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Western Animation / Bolt

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A hero is unleashed!note 

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.

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 features the voices of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Malcolm McDowell, and Disney story artist Mark Walton.

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 (2010) for rival DreamWorks Animation.

This film provides examples of:

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  • 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.
  • 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 to drag a ladder along the ground.
  • Accidental Passenger: The Wonder Dog hears Penny's cries of distress, which are just recordings that some sound editors are tweaking. Bolt tries to leap through a window, but smacks against the glass, and falls backwards into a shipping box full of packing peanuts. A mail room kid tapes the box shut, then sends it to a freight hauler. This is how Bolt suddenly finds himself in New York City, almost four thousand kilometers away from where he started.
  • 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.
  • Air-Vent Passageway: Subverted in that only Bolt can fit out the air vent opening the dog finds in the burning studio — Penny is too big. Bolt chooses to stay with Penny instead.
  • All Just a Dream: The "Super Rhino" short (which is only available on the Bolt DVD) is revealed at the end to be the hamster's dream.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version has a different ending theme called "Onaji Sora wo Miageteru" ("I Look Up at the Same Sky") by Natsu Kai.
  • Amplified Animal Aptitude: Bolt is an extremely smart dog and can do several things most pooches can't, such as think strategically (he tricks the Hollywood pigeons into leading him to Sovereign Studio) and 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 is shown in the film as being able to read, and she's smart enough to set up a Godfather-style protection ring with the New York pigeons to feed herself. The end credits also show the three pets reading books, enjoying a puppet show put on by Penny, and engaging in home music-making.
  • …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 does 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 the dog to rescue Mittens. Although he does; let it slip that he's referring to himself.
  • Animal Eyes: Well, animal eye. Dr. Calico has one in the Show Within a Show. His right eye is green and has a vertical slit for a pupil.
  • Animal Superheroes: Subverted — Bolt in the show is a dog superhero, Bolt in real life isn't (and eventually learns this the hard way).
  • 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 control officer. Despite being different species, though, Bolt, Mittens, Rhino, and the various pigeons can talk to and understand each other.
  • 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 reasons to jeopardize a dog's mental well-being, endanger a young girl's life, or stifle 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! (beat) 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 on several occasions by Penny) "You're a good boy. You're my good boy."
  • Artistic License – Biology: The fact that Bolt and Penny survived the studio fire is nothing short of miraculous. Even if they had managed to avoid being burned, they almost certainly would have died from smoke inhalation in the enclosed space — something which most commonly kills fire victims and furthermore claims its victims quickly.
  • 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. When the studio is shooting a scene with Bolt's replacement, it's clearly on a smaller set, with multiple takes. invoked
  • Art Shift:
    • The animation for "Barking at the Moon" shifts from depicting real life places to 2D graphics in the style of the Waffle World map earlier in the movie.
    • The end credits sequence shows a similar flat style of animation.
  • Ascended Fanboy: Rhino definitely qualifies. The hamster leaves the comfort of his RV home to join his TV hero on a cross-country journey and more than carries his freight. He frees Bolt from the animal control van, helps Bolt rescue Mittens from the pound, serves as an inspirational catalyst for prodding Bolt and Mittens to persevere during rough patches during their journey, and props open the collapsing studio door just long enough to allow Bolt to get in and save Penny. This describes his voice actor, too, interestingly enough; Mark Walton was originally only supposed to be a placeholder voice for Rhino, but he was so convincing that he was retained to do the character's voice in the film.
  • Ass Kicking Pose: Bolt assumes the same position every time he does the Super Bark — right front foot forward, right hind foot back, coil head to the left, swing head back around to the front, and woof!
  • Assurance Backfire: Bolt's cocky attempt to convince Mittens he knows what he's doing just before swinging down onto the train passing below does nothing to reassure the resisting cat. Rightly so, too.
    Bolt: Calm down, cat. You're with me.
    Mittens: That's the problem!
  • Award-Bait Song: Occurs both during the film and in-universe.
    • "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 performances out of him, but it's expensive, requires intense effort on the part of the staff, takes a tremendous toll on the dog, and puts the already low-rated show at risk. invoked
  • Baffled by Own Biology: When Bolt is separated from his owner Penny, his stomach gurgles. Because he's used to being well-fed, he's terrified and believes Mittens has poisoned him.
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the climax, Penny appears to be tearfully welcoming Bolt back but she's really doing a run-through of the show with a replacement dog. Subverted in that she would've reacted that way if she'd known the real Bolt was there.
  • Balloon Belly: Mittens, after exploiting Bolt's cuteness in order to get food for them, sports a fully-rounded stomach. She lampshades it.
    "Hey! Look! My stomach's distended! How great is that?"
  • Big Damn Heroes: Played straight and inverted.
    • Applies directly several times, both in the show and out of it.
      • In the Show Within a Show when Bolt protects Penny, first during their escape from Dr. Calico's mooks who are chasing them on motorcycles and in helicopters, and later with Bolt's super bark at the airport.
