Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #48: Bolt

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)
You know what’s weird? In Irish, there’s no word for “Yes” or “No”.
You know what else is weird? If you ask someone to imagine “a Disney movie” they automatically think of a Princess movie, something like the world of Giselle in Enchanted. But the Princess movies only make up a small fraction of the canon, 10 movies out of 52. Whereas the talking animal movies comprise a staggering twenty four movies depending on how you count them (Pinocchio, no, the two Winnie the Poohs, yes for our purposes here). So why is it that the Princess movies have such an outsized influence on how the rest of the canon is seen? Well, for whatever reason, it’s the Princess movies that seem to do really well. Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Mulan, Tangled, Frozen, all really, really huge hits. And even Pocahontas and Princess and the Frog were not exactly slouches at the box-office. The talking animal movies, by comparison, tend to perform more modestly. Oh, you’ll get the occasional big hit (Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians, Jungle Book, The Rescuers and oh yeah, The Lion King) but mostly it feels like their role is to just keep things ticking over until the next Princess movie comes along.  And that’s just not right, dammit. Disney have done some if their very best work in this sub-genre. Take today’s movie for example, Bolt, which was released in 2008 and…
Oh my God.
Oh my God, this thing was released in 2008. Obama had been elected by the time this thing came out. I was on Facebook. I was in my current job. I remember this thing coming out as a recent event in my life. It’s just…wow. When I started this blog I was making jokes about Hitler and the Second World War (that came out wrong). I mean, it’s really all coming to an end, isn’t it? Finish line’s in sight.
Ahem. Anyway.
It’s possible to think of Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons and Bolt as a trilogy of the “Pixarification” of Disney. Chicken Little is Disney, trying to be Pixar, Meet the Robinsons is Disney on its way to becoming Pixar and Bolt is basically Pixar. It was produced by John Lasseter and it looks, feels and runs like a Pixar movie. Seriously, they could have slapped a Pixar logo on this and no one would have known the difference. But what kind of Pixar movie is it? Are we talking Toy Story 3? Or are we talking Cars?
Let’s take a look.

Okay, so the movie begins with our hero, Bolt, as a puppy in an animal shelter and my, my, my Disney finally gotten the hang of this CGI business, have we?

Who has beautifully rendered textures? You do! You do! Yes you do!

Who has beautifully rendered textures? You do! You do! Yes you do!

This opening scene feels very, very Pixar. You could easily imagine a short of just Bolt messing around with the carrot, and then maybe the carrot gets stuck in a vent or something and Bolt has to spend the rest of the running time trying to get it out, and he can’t. And then he’s sad. And then someone gets it out of the vent for him and he’s happy, the end. But instead he’s adopted by a little girl. Hmmm….little girl in a talking animal Disney movie. Legislation stipulates she must be named either “Penny” or “Jenny”. What did they go with?

Penny. Gutsy choice.

Penny. Gutsy choice.

As our sweet, innocent heroine, Penny is naturally voiced by America’s wholesome girl next door, Miley Cyrus.

On second thought, 2008 was a looooong time ago.

On second thought, 2008 was a looooong time ago.

After Penny adopts Bolt, we then flashforward to 35 dog-years later. Penny gets a call from her father who, in a terrified voice, tells her that there’s been some problems at work and that he’s not going to be able to come home. He tells Penny that Bolt will protect her as he’s given him superpowers because yeah, that sounds totally safe.

Well what do you expect? Judging from that suit, Pennys father is clearly a member of A.I.M.

Well what do you expect? Judging from that suit, Penny’s father is clearly a member of A.I.M.

Penny and Bolt investigate her father’s disappearence and the man behind it, the villainous Doctor Calico voiced by Malcolm “Oh Christ, can’t I play a good guy just once? Please? No? Fine.” McDowell. With binoculars, they watch from a building across the street as Calico briefs one of his underlings.

"Calico! You magnificent bastard I READ YOUR BOOK!"

“Calico! You magnificent bastard I READ YOUR BOOK!”

They catch one of Calico’s goons and hang him over a bridge until he spills the beans that Calico is hiding out in Bolivia near Lake Rogaguado. And I’m sorry, when it comes to name checking Bolivian lakes, I have a simple rule; Titicaca or GTFO. They then have to make it to the airport whilst avoiding the actual ARMY of soldiers that Calico has deployed to capture them. The two directors of this movie, Chris Williams and Byron Howard, made their bones working on Emperor’s New Groove and Lilo and Stitch respectively and it really shows. There’s a real comic flair at work in this scene, a sense of timing that borders on genius. Take for example one sequence where Bolt blows up one of Calico’s helicopters. We see the explosion four times, from four different angles, three up close and spectacular and the fourth from outside the city, as a tiny little flash that causes a paper cup in the background to tip over with an absolutely perfectly timed “bup” .

