running a protection racket against told him that she was the "evil minion of the green-eyed man" he was looking for.
    • To a lesser extent, everyone working on the Show Within a Show: the cliff-hanger ending Mindy demands to make the show less predictable indirectly results in the show losing one its stars when he runs away to find and save Penny, who he still thinks is in danger. The trained dog who replaces him nearly kills Penny by knocking over a flaming column on-set and her mother pulls her out of the show when it's clear that the studio has no concern for anything except ratings. When they're forced to make up a story about why Penny has a new face when another actress takes the role, the show jumps the shark and (presumably) gets canceled shortly thereafter.
  • 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.
    • Mindy from the Network informing the show creators that 18-35 year old viewers (clearly a Periphery Demographic) complaining that each episode having a mandatory happy ending makes the show too saccharine and predictable clearly mirrors the then-commonly held belief among real-life adults that sincere Disney fairy tales were too saccharine and predictable (unlike the more "realistic" cynical post-Shrek films that also had mandatory happy endings). See Take That, Audience! for more details. invoked
  • Licensed Game: One that functions as Rhino watching the "Bolt" TV show instead of following the film.
  • 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.
    Rhino: It is a good day to die...
    Mittens: Not on my watch, rodent!
  • Look Behind You: "That's a weird place to put a piano."
  • 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.
  • Mad Artist: The show's director is a downplayed version. He's not a sadist, but his insistence on Enforced Method Acting for a dog despite how clearly expensive and time-consuming it is for production (which Mindy from the Network points out) and the clear mental health strain it puts on said dog (which Penny is worried by), all to fulfill his mad vision, clearly puts him in this territory. invoked
  • 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.
  • Meadow Run: Studio run, more precisely. First instance was the Show Within a Show, but the second is Penny genuinely reuniting with Bolt.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor:
  • Meaningful Name: Dr. Calico. "Calico" is a coat-pattern found in cats. It also borders on Gender-Blender Name, as nearly all calico cats are female.
  • Misguided Missile: During the in-show Action Prologue.
  • Mistaken from Behind: When Bolt is first lost in New York, he sees what he thinks is his arch-nemesis Dr. Calico from behind. He tries to knock him out with a karate chop, but not only is the man not Dr. Calico, but the chop has no effect on him, which confuses Bolt.
  • Neck Snap: Discussed. This is not within his physiological capacities, but when a dozing guard presents an obstacle, Rhino says in dead earnest:
    Rhino: Right. I'll snap his neck.
    Bolt: (aghast) No!
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Substitute Hero: Bolt's replacement freaks out on-set when he's supposed to be saving Penny, knocking over a torch and setting the place on fire.
  • 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.
  • 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 sequence in question was being filmed in an older studio, which at the time of construction weren't the best at not catching on fire. They're effectively large warehouses, which also tended to have fires go from matchstick to inferno very fast. Even ones built today can very quickly become a blast furnace. As a result, they tend to have emergency exits everywhere. As for why the studio lacked emergency exits, odds are, many of the exists were covered by scenery (something that is illegal, and could've resulted in the studio paying hefty fines in-universe), blocking their use for escape.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Though they're never romantically involved, the interaction between Bolt and Mittens has a lot of the hallmarks of a romantic subplot, complete with a pseudo-Falling-in-Love Montage. By the end, they're basically Platonic Life-Partners.
  • 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.
  • Only Sane Woman: Poor, poor Mittens.
  • 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.
    • And at the end with the other Penny. With her it was given the in-universe explanation of plastic surgery.
  • A Pet into the Wild: The film revolves around a sheltered celebrity dog who ends up lost in the wild. Along the way he befriends a stray cat and a stray hamster. The conflict revolves around Bolt not believing that he doesn't actually have super powers.
  • 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.
  • Platonic Declaration of Love: Soon after the titular dog has finally managed to get back to his beloved owner, Penny, a fire breaks out on a set while she's filming. Bolt goes after her, but he can't find a way to get her out. Penny, suffering from smoke inhalation, tells Bolt she loves him just before she loses consciousness.
  • Pounds Are Animal Prisons: 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 three 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.
  • Protagonist Title
  • 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: Basically the premise of the movie. Bolt's early attempts to use his superpowers in the real-world never end well. It takes him a while 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. invoked
  • Redemption in the Rain: Only briefly, but with bonus points for the extra layer of symbolism. The rain is also washing away Bolt's lightning bolt mark, and he's perfectly fine with that.