      • Outside the Show Within a Show when Bolt and Rhino rescue Mittens from the pound, as well as when Bolt (with help from Mittens and Rhino) saves Penny from the studio fire.
    • Inverted when Bolt's replacement actually flips out and botches his first one we see, causing the fire that is the climax of the film.
  • Bio-Augmentation: Subverted. Bolt is depicted as having been changed into a super dog by Penny's TV dad using laboratory-based manipulation, but it's all fictional. The dog does not have superpowers, a fact that is most obvious once he's accidentally shipped off set (though it takes a while before Bolt realizes this).
  • 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.
  • 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 is bitter and angry after having been abandoned in a Manhattan alley. The film shows her slowly coming out of her brittle state.
  • Broken Masquerade: Of the Tomato in the Mirror type regarding Bolt. It takes some time to take hold because of his stubborn nature, but the dog finally realizes something is wrong with how he perceives himself — that he's not a superhero, just an ordinary pooch. Any time he tries to invoke a superpower from the Show Within a Show (using the super bark, doing a karate chop, attempting a super-long leap, trying to melt metal with heat vision), it fails dramatically, much to his puzzlement.
  • Calling Card: Penny's preferred method of getting the attention of the bad guys is to roll a penny into their line of vision. Bolt copies this to distract the young men using the U-Haul truck in order to get him and Mittens aboard it.
  • Canine Confusion: Bolt is an unusually small white shepherd. White shepherds are an off-shoot of the German shepherd and are a large breed. As a five-year old adult, he's barely larger than a house cat, less than half as big as he should be. He's puppy-sized, not adult-sized. Another white Shepherd is shown and it's the same size, so it isn't just Bolt being unusually small.
  • 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, at least in the Show Within a Show, such as super speed and super strength. And that's Lampshaded by Bolt early on, when he scoffs at being asked if he can fly (which he cannot do, even in the TV show).
  • Cardboard Box Home: Mittens tries to entice Bolt into staying in Las Vegas with her by showing him the homes she made for them out of cardboard boxes and some cushions.
  • Carnivore Confusion: Mostly averted, as the three main characters (a dog, a cat and a hamster) are treated as omnivores who eat only human food (hot dogs, buffet dumpster discards). Justified in that Bolt and Rhino have no experience outside human care, while Mittens has been abandoned by her owners after being declawed and can no longer hunt effectively.
  • 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, her dialogue defaulting consistently to wry, sarcastic, sometimes bitter observations. She is that trope page's picture for a good reason.
      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 Lead Cat, a skinny black cat who works on the set with Bolt, is another example. He's the lead instigator behind teasing Bolt in his trailer, and speaks disdainfully of the dog to his chubby feline co-worker.
  • Chained Heat: Bolt invokes this between himself and Mittens because of his belief that all cats are evil underlings of his show's Big Bad (who he believes is real), and that she must know where Penny is due to that association. He uses a leash to link themselves together.
  • Character Catchphrase:
    Penny: That's a keeper!
    Penny's Agent: Let's put a pin in it.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Applies to 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:
    • Bolt's "zoom-zoom" skill from the TV show later comes in handy when the dog pulls 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. Also qualifies as a Chekhov's Gag, since the original scene with Rhino was meant to be a funny scene.
  • Cliché Storm: In-Universe, Mindy informs this is the general audience reaction to Bolt's show.
  • Cliffhanger: Created in order to make the Show Within a Show more appealing to a maturing target audience against its competition. Until now, each episode has seen Bolt and Penny successfully repel capture attempts from Dr. Calico — but the final episode filmed using Bolt has a Downer Ending, with Penny being taken prisoner. The expected rescue sequel episode apparently gets put on indefinite hold once Bolt escapes his trailer and runs away to save his master.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Bolt and Rhino, both reasonably likable characters, are eccentric, head-in-the-clouds characters with unusual outlooks on life.
    • Bolt understandably is very much a Fish out of Water, given that he has never known any reality other than that on his Show Within a Show. He believes the real world conforms to the "reality" presented on his TV program, complete with Dr. Calico being behind all the world's evil and all cats being that villain's minions. The dog also behaves as if his super powers are real, causing much grief to himself and his friends, until he learns otherwise.
    • Rhino lives a sheltered existence, a creature whose only comprehension of the outside world comes from what he sees on television. Much of the time, he views life as if it were a melodramatic action-adventure program. Ironically, it also at times lets him understand issues in a surprisingly savvy way, allowing him to encourage first Bolt and then Mittens to persevere when they're ready to give up on each other.
  • Cloudcuckoolander's Minder: Once she is (literally) roped into accompanying Bolt, Mittens often ends up playing the role of rational Straight Man to the naively deluded dog, though not always successfully. She explains a number of things he hasn’t encountered before, such as teaching him the concept of hunger (and how to beg for food like normal dogs do) and not putting himself in situations where he will be injured (given that Bolt thinks he has superpowers, she rarely convinces him on this issue, however). Later, Mittens teaches him how dogs act in real life as they go across country, and in Los Angeles tells Bolt that Penny really does love him (stalling him long enough to discover that the girl is in trouble).