They arrive at the airport but Calico has surrounded it with enough men stop them (or indeed, annex the Sudetanland) so Bolt unleashes his superbark, a massive sonic attack that destroys the choopers, the trucks, the motorbikes and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men. With all the bad guys defeated. Penny picks up Bolt, telling him he’s saved the day again and they go into a trailer and shut the door behind them. And that’s a wrap. Because you see, Bolt’s not really a superhero, and this is all just a TV show.

dramatic chipmunk

I have a minor problem with this. Not the twist itself, as there pretty much wouldn’t be any movie without it. It’s more that the action scenes we see are like something out of Matrix Reloaded, hugely elaborate stunts, entire highways’ worth of moving cars, fleets of helicopters, pyrotechnics…how the hell is all this possible on a TV budget? Now if they said that Bolt was a long-running movie series, fine. In fact, what with Hollywood pumping more and more sequels with ever spiralling budgets it would make perfect sense. Well anyway, minor niggle. So in the editing suite The Director (James Lipton) is looking over the rushes and lambasting his crew because a boom mike made its way into the shot saying “the dog could have seen that!”. A woman asks why that matters and The Director asks who she is, and she explains that she’s Mindy. From the network.

Its Mindy. From the network.

It’s Mindy. From the network.

The Director haughtily explains that Bolt has no idea that everything that’s happening to him is part of a TV show in order to get the most convincing possible performance out of him (cough cough Method bullshit cough cough). See, for Bolt, being a superhero isn’t a TV show, it’s reality. Now, I utterly despise reality television with every fiber of my being, as I hope my recent bombing of the E! studios demonstrated.

Some call me a terrorist. I consider myself a teacher.

Some call me a terrorist.
I consider myself a teacher.

But I have to confess, there is something very intriguing about this kind of Truman Show plot. I think it just gets to that core paranoia that we all have as human beings. How can I trust my own senses? What if everyone’s lying to me? What if I’m not even real? What if I’m just the fictional creation of some half-mad lunatic?

2014-06-16 22.18.42

Brrrrr. Gives me chills just thinking about it. Anyway, Mindy from the Network has little time for this nonsense and says that the show is too stale. Every episode gets wrapped up with a nice happy ending, there’s no overall plot progression and no real stakes and she tells The Director that he needs to sort that shit out snappy and MY GOD DISNEY where was this woman during the first season of Agents of SHIELD?

Meanwhile, back in the trailer it’s becoming obvious to Penny that Bolt is getting a little, shall we say, frazzled by constantly having to save her from mortal peril so Penny asks her agent (played with an impressive level of smarm by Greg Germann) if she can take Bolt home with her for the weekend so he has a chance to unwind and not go Full Metal Jacket on everybody. The Agent says “we’ll see” which, as everyone over the age of three knows means “fuck off”.

Left alone in his trailer, Bolt is visited by Veteran Cat (voiced by Diedrich Bader) and *CHARACTER NAME NOT LISTED ON IMDB*, a new cat on the show who’s voiced by *ACTOR NOT LISTED ON IMDB*. VC explains to CNNLOI what Bolt’s deal is and the two cats troll Bolt for lolz. Bolt is voiced by John Travolta and I gotta say, taunting him is probably not a good idea considering he’s got such a slender grip on reality.

No, no. Bolt. BOLT has a slender grip on reality.

No, no. Bolt. BOLT has a slender grip on reality.

This little psychodrama comes to a head during filing of the next episode which ends unexpectedly with Penny being captured by Calico and Bolt being returned to his trailer without managing to save her. This causes Bolt to flip all they way out and then some and when the cats come to mock him some more he actually escapes through the skylight and leads the crew on a merry chase through the studio. He ends up getting knocked out and landing in a box that is then shipped all the way across the country to New York. Bolt runs madly through New York city like a marathon runner who’s in it to win it, searching for Penny. He comes across Vinnie (Lino deSalvo), Joey (Todd Cummings) and Bobbie (Tim Mertens), three New York pigeons who talk like Italian American mobsters and wait just a damn minute here!

Oh my God. Disney, you whores!

Oh my God. Disney, you whores!

Well anyway, the Goodfauxthers help Bolt get his head out of some railings and he asks them where Penny is. They don’t know nothin’, so he says he’ll have to track down a cat who’ll know Calico’s next move. The pidgeons glance slyly at each other, and say they know “just the cat”.

We now meet Mittens, a black alley cat voiced by Susie Essman. Mittens is basically running a protection racket, and has all the local pigeons living in fear of “the claws”. The pigeons have to bring her half their food, and when one of them comes up short she tells him that next week, he has to bring her ALL of his food. This leads to one of my favourite lines of dialogue in anything ever; “Mark my words, Mittens! Someday someone’s going to stand up to you!” Karmic retribution, it turns out, is real quick these days as Bolt pins Mittens against a wall and demands to know where the green eyed man (Calico) is. Mittens, realising that the pigeons have sicced a lunatic on her, tries to bluff her way through but keeps getting details wrong (understandably, as she has no idea what she’s talking about) and Bolt contemptuously says “You just can’t stop lying, can you?” This actually seems to really get to Mittens, who agrees saying “I know. I disgust myself.” Seeing from Bolt’s collar that he’s from Hollywood she gets him to stowaway on a removal truck that’s headed west, saying that that’s where the green eyed man has taken Penny. Bolt then drags Mittens along for the ride and so the smart-talking alley cat and her delusional canine companion set off on their journey wait just a damn minute here…
Really Disney?! Animaniacs again!?

Really Disney?! Animaniacs again!?