  • Riches to Rags: In the end, Penny and Bolt leave the show and move to the country to live a more normal, simplistic life.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter:
    • Bolt, both as a puppy and as a full-grown dog.
    • Rhino, especially when he does Puppy-Dog Eyes.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Dr. Calico has multiple ones.
  • 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.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Inverted with the eager but naive Bolt, and the down-and-out, sharp-witted Mittens.
  • Scenery Porn: Which of course, leads to this.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Show Within a Show: Bolt's show, incidentally also called "Bolt", about a superheroic dog protecting and helping his human owner.
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: Mittens is arguably even more of a Butt-Monkey than Bolt.
  • Smart Animal, Average Human: Penny, the average child actress, and her intelligent (if misguided) dog Bolt who travelled from New York to Hollywood to get back to her.
  • Stock Superpowers: In-show, Bolt has Eye Beams, a Super Bark, Super Strength, and Super Speed. Basically, he's a Flying Brick, without the actual flying part.
  • Story-Breaker Power: "Speak" is Penny's command for Bolt's super-bark.
  • 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 Hand: 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.
  • Take That, Audience!: Possibly. At the start of the film, Mindy from the Network complains that the show is unpopular among 18-35 year olds (an in-universe Periphery Demographic) who feel each episode ending happily makes it too saccharine and predictable, and the show's attempts to appease the critics leads to disaster for all the characters (and the show in the long run). At the time this film was released, the animation industry was engulfed in a cynical post-Shrek era, with Disney's supposed saccharine movies and predictable happy endings being popular Snark Bait among adults, which led to Disney falling into a rather infamous Dork Age by trying to appease cynics at the expense of film quality. (Something John Lasseter was vocally against and determined to put an end to when he signed on with Disney, starting with this film.)
  • The Power of Friendship: Especially in Rhino's speech to Mittens in Las Vegas.
  • They Changed It, Now It Sucks!: In-Universe, After Penny and Bolt leave the show, they are replaced by different actors and the new Big Bads are now aliens. Rhino is not happy with the changes.
  • Third-Act Misunderstanding: Bolt witnessing Penny embracing his replacement and running off thinking Penny never really loved him when she was actually just acting in a scene.
  • This Is Wrong on So Many Levels: Mittens said a variant of this:
    Bolt: If I stare at the lock really hard, it'll burst into flames and melt.
    Mittens: (with a look of shock) Now I'm concerned on a number of levels.
  • Time Skip: The movie starts with a young Penny adopting Bolt, then skips ahead five years to the TV show.
  • Toilet-Drinking Dog Gag: One lesson Mittens the cat gives to Bolt the dog during their travels cross-country is that the toilet bowl doubles as a water dish. Bolt is aghast and mildly squicked at this news.
  • Toilet Humour: Literal, when Mittens introduces Bolt to a toilet, implying she told him dogs drink from it.
    Bolt: Out of this?! But...but...
  • Travel Montage: Mostly used to show Mittens teaching Bolt how to act like a normal dog, rather than a superhero.
  • Triumphant Reprise: "... no home like the one you've got, 'cause that home belongs to you."
  • Troperrific: The entire opening is a complete spoof of Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay films. There are tons of tropes and cliches in the action and the dialogue. It's hysterical.
  • Tropey, Come Home: The main plot.
  • 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.
  • Unnamed Parent: Penny's mom.
  • Unwilling Suspension: Penny in the Show Within a Show. The ropes are for show, she's safely harnessed.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Mindy's threat to the director to give the viewers an unhappy ending backfires horribly when Bolt (who believes the show to be real) thinks that Penny is in real danger and gets shipped off by accident when trying to find her. This leads to the show getting a replacement for Bolt who is too scared to play the character, and puts Penny and the real Bolt in danger when he unintentionally sets fire to the studio.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Played with; see the Kryptonite Factor example.
    Bolt: You don't know the power of Styrofoam!
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Lampshaded by Mittens when she and Bolt get picked up by Animal Control.
    Mittens: They always pick the cute ones — the ones that look like you, Bolt — but the rest of us never come back out.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The credits show Bolt and Penny enjoying their new simple life together along with Mittens, Rhino and her mother.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: In-Universe on the show, Penny's dad says she cannot go home after being attacked by Dr. Calico.
  • Your Other Left: When Mittens is teaching Bolt how to do the dog begging face and pose.


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