  • Company Cross References: Blake, one of the Los Angeles pigeons, cross references Pixar when he says, "Don't freak out. This is how you blew it with Nemo."
  • Creative Closing Credits: The credits are pastel-colored, lineless 2D sequences showing Bolt, Penny, Mittens, and Rhino's post-canon 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.
  • 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.
  • Curse Cut Short: Uttered by Mittens as she's being dragged by Bolt at the other end of a leash.
    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 forces the program's director to steer the show into a Downer Ending Cliffhanger in order to boost ratings.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • Mittens consistently offers up wry, sarcastic, and sometimes bitter observations.
      Mittens: Hey. Can we talk for a second? I don't know what's going on here, but I'm just a little bit concerned about the number of lunatics on this trip. My limit is one.
    • Mindy Parker ("from the Network") has some choice snark for the Director after he grandiosely defends his use of Enforced Method Acting in-universe on Bolt to get a realistic performance.
      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 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?
  • Deathbringer the Adorable: Rhino turns out to be a pint-sized and cute, if very intense, hamster.
  • Deceptively Cute Critter: Downplayed example; Mittens teaches Bolt how to beg for food, using his cuteness to his advantage.
  • 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: Applies to most of the people in the studio at the film's climax. 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 by three of the crew members, who try to reach her but are overwhelmed by the smoke and forced to escape.
  • Disappeared Dad: While Penny's in-show role is a character who only has a father, we only see the girl's mother when she's off-screen.
  • Distant Reaction Shot: The explosion of a helicopter in the opening action sequence knocks over a paper cup several miles away.
  • A Dog Named "Cat": Rhino the hamster. Lampshaded.
    Mittens: Rhino... the hamster?
    Rhino: Well, my ancestry isn't all hamster. I'm one-sixteenth wolf with, you know, a little wolverine in there somewhere...
  • 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: Penny uses the command "Bolt, zoom-zoom!" in the Show Within a Show to get to places quickly using the dog's super speed to pull her along, and in the real world to get Bolt to lead her to safety.
  • Downer Ending: The Show Within a Show seemingly ends on one, as Bolt escapes before the follow-up can be produced. Penny is captured by Dr. Calico, ending on a cliffhanger.
  • Ear Ache: Mittens bites onto Bolt's ear and drags him protestingly over to a billboard, attempting to convince him that Penny's love for the dog isn't real and he should remain with Mittens in Las Vegas. Bolt's reaction makes it clear that he finds this painful.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Applies to Bolt and those closest to him, all of whom very much exemplify this trope when they end up happily living in a rural setting.
    • Bolt has spent most of his life on a TV show under horrific stress, continually tricked into believing his owner is in mortal danger and teased mercilessly by his cat co-stars. He is then accidentally shipped to New York and spends much of the film trying to return to Penny. Along the way, he learns he has no superpowers, nearly killing himself and his friends on several occasions. When he returns to Los Angeles, he first thinks Penny has transferred her love to another dog, then undertakes a harrowing rescue of his master from a studio fire.
    • Mittens is first seen abandoned by her owners in a Manhattan alley, declawed and reduced to bullying pigeons out of their food to avoid starvation. She is kidnapped and treated badly by Bolt (nearly being killed a few times along the way and spending the day in an animal shelter) until the dog realizes he has no super powers. Ultimately, she redeems herself by helping Bolt discover the joys of being a normal dog (despite their ugly falling out in Las Vegas), as well as by alerting Bolt to the fact that Penny does indeed love him after the dog dejectedly leaves the studio.
    • Rhino leaves his owner to join Bolt and Mittens on their cross-country journey. He is nearly killed in the train scene along with his friends and undergoes significant peril during Mittens' rescue from the pound. Ultimately, he proves his worth by giving both his friends inspirational pep-talks to do the right thing, as well as assisting Bolt in his rescue of Penny by propping the collapsing studio door open with his plastic ball.
    • Penny has spent the last several years acting in a TV show that puts her through dangerous stunts and mistreats her dog; her concerns are not taken seriously by either her agent or the show's director. Bolt is accidentally shipped off to New York, which upsets Penny immensely — all the more so because she has to continue the show with a replacement who looks like Bolt. She narrowly escapes with her life in a studio fire.
  • Edgy Backwards Chair-Sitting: As the Director excitedly explains his approach to making the Show Within a Show to Mindy Parker, he sits backwards in a chair with wheels on the bottom, leaning his arms on the chair back and wheeling it forward towards her.
  • Enforced Method Acting: invoked 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: When a sign falls on Ester's new truck with a propane tank on board, it explodes in a huge fireball.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Zig-Zagged. Although the New York pigeons dislike Mittens for her mistreatment of them enough to sic Bolt on her, even they look stunned to see Bolt dangle Mittens over moving traffic. When Vinnie asks Joey if they have gone too far, Joey simply says "You kiddin'? This is the best day of my life.".
  • 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:
    • A hearty, malevolent laugh is stock-in-trade for Dr. Calico on the TV show.