So who’s Bolt going to meet next, movie? A giant chicken trying to pass as a human? A precocious blonde toddler and her sheepdog guardian? A brilliant mouse trying to leverage his incredible intellect into conquering this world of pathetic, ignorant, know-nothing, mouth-breathing, reality TV watching humans?
Brain

Look, I’m not saying I agree with his methods. I’m just saying he had some interesting ideas.

Alright, well they get as far as Ohio and Bolt starts getting hungry and freaks out because he’s never had to go without food before and doesn’t know what’s happening.

Really? He’s so well looked after that he’s literally never had a hunger pang? Well anyway, Mittens teaches him how to scam food from the patrons of a local rest stop by going up to them and making puppy eyes. This works really well and soon Mittens and Bolt are eating like kings. And it’s hear that they meet…ladies and gentlemen please rise for one of the most awesome supporting characters in the entire canon…
The Chosen One. Who was foretold to us.

The Chosen One. Who was foretold to us.

God DAMN I love Rhino (Mark Walton). Rhino is a hamster who spends all day in a plastic ball watching TV and is Bolt’s biggest fan. When he sees Bolt at the rest stop he geeks out completely and begs to be allowed to tage along. When Bolt tells him that Mittens is working for the green eyed man he goes beserk and, I’m not joking, tries to kill her. What makes Rhino so funny is that he is a psychotically deranged individual who just happens to be probably the most harmless thing in existence, a hamster in a ball. Despite this, he has literally no sense of his own limitations which just makes it funnier. There’s a scene where they’re trying to break Mittens out of an animal shelter and they need to get past a security guard. Rhino says “I’ll snap his neck”, which would be terrifying (and Mark Walton really sells the delivery) except, y’know, he’s a HAMSTER IN A PLASTIC BALL and there are just so many reasons why that’s never going to happen. The only possible way Rhino could be more awesome would be if he was voiced by Frank Welker. Anyway, Mittens wants out, realising that this group is just a bi-polar donkey and a meth-addict rooster away from being the Balls Crazy Musicians of Bremen but Bolt refuses to let her go. Rhino has the idea of hitching a lift on a passing train and just before they leap onto it, Mittens asks Rhino how he knows so much about Bolt. He explaisn that he’s seen him on the “magic box” and Mittens finally understands; Bolt is just a TV actor. Jumping onto a passing train from a bridge goes about as well as you go could expect (i.e. they all very nearly end up as rail-kill and Mittens climbs a tree and angrily tells Bolt that he’s not really a superhero.  Bolt refuses to believe her and tries to super-bark her out of the tree. Instead, he just ends up attracting the attention of the animal warden and both he and Mittens get caught and thrown in his van, leaving Rhino behind (he’d gone to get a ladder).

Back at the studio, The Agent tries to pass off a new dog as Bolt but Penny sees right through the ruse. Mindy from the Network then comes and tells Penny that they need to start shooting again and she has to let Bolt go. What I really, really like about this scene is that it doesn’t try to make Mindy a villain. She’s obviously sympathetic to Penny’s grief but as she says herself “If we don’t start shooting again, people are going to lose their jobs. Good people. With families.” It’s really rare in children’s movies that someone who’s willing to speak the harsh, unpleasant truth isn’t made into the bad guy. Mindy isn’t shown as being wrong for wanting to Penny to move on from Bolt, and Penny isn’t shown as being wrong for doing so.  They’re both doing the responsible thing for the greater good.
Meanwhile, Rhino chases the van from the animal shelter and follows it to a gas station. He finally steps out of his ball and immediately goes mad with power and starts cackling madly. The driver hears him laughing, but only as little hamster squeaks. And those little hamster squeaks were provided, of course, by Frank Welker (who has voiced so many characters, he’s forgotten what his own voice is supposed to sound like).
I do not deserve this. Truly, I am unworthy.

I do not deserve this. Truly, I am unworthy.

Rhino manages to spring Bolt from the van but Mittens gets taken to the animal shelter. Bolt has finally gotten it though his thick noggin that he’s not really a superhero and that his entire life has been a meticulously maintained lie. Bolt’s confidence has been shattered but Rhino gives him a speech explaining the difference that he’s made to people’s lives and how much he’s inspired him, so Bolt decides to rescue Mittens anyway, powers be damned. They succeed in breaking Mittens out of the shelter with very little trouble. Actually, almost no trouble at all. Just what total incompetent is running this animal shelter anyway?
Oh for the love of...WHO KEEPS HIRING YOU?!

Oh for the love of…WHO KEEPS HIRING YOU?!

The trio continue on their journey across the country and Mittens takes the time to teach Bolt about just what it means to be a dog, playing fetch, digging for bones and sampling the various aromas of the butt. This is all done to a rather sweet montage that shows Bolt and Mittens becoming closer (as friends, not romantically, because Disney is not about to do DeviantArt’s job for it). In fact, by the time they get to Las Vegas, Mittens shows Bolt a place they can life in a junkyard and has clearly got her heart set on the two of them just settling down together. But Bolt is still dead set on returning to Penny and Mittens angrily drags him in front of a poster advertising the TV show. She says that Penny’s just an actor and that none of his life with her was real (interesting sidepoint, as someone on IMDb pointed out, we don’t even know if Penny is her real name. It’s the name of her character on the show, but neither her mother or her agent ever refer to her by name. So, she could actually be Jenny).

Having our cake and eating it, eh Disney?