    • The Lead Cat uses a demonstrative menacing laugh when he teases Bolt in his trailer.
    • Inverted when Rhino chews the scenery a bit as he gets out of his hamster ball to rescue Bolt. His laugh may sound diabolical, but he's not an evil character.
    • Subverted by the Lead Cat's chubby feline friend. When the two cats go and taunt Bolt a second time, he says he has been working on his evil laugh and demonstrates it. Turns out it's anything but, and the Lead Cat lampshades this.
  • Executive Meddling: An in-universe example is what kickstarts the film's plot. Concerned about declining ratings, Mindy Parker demands that changes be made to make the show more dramatic, and threatens to fire the director if ratings decline any further. The director responds with an Ass Pull cliffhanger in which Dr. Calico kidnaps Penny, but due to the show's Enforced Method Acting, Bolt believe Penny's been kidnapped for real and breaks out of the set to go and rescue her.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Mittens’ reaction when she learns Bolt is actually an actor for a TV show.
    Rhino: Every time he did this on the magic box, it was awesome!
    Mittens: Magic what?
    Rhino: You know, the magic box people stare at.
    Mittens: Wait a minute, does this box have moving pictures on it?
    Rhino: Yeah, and Bolt's pictures are the best.
    Mittens: Bolt's pictures. Of course, he's from a… Oh no! Oh no. No, wait, wait. Bolt, dog, hear me out!
  • Eye Beams: Subverted, as is the case with Bolt’s other superpowers. On his show, the dog is shown shooting heat vision beams from his eyes, using them to blow up objects such as a helicopter. Unbeknownst to Bolt, however, he’s just an actor and doesn’t really have this ability — something Mittens wryly points out to him while they’re riding as captives in an animal control wagon.
  • Face Palm: A mook in the opening action sequence does a forehead style face-palm 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:
    • 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 villain is Dr. Calico, who is surrounded by cat minions. He realizes later this is not true.
    • Mittens seems absolutely convinced that no human has ever had real love for an animal. At least until she saw Penny genuinely sad that Bolt wasn't there.
  • Fat and Skinny:
    • Describes the two guys moving the couch that Bolt and Mittens hitch a ride with into the U-Haul truck.
    • Holds for the two cats who tease Bolt in his trailer, the skinny Lead Cat and his chubby sidekick.
  • Female Feline, Male Mutt: Female cat Mittens and male dog Bolt illustrate the trope.
  • Flashy Protagonists, Bland Extras: At the start of the Show Within a Show, Bolt is the only one of his pound-mates to be a White Shepherd.
  • Foreshadowing: While Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino are riding in a modular home, Rhino starts singing to himself into an air conditioning vent, which amplifies his voice. While this is Played for Laughs, Bolt later does the same thing to alert the firefighters to where he and Penny are inside the burning movie studio.
  • 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, which provides some justification for her running a protection racket to con food out of the local pigeons. And in an earlier version of the script, it was revealed that her name was actually Mr. Mittens because her owners never bothered to check to see if she was a boy or girl. It's no wonder she doesn't trust humans at the start of the film.
  • 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 the boss's new truck.
  • Genre Savvy: When Mittens invokes This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself after Bolt leaves, Rhino insists that this often results in a need for backup and follows Bolt anyway.
  • Gilligan Cut: When the dog and cat are trapped in separate compartments of an animal control van, Mittens peevishly shouts to the pooch's declaration that he'll get them out, "YOU'VE GOT NOTHING. No super strength, no super bark!... And no heat vision." Cut to Bolt intensely staring at the metal door trying to burn it open.
  • Growling Gut: Mittens uses her growling stomach as a scare tactic on one of the pigeons she extorts food from. Later, Bolt, whose lifestyle has caused him never to experience hunger, feels his stomach growl and freaks out, assuming Mittens has poisoned him.
  • Hamster-Wheel Power: At the very end, we find the roll of the Closing Credits is hamster-powered.
  • Happily Ever After:
    • The film provides a meta-example of how this trope isn't always a good thing. One of the criticisms Mindy levels at the Show Within a Show, and which she demands the director address, is that every episode ends like this, making it too boring and predictable. The director's attempt to create a more dramatic ending, however, clashes with his use of invoked Enforced Method Acting and results in Bolt breaking out of the studio.
    • The movie itself ends in this way (albeit as an example of Earn Your Happy Ending), with Penny quitting the show, reuniting with Bolt, and adopting Mittens and Rhino.
  • 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.
  • 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 learn how to be a real dog and rescuing Rhino as he tries to prop open a door to the burning studio with his ball.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Happens a short time after Bolt realizes 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.
    • Occurs shortly after Bolt returns to the studio. He runs to Penny, thinking she's welcoming him back, only to see his replacement dash up and get hugged by her instead. The shocked look on Bolt's face is heartbreaking, and he sadly trudges away.
  • Heroic Canines, Villainous Felines: In Bolt's show, he's the hero and every cat is an evil sidekick. This causes Bolt to think all cats are villainous, so he is very distrusting towards Mittens until he learns better.
  • Heroic Fire Rescue: Bolt runs into a burning soundstage to rescue his girl Penny.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Averted. During the climax of the film, Rhino uses his own hamster ball to prop open the collapsing entry into the 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.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Bolt does this by dangling the unfortunate recipient over the side of a bridge.
    • In the TV show, to a mook in a car.
    • In the real world, to Mittens. She "confesses" to being a minion of Dr. Calico to avoid being dropped.
  • The Homeward Journey: Bolt ends up across the country in New York, away from his "human" Penny. He spends most of the film making his way back to her in Hollywood, accompanied by Mittens and Rhino.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: Mittens' opinion of humans is wholly negative through most of the film, though not without reason.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Rhino spends most of the film believing that Bolt's powers are real, despite it not being realistic (in-universe anyway) — then, at the end of the movie when he watches a new episode of Bolt incorporating aliens into the storyline, Rhino turns off the TV in disgust while commenting on the idea being "totally unrealistic."

  • Impairment Shot: Played with regarding Penny post-surgery 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 to adjust to the light.
  • Inexplicable Cornered Escape: A rare villainous version. Bolt and Penny observe a mook receive his orders from Doctor Calico. The pair shadow this mook as he leaves the building, turns left, and walks down an alleyway. After he makes a right turn, Bolt and Penny come to the corner, and peer around it. Surprise! the mook is gone, and that part of the alleyway is a dead end. Suddenly, a steel panel slides into place, preventing Bolt and Penny from leaving the way they came.
  • Ink-Suit Actor:
    • Bolt has John Travolta's expressive eyebrows.
    • Penny is basically Miley Cyrus with a short bob.
    • Mittens has Susie Essman's ecstatic smile and eyelashes.
    • Penny's agent bears a strong resemblance to his voice actor, Greg Germann.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Penny's agent. He isn't malicious; just unable to truly understand empathy.
  • Insulting from Behind the Language Barrier: Bolt and a pair of cats are talking to each other, and when Bolt gets angry at them, he starts barking, with the implication that he's cursing in dog language. Subverted in that later, when Rhino talks to a human, the human only hears realistic hamster noises, indicating that the animals are always speaking their animal languages, even when we hear them speaking English.
  • 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 every episode ends with Bolt being victorious — thus prompting the cliffhanger and thereby the plot of the movie.
  • Ironic Echo: Lampshaded by the pigeons in a Don't Explain the Joke situation. The first such exchange comes between Louie and Mittens, the second (lampshaded) one between Mittens and Bolt.
    Mittens: We had a deal!
    Bolt: Your deal just expired.
    Louie: She said that to me not ten minutes ago. (laughs) The irony!
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Played straight during the TV show when Bolt holds a car containing a villain over the edge of a bridge. Subverted when Mittens plays along with Bolt's delusion in order to save herself from being dropped off a bridge when the dog does the same thing to her.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold:
    • Bolt is incredibly accusatory at the beginning of the film because of his delusions surrounding his TV show, making him act thoroughly insensitive towards others in the real world and even threaten to drop Mittens into a freeway as part of an interrogation. He eventually softens up a little when he realizes he's in the real world.
    • Mittens fits the trope. When we first meet her, she is running a Mafia-style protection racket, bullying pigeons out of their food. She is also clearly antagonistic towards Bolt initially (not without cause, as he kidnaps her and treats her with disrespect). After the dog rescues her from the animal shelter, Mittens gradually warms up to Bolt, teaching him how real-life dogs behave, and they become friends. Later, she runs off to tell Bolt that Penny really loves him, and rescues Rhino from his plastic ball as it begins to crack under the weight of a collapsing door.
    • Rhino starts out as a Loony Fan who, like Bolt, thinks that the TV show is real and, therefore, acts on his biggest delusions - which includes dropping Bolt and Mittens onto a moving freight train as part of a life-threatening stunt. He's also snarky and short-tempered. However, despite this, he's a Token Good Teammate compared to the other two protagonists as he actually has a good side underneath him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Penny's agent, who at first seems to sympathize with Penny's mother in her distress after the studio fire, but then tries to persuade her to use the disaster for publicity.
  • Jumped at the Call: Lampshaded by Rhino, who feels he has seized his chance to be a hero by rescuing Bolt from the animal control van.
    Rhino: Ring, ring! Who is it? Destiny? I've been expecting your call.
  • Jumped the Shark: Happens to the Show Within a Show after Penny quits. Penny's replacement comes across as a less accomplished actress, and the show is reduced to using aliens as villains — something Rhino immediately remarks on as he turns off the television.
    Dr. Calico: Aliens!
    [cut to Rhino sitting on a couch]
    Rhino: That is totally unrealistic.
  • Just Train Wrong: In real life, freight trains are carefully inspected (with any flaws repaired) before being sent out on trips. It's thus extremely unlikely that Bolt and his friends would have had to contend with the rickety, poorly-secured ladder that gives them so much trouble on their ill-fated train ride in real life.