Having our cake and eating it, eh Disney?

Bolt protests that Penny loves him and Mittens answers with the most devastating piece of dialogue  in the whole movie; “No, Bolt! That’s what they do, okay? They act like they love you! They act like they’ll be there forever! And then one day they pack up all their stuff and move away, and take their love with them and leave their declawed cat behind to fend for herself! They leave her… wondering… what she did wrong.”

This is, let me be clear on this, a phenomenally written movie. This one little speech suddenly throws a million and one little things that we already know about Mittens in a new, emotionally devastating light. This is why the supposed alley cat knows so much about human domestic life. This is why she constantly talks threateningly about “The Claws” without ever actually showing them. This is why she hates herself for always lying. This is why she generally has a stick up her ass. This is a gut punch. This is a gut punch followed by a shot to the sack a titty twister. And Susie Essman just sells it like ice-cream on a hot day. Brilliant stuff.
Bolt still can’t give up on Penny and leaves Las Vegas alone. Rhino wakes up and asks where Bolt went and Mittens lies and says he had to face the green-eyed man alone. Rhino, of course, is genre savvy enough to know that he and Mittens have to head to LA to rescue Bolt in the final act and they set off after him.
Arriving  in LA, Bolt meets three pigeons Tom, his writing partner Blake and their PA Billy. They want to pitch him an idea for his show beacause LA and Blake gives Bolt a one-word pitch; Aliens.
“Pff. I could have though of that.”

“Pff. I could have though of that.”

Bolt feigns interest (thereby consigning his soul to the special place in Hell for people who feign interest in other people’s writing) and tricks the pigeons into bringing him to the studio. Bolt wanders around the lot, finally seeing the world he’s lived his whole life in from the outside in. He sees Penny and runs to her, but when he sees the fake Bolt running into her arms he realises he’s been replaced and thinks that Penny never loved him. Penny however, is still mourning the real Bolt’s loss, and Mittens sees this as she and Rhino arrive at the studio. Mittens finds Bolt and tries to tell him that she was wrong and that Penny really does love him. Meanwhile, during filming the fake Bolt panics and knocks over a braziere causing the set to catch fire. Bolt runs back and manages to rescue Penny from the Blaze and the two are finally reunited. The Agent starts oozing about how they’re going to spin this near tragedy into a PR coup and Penny quits the show to take Bolt home and finally let him be a normal dog. Penny, Bolt, Rhino, Mittens and Penny’s mother settle down to live an idyllic life amidst the cornfields of Middle America, which as we all know is the closest thing on this earth to Paradise. We then see an episode of the new series of “Bolt”, with new actors playing Penny and Bolt. The episode ends with Penny being abducted by aliens and just how exactly do you pay residuals to a pigeon? Well anyway, Bolt is clearly now less Million Dollar Man and more Doctor Who.
And like Dr. Who, theyve been recasting the lead of this show since the sixties.

And like Dr. Who, they’ve been recasting the lead of this show since the sixties.

***

I watched every Disney canon movie in the cinema when it came up right up until, I think, Emperor’s New Groove and basically ignored every new release after that through my late teens and early twenties. Bolt, if memory serves, was the first one I say in the cinema after a long eight years where I’d heard increasingly dire pronouncements on the state of the company’s output. I went to see this movie because some friends had told me that Disney was now “back” (they always seem to be “back”, don’t they?). I saw it, and loved it, and felt immensely depressed by it. See, Bolt is a really, really good movie. Great animation, great characters, wonderful script, a flat out awesome production. But try this little thought exercise. Take one of the great movies of the Disney canon. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty whatever. Ask yourself this; if Disney had not made that movie, was there another studio that could have? Only Disney could have made Snow White in 1938. No one else had the talent, the drive, the ambition and the balls to make that mad fever dream a reality. Now ask yourself this. If Disney hadn’t made Bolt, could anyone else have?
pixar
I love this film. But to me, Disney should be making movies that no one else could make. And that’s not what they did here. As you know, I call this period in the canon after the millennium The Lost Era, because was when the studio was searching for their place, for what kind of studio they wanted to be. With this movie they seem to have surrendered and simply said “We want to be Pixar.”
And, hell, there’s far worse things to be. And I love Pixar. But I want Pixar to be Pixar, and I want Disney to be Disney. Join me in four weeks for the Princess and the Frog review, and we’ll see if Disney ever learned to be Disney again.
Scoring
Animation: 17/20
Finally able to match Pixar at their own game, this is a very strong showing. The designs are great, the textures are beautiful and there is a real sense of verve and impeccable comic timing to the motion.
Leads: 16/20
I’m not usually a fan of Travolta but he’s game here and meshes very well with the character of Bolt.
Villain: N/A
Yeah, what with Doctor Calico just being a fictional character…I mean, you know, obviously they’re ALL fictional characters, look, the point is there is actually no real villain here. Hey, look at that, Malcolm McDowell finally got to play a character who’s not a villain!
"Yeees...you can trust me now..."