  • Keet: Rhino, who is hyperactively energetic to a fault.
  • Kryptonite Factor: Bolt assumes Styrofoam packing peanuts took his powers away when he first discovers he doesn't have them. 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 plenty annoying as it is — but his complete inability to relate to Penny on a basic level of human decency, especially when she's visibly worried for Bolt's well-being, is particularly noteworthy. Look closely at his face when Penny asks to take Bolt home. He rolls his eyes before turning around 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: In general, this applies to everyone who buys into the Hollywood ethos. Note that once Bolt realizes he has no superpowers, he becomes far more low-key and less demonstrative (for example, the superhero lingo vanishes from his vocabulary).
    • Bolt (at least for the first half of the film) and Rhino both qualify.
    • The director of the Show Within a Show is even hammier though. James Lipton leaves no giant cows unmilked.
      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 MICS... because, Mindy from the network... invoked if the dog believes it... then the audience believes it.
    • Dr. Calico spends all his screen time picking pieces of scenery out of his teeth. Then again, that was to be expected given who voices him.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • Mittens is singled out and taken prisoner by Bolt 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, this hits everyone working on the Show Within a Show. The cliff-hanger ending Mindy demands to make the show less predictable results in the show losing its star 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:
    • 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
    • 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.
  • Little Miss Badass: Given how Bolt's show is produced, Penny would have to do all of her own stunts, and if the video game is anything to go by, said stunts include feats of acrobatics and martial arts, thereby making her this.
  • 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's a good day to die...
    Mittens: Not on my watch, rodent!
  • Look Behind You: Bolt tries to distract Mittens and get her to drop the "threatening" piece of styrofoam she is holding by saying "That's a weird place to put a piano." Given that Mittens is street savvy, it's surprising she falls for Bolt's lame ruse.
  • 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 artistic vision, clearly puts him in this territory. invoked
  • Mama Bear: Penny's mother punches out the agent when he tries to tell them they can use Penny's accident at the end of the film as publicity leverage.
  • Meadow Run: Studio run, more precisely.
    • Subverted in rehearsal for the Show Within a Show. Penny calls for Bolt and happily runs towards him. Turns out it's a scene rehearsal — before Bolt can emerge from the shadows for his expected hug, his replacement on the show runs up to the girl and falls into her arms. Needless to say, Bolt is devastated.
    • Played straight during the studio fire, when Penny genuinely reunites with Bolt with an affectionate hug.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: The actors playing Dr. Calico's Mooks in the Show Within a Show. On-screen, they're a threat to Penny and Bolt; when the cameras aren't rolling, they're generally nice to their co-stars and crew.
    • During filming, the mooks are nice to the crew who assist them, and one of them says, "Thanks, Larry" in a grateful tone after having his helmet shield wiped clean.
    • Towards the end of the film, Rhino spots one of Calico's mooks and charges toward him to attack. The actor merely picks up Rhino's ball and proceeds to gush about how adorable he is, oblivious to Rhino's attempts to fight him.
    • The Big Guy playing Calico's henchman in the first action scene fulfills this trope near the end of the movie — he's one of the few people who runs back into the burning studio to try and rescue Penny. He is seen shortly afterwards getting oxygen from a canister to treat smoke inhalation.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Misguided Missile: During the in-show Action Prologue, a missile trailing Bolt misses the dog and takes out one of the villains' Black Helicopters.
  • Missing Mom: The only parent we see in the Show Within a Show for Penny's character is her genius-scientist father. It's the reverse for the girl off-screen.
  • 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 the man out with a karate chop — but not only is he not Dr. Calico, the chop further has no effect on him. This thoroughly confuses Bolt, as it has always worked before on his show.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: Like many other fictional examples, Dr. Calico is depicted as a heinous villain despite having a terminal college degree.
  • Nearly Normal Animal: All of the animal characters fit this description, belonging to the "Largely Normal Animal" subtype. They can talk to each other (but not to humans) and can perform a few human-like actions, but for the most part they act like their species normally would.
  • 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, Hero: Or substitute hero, in this case. Bolt's replacement freaks out on-set when he's supposed to save Penny, knocking over a torch and setting the studio on fire.
  • No Antagonist: Various characters cause problems for the heroes — the studio executives, the dog catchers, etc. — but there really aren't any villains in 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: Several examples, but Penny's mother, 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.
  • Noodle Incident: Mittens is depicted as having a ragged bite mark in her left ear. How she got this is never explained in the film.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The climax is kicked off when Bolt's stand-in double on the show accidentally knocks over a flaming torch and inadvertently sets the entire building on fire. Unlike the other filming sequences shown earlier, which appear to be shot on-location in wider outdoor spaces, this scene is being filmed on a closed set, they're using several real torches as props, they have a newly trained, inexperienced dog actor on his first ever take, and the set is apparently covered in flammable materials that allow the flames to spread almost instantly. When the fire does start, none of the crew members seem to have any fire extinguishers handy, nor does the building itself appear to have sprinklers or any other manner of suppression system, and there only appears to be one exit in the entire building that is quickly barricaded by debris.