“Yeeesssss…you can trust me now…”

Supporting Characters: 19/20
Really, really strong showing from the supporting characters in this one. Mittens is a fantastic creation; layered, well-written and wonderfully portrayed by Susie Essman. And Rhino? Rhino is flat out one of the funniest characters in the entire canon.
Music: 11/20
Ohhhh…and we was doin’ so well. Yeah, all that’s really stopping this one from being one of the all time greats is the lack of either any decent songs or a halfway memorable score. Not bad. Just bland.
FINAL SCORE: 79%
NEXT UPDATE: 03 July 2014
NEXT TIME: Yes. It’s true. Unshaved Mouse officially jumps the shark as Mouse bows to the needs of commerce and reviews an all-live action movie. Saddle up, people.
It’s morphin’ time.
mmpr-poster
 Neil Sharpson aka The Unshaved Mouse is a playwright, blogger and comic book writer living in Dublin. The blog updates with a new animated movie review every second Thursday. He’s also serialising his novel The Hangman’s Daughter with a new chapter every other Thursday.

77 comments

  1. “(thereby consigning his soul to the special place in Hell for people who feign interest in other people’s writing)”
    Please forgive me mouse.
    On the less dark side great job with the pictures and captions, they gave me a good laugth. I have to question your facts about the princess movies being hits, as I heard Sleeping Beauty was a bomb when it first came out and almost shut down the studio. I will miss your discussions on the lost era, which were fun to read about what disney was trying to do,a s they tried almost everything.
    As the MMPR movie made me into a power ranger fan I am excited. “…Smells like (dramatic pause) teenagers.”

    1. Sleeping Beauty is a weird case. It was HUGELY successful, not a flop at all. But it was so expensive to make that Walt still had to make massive lay offs to keep the company afloat.

  2. Maybe that’s why the Disney princess movies are the most popular and remembered of the Disney canon. because no other animated company will even think of doing princess/non-parodic fairytale movies, even as they do millions of talking animal movies. (Well, all right, Pixar did Brave but I submit that 2012 was just Pixar and Disney trying to walk a mile in each other’s shoes.)

    Bolt doesn’t have the most original plot, but it handles that plot very well indeed. I watched it right after Meet the Robinsons and was blown away at how much better-done the characters and pathos were.

      1. Okay, yes, these non-Disney princess/fairytale movies do exist. But I don’t think anyone really remembers them as anything more than products that tried to piggyback on Disney’s Renaissance Era success. And neither DreamWorks nor Blue Sky nor Illumination are ever going to do straight-up fairytale princess movies.

  3. I actually thought this one WAS a Pixar movie when they were advertising it back before it came out. Then I finally saw a poster in a movie theater and noticed that it wasn’t and kind of lost interest in seeing it. So I didn’t until several years later. I remember it being enjoyable but not particularly great. Guess I’ll have to give it another go.

    I generally agree with you about how Disney should try to make movies that only Disney could make. I generally think that about most animation studios to be honest. But if you have to try and emulate another company, you could do a lot worse than emulating a giant like Pixar. Like the How to Train Your Dragon films, they are pretty clearly influenced by Pixar and that makes them a pretty giant step up from most Dreamworks films (HTTYD2 is absolutely phenomenal by the way, loved every damn second of it). You kinda see it a bit in some Japanese anime films too with studios or directors trying to emulate Studio Ghibli. It’s not often done well but it can be done spectacularly with a competent director (namely, for me, Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children and Makoto Shinkai’s Children Who Chase Lost Voices). I guess I would overall prefer that each studio try to do their own thing, but they can occasionally make some pretty fantastic films in each other’s styles.

    Quick fun fact, the original Black Power Ranger (who is in this movie) was played by Johnny Yong Bosch, who became a prolific anime voice actor after someone heard him re-dubbing over some lines from one of the episodes of the Power Rangers TV series. He has done some phenomenal work, in particular (for me) playing the roles of Vash the Stampede in Trigun and Kiba in Wolf’s Rain

      1. Adam is the answer. My brother and really enjoyed his humor. “I am a frog.” I will never forget Rocky’s terrible attempt to rescue him in the battle with the stone guardians.

    1. As I love the logo art, I never make mistakes about the studio. The first thing I notice is the logo, and what the director has done before. I thought it looked interesting from the trailers until I saw the name of a certain actor.

    2. If memory serves me correctly, I seem to remember the character design style of anime cartoons (with the big eyes and all) are actually a result of Japanese animators attempting to emulate Disney.

  4. I am sad that we are approaching the end of the road of Unshaved Mouse Disney reviews. There are only 6 films left. I just realized that we will probably finish our Disney reviews in the same time. What will you do after you finish the entire canon?

    Anyways, I agree with you. While this film is not that original and a bit forgettable, the characters are really handled well here, and I could tell that this is really the first film that had Lassetter and Pixar’s influence. The plot is really well handled, and this is the first CGI film that actually got CGI right for WDAS. It is sad that it did not make much money. This and PatF is a great end of this era, as it signaled that things were getting better, and Disney could do Princess films, and other films, with keeping the Disney heart. Miley Cyrus actually did not annoy me for once, though the part should have been given to someone else

    This is honestly one of your funniest reviews as well. I have a feeling you are gonna rip Princess and the Frog apart. I love the Power Rangers.

    1. Really, I gotta tell you, this is one of the most rushed reviews I’ve done in ages, hence why it’s so short. Mini-Mouse has a case of hand foot and mouth and it’s summer here when the sun just hangs around like an asshole until ten o’clock at night so putting her to sleep has been hell. Couple that with some other writing gigs and it was seriously looking like I’d have to do a filler post and do Bolt next week.