  • 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 and what feels like a bad break-up in Las Vegas. By the end, they've become Platonic Life-Partners.
  • The Nth Doctor: In-Universe; When Penny quits the show, her replacement is Handwaved in-show as the result of extreme 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. She at times fits this role as part of a classic Comic Trio (with Rhino as the instigator and Bolt as the muscle) when the three are together.
  • The Other Darrin:
    • In-Universe, another dog takes on Bolt's TV role while he is gone; Penny immediately recognizes it's not "her" Bolt, but continues on for the sake of the show.
    • Also occurs at the end with the Penny's replacement. With her, it's given the in-universe explanation of plastic surgery.
  • 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.
  • 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 runaway hamster. The conflict revolves around Bolt not believing that he doesn't actually have super powers.
  • 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.
  • The Power of Friendship: Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino manage to travel across country — Bolt being reunited with Penny, Mittens and Rhino being adopted into Penny's family — by working together as a (sometimes reluctant) team. Rhino's rousing speech to Mittens in Las Vegas invokes this trope most strongly.
  • Power Trio: Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino (more or less). At times, they fit the Comic Trio trope as well.
  • Product Placement:
    • Penny's agent wields a first-generation iPhone, while during Bolt's escape scene there's a 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 SD70 locomotives with the CSX Transportation logo and paint scheme. Also, many of the background vehicles are late '60s 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: Bolt is the film title and main character's name.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: A literal example, as Dr. Calico and his minions are just actors and extras.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Mittens teaches Bolt to put on a soulful expression 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.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: An in-universe example. After Penny leaves the show, she is replaced with a different actress. Her radically different appearance is 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 washes 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. Played with, as Penny's new rural home is far from shabby.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter:
    • Bolt, both as a puppy and as a full-grown dog, epitomizes cuteness even when angry.
    • Rhino is one cute hamster, especially when he does Puppy-Dog Eyes.
  • Right-Hand Cat: Dr. Calico has two sinister feline sidekicks.
  • Road Trip Plot: A large portion of the movie features Bolt and his friends traveling across America from New York to Los Angeles.
  • Running Gag:
    • 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.
    • Another recurring gag involves a group of pigeons meeting Bolt and either recognizing him or trying to figure out who he is.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: Inverted with the eager but naïve Bolt, and the down-and-out, sharp-witted Mittens. They're essentially a platonic inversion of the typical 1930s Screwball Comedy couple.
  • Seasonal Rot: In-Universe, Mindy complains about the show's plot becoming a bit too repetitive and the ratings slipping as a result. This leads to the director trying to make a more interesting cliffhanger, which inadvertently results in Bolt running away. It is hinted the revamped show will go in this direction anyways: Rhino finds the plot of Penny and Bolt being abducted by aliens a bit too ridiculous.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Show Within a Show: Bolt's show, incidentally also called "Bolt", about a super-heroic dog protecting and helping his human owner.
  • Smart Animal, Average Human: Penny, the average child actress, and her intelligent (if misguided) dog Bolt who travels from New York to Hollywood to get back to her.
  • Smooth-Talking Talent Agent: Penny's agent is all grins and no empathy, constantly doing what's good for the show's continued profits, even if it hurts Penny to do it. He shuts down her concerns with the phrase "Let's put a pin in it" so often that it practically becomes his catchphrase, and on top of all that, he tries to use a fire that could've cost Penny her life for publicity!
  • 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 pointed) 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 shouts "Take my paw!" to Mittens while she clings tenuously to the train's ladder. Subverted in that she refuses to do so.
  • 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 criticized among adults, which led to Disney falling into a rather infamous Audience-Alienating Era by trying to appease cynics at the expense of film quality. (This is something John Lasseter was vocally against and determined to put an end to when he signed on with Disney, starting with this film.)
  • Take This Job and Shove It: After the agent suggests using the fire for publicity and showing no concern about Penny almost dying, Penny and her mom quit right away, with Penny's mom punching the agent out of the ambulance for good measure.
    Penny's mother: We 'quit'!!!
  • Taken During the Ending: An Invoked In-Universe example. The producers of the TV show have one of the episodes end on a dramatic cliffhanger in order to boost ratings and appeal to a more mature audience. Each episode of the show up to that point saw Bolt and Penny successfully repelling capture attempts from Dr. Calico, but here Penny is taken prisoner. Unfortunately, the titular protagonist doesn't know he's only acting in a show, Bolt believing his master was truly taken prisoner. As a result, the dog escapes his trailer and runs away to "save" his master, putting the rescue-based follow up episode on indefinite hold.
  • That Poor Cat: Invoked when someone throws a frying pan at Mittens at the trailer park. Mittens's yowl is heard offscreen.
  • 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 for one is not happy with the changes.
    Rhino: That is totally unrealistic.
  • Third-Act Misunderstanding: Bolt witnesses Penny embracing his replacement and runs off thinking Penny never really loved him. Turns out she's really just acting in a scene.
  • This Is Reality: 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.