  5. Great review, again! Kind of short compared to your other reviews, though.
    I still haven’t seen this movie, but judging by this review, it looks like it’s worth a watch. (BTW, I may have said this before, but I knew a girl who said this was her favorite Disney movie.)
    So you’re reviewing the MMPR movie? Well that could be interesting. I wasn’t really into Power Rangers as a kid.
    What a coincidence! The PatF review is on my birthday!

      1. When you get to PatF, will you please at least give recognition to 2 things about it:
        1. The animation. It’s downright gorgeous, you gotta admit that.
        2. Dr. Facilier. Enough said.

  6. I saw the Power Rangers movie in the cinema when it first came out, it’s terrrrrible!
    Interesting fact though, the actress who plays Rita Repulsa is the girl who did the infamous ‘Ping-Pong balls trick’ in Priscilla Queen of the Desert!
    Great review btw, I like Bolt although it’s a bit too thematically similar to Toy Story.

  7. My only exposure to this movie before I saw it was when I was in high school and Up was my favorite movie (at the time). My class started talking about animated movies, and my teacher mentioned Bolt, and I told him it wasn’t Pixar so screw it. Of course, back then I was in my “Pixar > all” phase

    When I sat down to watch this movie years later, I was expecting it to be another by-the-numbers Disney movie, like One Hundred and One Dalmatians or Oliver & Company. Imagine my surprise when it became one of my favorite Disney movies. I’m serious, this is in my top 10 over stuff like Pinocchio, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and fucking The Lion King. It’s definitely my pick for most underrated Disney movie, aside from maybe Treasure Planet, but that movie seems more (relatively) popular anyway.

      1. If underatedrated just means to adults my nomination goes to “Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.” If it refers to both children and adults then I think Bolt is the most underrated.

  8. Awesome review, as always! I watched this movie on a cinema and I really liked it, It’s not the most memorable Disney film, but it’s really good! I’m looking forward to seeing your “Princess and the Frog” review (another movie that I watched at a cinema and I really liked it) and I really don’t know what to expect from your “Power Rangers” review, I’ve never liked them but, truth be told, I’ve never seen them.

  9. Well, Disney could be stealing from a lot of worse places than Animaniacs. BTW, Goodfeathers was always my favorite segment. They’re so funny!

    This movie is really funny, and pretty under-rated. Even I admit to forgetting it most of the time. And it DOES feel ALOT like a Pixar film. This is about the point where the line between Pixar and Disney starts to blur, and I’m actually ok with this. (Feel free to disagree)

    I absolutely ADORE The Princess and the Frog, as I’m a big fan of Jazz music and the roaring twenties. However, I realize that most people see it as more ‘mediocre’ which I disagree with, but hey, everyone has their own opinions. I’m interested to see what you’ll say about it.

    And next time… IT’S MORPHIN TIME!! Oh yeah! Awesome! I love Power Rangers! Although the movie is a bit… weird, which is saying something when you look at the TV series.
    BTW, have you seen any of the newer Saban seasons? They’re… fairly ok. Obviously trying to homage the old series while still doing its own thing. Sometimes it’s good, other times it’s dumb, and it just doesn’t have the same nostalgia shield as the older seasons.

      1. Wow, that’s really cool! I didn’t even know they DID an Irish dub…
        If you only check out one other season, check out Time Force. It’s pretty awesome, and surprisingly well-written. Y’know, for Power Rangers.

    1. With apologies to Linkara. I’ll let you in on a secret. I make the same joke in Rescuers Down Under (where the binoculars are actually being held by a character voiced by George C Scott) and when I first thought of it was the joke that inspired ne to start this blog. The first forty r so reviews were just me waiting to get to that joke. And no one got it.

      1. No one got the joke? Let me play a song for you on the world’s smallest violin. *plays tiny violin* Seriously, though, I shouldn’t have missed that! I love Patton!

      2. I did get the joke at the time, Mouse, but I failed to comment on it. *hangs head in shame and waits for the whipping*

      3. It also helped that I just watched Patton a couple weeks ago. Rescuers Down Under does remain one of my favorites though, particularly because of Mr. Scott’s delightful performance.

  10. I generally liked this film, it was cute, and often times laugh out loud hilarious, but I agree with your point that any animation studio today could make this.

    Heck, when you think about it, SO MANY animation studios are out there now, and all of them are putting out quality (but also crappy) work. We’ve got Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Blue Sky, Sony, Warner Brothers, Illumination, Reel FX, ILM, and all have cotributed their fair share in recent years.

  11. You know, this is one of three Disney movie I never watched…like you, there was a period I simply gave up on Disney. I struggled. I really did. But it was also Disney’s fault for suddenly changing the release date for their movies first to the start of the new year and then to the middle of the summer instead of giving me my traditional Disney Christmas flick. I didn’t miss Fantasia 2000 because I wouldn’t have watched it, but be because I wasn’t aware that it would be on, dammit. Though I admit that I mostly missed Lilo and Stitch because the premise sounded so stupid to me – but it is not accident that Treasure Planet and Brother Bear where the last movies I saw from this era, simply because they happened to be released in November, perfect for a little Advent watching.
    I guess I will have to get around watching those last two at one point…
    I really look forward to your review of TPatF. Heck, I look forward to finally leaving this era.

  12. im surprised u didn’t notice the Disney flair in this film lol! I did. when I watched this for the first time, it felt really weird, coz the animation is definitely CG, but its something else and it bothered me. it felt really Disney, yet its not……so I searched it up and apparently this is their first film using Painterly CG, animation that blends hand drawn to CG. they’ve been doing this since bolt till the present time, and its really apparent in Tangled’s animation (so…vibrant, and feels so…hand-drawn?)

  13. “MY GOD DISNEY where was this woman during the first season of Agents of SHIELD?”
    Aha! I knew this was going to be an AoS joke!
    (She was waiting for The Winter soldier to be released)

    I always considered this movie to be a HUGE step up from Meet the Robinsons and Chicken Little…and Bust a Moo. And most of the movies from this era, really…
    In fact, I would say it’s my favorite movie from the Lost Era! L&S was great, but I think I can agree with the Nostalgia Critic on something: The alien stuff (not Stitch, everything else) kind of detract from Lilo and Nani’s heartwarming story.

    About the songs, leave it to the latino dub to improve some otherwise bland songs! …And then just kind of fall behind when trying to adapt Let It Go. Sigh.

    1. Is Home on the Range’s name the equivalent of MacBeth’s here or something?

      Yes, I said them both, prepare to do all that crazy stuff Blackadder kept making those people do.

  14. Wait, Pixar did “Brave”?!? But but but Merida is officially a Disney princess now! Gah.

    If absolutely nothing else, this blog will help me keep straight which movies were released under Pixar and which were released under Disney. (Wait, “The Wild” from 2006 — that rip off of “Madagascar” — was Disney, wasn’t it?! Incipient headache; so confused!)

    1. The Wild was only distributed by Disney. It was made by the now-dead C.O.R.E Digital Pictures. But kind of like Dinosaur, some countries add it to the canon.

      1. Oh for fuck sake, Disney, pick a CGI company and stick with them!

        (Thanks, btw. Was not kidding about the confusion.)

      1. I hate to tell you this, but Disney, in addition to be being a voodoo priest who sold his soul to the Beloved Fallen Angel Satan in exchange for great power, is also a pimp.

        Think about it this way. He has every hair color and almost every ethnic choice possible. All girls are supermodel hot, and almost all are accepting of abusive relationships and being treated as property by the men around them. The exceptions would be, Tiana, Elsa and Anna, Jasmine, and Belle.

      2. Who did Pocahontas and Mulan allow themselves to be abused by? Or Esmerelda for that matter, if Jasmine counts?

  15. To be honest I didn’t really care for Bolt when I first saw it in theaters, granted I was young at the time and didn’t have the same type of thinking skills as I do now, I may like it alot more the second time I watch it some time down the road.

    PatF should be interesting as I remember people went crazy over it back in 2009, nowadays it’s seen as either as disappointing or mediocre, should be interesting from where you stand.

  16. And so we reach Bolt. I rented this movie with two friends, had no expectations yet was ever so pleasantly surprised with the result. It was more or less the movie that made me go “Hey, I can actually start getting hyped for Disney movies again!”. Then Princess and the Frog came out, and the rest is history.
    As for the review here, well. You did state that mini-Mouse was ill, so that explains why it feels so short in places. I would gush so much more about sequences like the agents baseball glove bicycle analogy, the sequence where they are captured and Bolt tries to melt the door (heck every sequence where Bolt tries to use his eye-beams), the guy who keeps seeing Rhino, that moment (speaking of comic timing) when one of Calico’s goons facepalm and forget that his taser-claws are still active (and how great is it that the cat-themed villains goons have taser-cat claws?) … there really is a lot of funny stuff here.
    I also wonder if I am not a bit more critical of it than you are. There is for instance the Director, who certainly makes a memorable entrance BUT he’s really only there to exposit the premise when you get down to it. Man is never even seen again after that. Buying the premise is one of those things that get harder and harder the more you think about it, a problem I for some reason don’t have with The Truman Show, possibly because that didn’t have highway car chases. And now I’m wondering if we will see Mouse row a small boat to the end of the world in the final review… and now I’m worried I’ve spoiled the ending to the blog. Shit. Uhm. At least this comment is far down and unlikely to be seen?
    That aside, some of the writing here is also a bit iffy if you get nitpicky. Things like Bolt getting over his whole life being a sham very quick from just a speech from Rhino (like, I get that Rhino is awesome, no argument there, but that went REAL fast), or Mittens sending Bolt away without Bolt even trying to talk to Rhino OR convince Mittens that since Penny is so different, she would take in Mittens too. I get that they want Mittens to come in later on and be the one to convince Bolt to go back to Penny, highlighting how much she’s grown as a person… cat… catperson, by telling Bolt to trust someone and saving Rhino from certain death, but they could have at least have Bolt offer Mittens a place at his side with PennyJennyBananafofenny and THEN have her reject even that, due to her fear of people. Would’ve worked better in my opinion, even if it’s kind of amazing they can arrive so quickly on the heels of Bolt (even if that’s perhaps getting TOO nitpicky, timescales almost never work out in movies anyway).
    I also think that’s my last and semi-biggest criticism of the movie- Bolt himself. I think I like him best when he’s being paranoid and fearful and staring really hard at things, because a. his realization goes a little TOO smooth for my tastes and b. after it he doesn’t have much to him. I’m not blaming Travolta for it, he does what he can and I think he sells paranoia-Bolt well enough. But then he just becomes generi-protagonist Bolt and… yeah, there’s not a lot to it other than cute puppy-eyes and heartwarming sacrifices. I don’t dislike it, I’m just not sure I’d be laying a 16/20 score on him.
    That aside, I do agree that Mittens and Rhino are amazing, this movie is really funny and oh lord, is this ever a step up from Meet the Robinsons in the visual department. From flat plasticy surfaces to this wonderful fur texture, there is just no comparison. Sure, this movie doesn’t have as many interesting backgrounds as Meet the Robinsons but it does have one thing over it (and I do wonder if this is thanks to Chris Sanders, who was a part of this movie but when wasn’t due to controversy that you didn’t go into because again, sick mini-Mouse I’m sure)- CHARACTER DESIGN VARIETY. All these different people in all their different shapes. Penny’s mother ISN’T a stereotypical Aged Hollywood Star thin woman, or even a Generically Attractive Disney Mother. She’s short and rotund, that fact alone feels pretty noteworthy in a Disney movie. People of different ethnicities than bone-bleached white! Variety in general! So, yes. While I’m not super-fond of some writing choices and the main character, I do nonetheless agree that this is a visually compelling, heartwarming film and Disney have no reason to be ashamed of it’s inclusion in the canon. Now then, to see what will come from Princess and the Frog and Power Rangers before that…
    ALSO, before I forget- I didn’t link to this last time around in the Transformers review, which was a sin that I shall never wash from my soul because it would have been so very topical what with us bathing in the glorious 80′s nostalgic goodness, but dangit you still have Optimus Prime as the background so I can get away with it. Pop Quis hot-shot: what do you get when Hasbro decides to create the most amazingly 80′s Transformers toy right here, right now, in 2014?
    Ladies and gentle-mice. I give you… THE KNIGHTS… OF UNICROOON!!
    http://www.tfw2005.com/transformers-news/san-diego-comic-con-33/transformers-sdcc-2014-exclusive-revealed-knights-of-unicron-180202/
    Let it all soak in. Just… let it in.

  17. is princess and the frog the lost era? And what are we gonna call Tangled and onwards, bc those are definitely not lost!

  18. Hi. Little new. Anyway, I loved Bolt quite a bit too but share the same complaints as you regarding the story. Yes, it’s a bit forgettable and unoriginal, unfortunately. But why I think Bolt didn’t do that great was because they cast Miley Cyrus as Penny. I’ve been hearing that she can “ruin a film?”

  19. The list of well-received Disney animal movies ending with Lion King as an afterthought cracked me up. Particularly because it reminded me of your somehow completely forgetting about it in the Rescuers Down Under review, stating that it was the last animal movie Disney did until Dinosaur. Also, speaking of the Rescuers, it’s the return of Penny. All I can say is I’m surprised The Proud Family didn’t have any animal more prominent than the grandmother’s toy poodle. And I guess that tiger in that one episode. Am I the only one in the right age group to know what I’m talking about?

    Funny enough, 2008 is kind of a jump away in my memory yet a forever ago at he same time for me too. A lot of things have changed since then, but it was a turning point enough in my life that I consider it the start of the era of the part of my life I’m in in a way. I’m not sure about Penny’s dad though, are you sure he’s not a member of the CDA? I guess that would have to make him the equivalent of a black Klansman or something though. Weird. Also, McDowell, if you want to play a good guy, maybe try changing your name. How can you have your name begin with “mal” and be a do-gooder, huh?

    Hey, watch out with the South American geography, Jose just might make a comeback to personally present you with a sequel presentation on Bolivia. If you thought Bahia was bad, I don’t think you want him to show you Rogaguado. Or worse, the animator of the scene you’re in might draw you a new, personal, Bolivian mascot character to explain everything to you. You have not known terror until the screeching of Oruro Oriole meets your ear.

  20. Hang on a sec, has Mittens been taking extortion lessons from Hopper? Or, more likely, gained his powers of iron-fisted food-extortion by eating the bird which gained them from him when it ate Hopper, a la Ravenous? Also, I never caught Bolt, but I do remember taking a bit of a liking to Rhino in the theatres. By the sounds of it, you seem to have a thing for side characters in their own little world. Though it seems you’ve finally moved from fish to mammals, sounds like progress.

    By the sounds of it, the Lost Era is pretty good when it comes to ambiguity. Your description of Mindy reminds me of Cobra Bubbles a lot, really. And Mittens sounds as if she gives Tramp a run for his money in the cynicism against humans department. Also if Word of God ever gives Penny a name and it isn’t actually Jenny I’ll be really mad.

    So, from what I’m reading from this climax, I take Toy Story 3 would have been a lot easier on the toys if Chuckles had just stuck around long enough to witness Daisy have a total breakdown at the loss of her favourite toy. Darn it, what horror have you unleashed on the world, you foolish clown, you?!?

    A live action movie, you say? There is only one proper reaction to this…

    *insert clip of angry, hissing cat here*

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