  • This Is Wrong on So Many Levels!: Mittens says a variant of this when Bolt tells her he's staring at a padlock trying to melt it. She thought the dog was crazy before, but this ices the cake for her.
    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.
  • Throwing the Distraction:
    • During a taping of the Show Within a Show, a mook is distracted by a penny that Penny rolls across the floor. Bolt takes out the other guards immediately afterwards. The dog uses this exact same technique later to divert the attention of the heavy-set student so he and Mittens can sneak aboard the moving truck via a sofa Underside Ride.
    • Bolt uses Rhino in his plastic ball to lure Animal Control Officer Martin from his post guarding the cat room. The shepherd tosses Rhino into the nearby dog room. When the locked-up pooches bark excitedly upon seeing the ball, Bolt sneaks into the cat room and rescues Mittens.
  • 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 squicked at the news.
  • Toilet Humour: Literal, when Mittens introduces Bolt to a toilet, implying she just told him dogs drink from it.
    Bolt: Out of this?! But... but...
  • Translation Convention: Whenever the action switches from an animal's to a human's perspective, only realistic animal noises are heard.
  • Travel Montage: The stretch of Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino's journey from Elmwood County, Ohio to Las Vegas patches together vignettes featuring the three pets underscored by the song "Barking at the Moon." Many of these show Mittens teaching Bolt how to act like a normal dog rather than a superhero.
  • Triumphant Reprise: The last line of the song "Barking at the Moon" recurs at the end of the film in heartwarming fashion, accompanying a selfie of Penny, Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino on a couch in their new country home.
    There is no home like the one you've got, 'cause that home belongs to you.
  • Troperrific: The entire opening is a full-on spoof of Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay films. There are tons of tropes and clichés in the action and the dialogue.
  • Tropey, Come Home: Bolt spends much of the film trying to get back to Los Angeles after being accidentally shipped to New York. Penny even prepares flyers hoping someone will have seen her dog and return him.
  • True Companions: Only applies to Penny and Bolt at the start, but Rhino and Mittens eventually become this to the dog as well. Rhino even points this out during his speech to Mittens before he goes after Bolt from Las Vegas.
  • "Truman Show" Plot: The director of Bolt's show implements 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. It comes back to bite them in the arse, big style.
  • Truth in Television: The closed set where the film's climactic fire takes place clearly resembles the classic, Golden Age era studio lots of Burbank, California, which essentially operated like large warehouses where fires and other severe stage accidents have always been commonplace, often having no sprinklers or any other kind of built in safety measures. Though that still doesn't excuse outside equipment such as fire extinguishers not being kept on standby.
  • Underside Ride: Penny and Bolt infiltrate the lair of their show's Big Bad by sneaking a ride beneath a truck. It is repeated twice in the film, once when Bolt and Mittens hide under a couch to get loaded into a moving van, and later when Mittens and Rhino catch a ride under the stretcher that's taking Bolt and Penny to the hospital.
  • Unnamed Parent: As with several characters in this film, we never learn the name of Penny's mother. Nor do we ever find out the name of Penny's TV father.
  • Unwilling Suspension: Happens to Penny in the Show Within a Show during a take when she is lowered from the ceiling wrapped in rope. 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 to New York City 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.
  • Visible Boom Mic: In-universe, the production crew notice they let a boom mic slip into one of the last shots of the episode they're filming at the start of the movie (on the right of the screen). This is mostly an issue because they put so much effort into maintaining the illusion of reality to Bolt that they can't go back and retake that shot. Plus they're worried he might see it and either break character or damage the equipment.
  • Weak Boss, Strong Underlings: Played Straight in the TV show Penny and her dog Bolt star. There, she's a normal girl who owns a superpowered dog on whom she depends for protection against the villains. However, it's actually subverted when they are out of the set because, contrary to what he believes, Bolt is just a regular dog.
  • Weaksauce Weakness: Bolt initially thinks the styrofoam packing peanuts are responsible for his loss of power, which is of course not true.
    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 in the country along with Mittens, Rhino and her mother.
  • Windmill Crusader: Due to spending most of his life thinking that he really is the product of super-science meant to protect Penny from Dr. Calico, Bolt was this trope for the first half of the film.
  • You Can't Go Home Again: In-Universe on the show, Penny's dad says she cannot go home after he is kidnapped by Dr. Calico.
  • You Look Familiar: Lampshaded In-Universe when the New York City pigeons try to figure out where they've seen Bolt before. It turns out they're extremely bad at picking up clues. Two buses with his likeness stop to their left without them recognizing him — and we last see the birds sitting on a huge billboard with a picture of Bolt, still entirely unaware it's him.
  • Your Other Left: Lampshaded by Mittens when she is teaching Bolt how to do the dog begging face and pose. He drops his right ear when she asks him to lower his left one.


Video Example(s):


Bolt's Superbark

Bolt's signature move in his TV Show is his powerful Superbark, which can be so powerful, that he can defeat an entire army of henchmen and vehicles with just one.

How well does it match the trope?

4.5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / SuperScream

Media sources: