Disney Marathon: ‘Bolt’

I didn’t watch this movie until now. I don’t regret putting it off.

For those just joining us, this is a movie marathon with a twist. Myself (cranky 30s blogger), my son Josh (stoic 10 year old Nintendo obsessive) and my daughter Amelia (drama llama 7 year old princess wannabe) are watching Disney movies in a random order and ranking them. We hope to see interesting differences in how we organise our lists.

Film: Bolt

Released: 2008

Director: Chris Williams and Byron Howard

Cast: John Travolta, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Miley Cyrus, Malcolm McDowell

Plot: Bolt is a dog who believes that he possesses a range of superpowers. The truth is that he’s a TV star made to accept the fiction around him for an authentic performance. When Bolt gets lost in middle-America, he experiences a serious wake-up call.

Review: This movie is an oddity. It doesn’t quite feel like a Disney movie, but it doesn’t quite has the crassness of a Dreamworks movie from the same point in time. It’s not a bad movie, there’s just something…a little off. Some of this disjointed feeling comes from the casting of John Travolta who sounds like a raspy man in his 50s playing a cute puppy. Aside from Travolta is the only celebrity in the house aside from Miley Cyrus, who plays his owner, Penny.

So John Travolta is owned by Miley Cyrus. Is this a Scientology hierarchy thing or something?

The movie opens with Bolt being bought as a puppy before we jump ahead a few years where our hero has a super sonic bark, super speed, laser eyes…the basic superman package. It’s after a long action sequence that we see the world outside of Bolt’s perception, where he’s a mistreated performing dog kept in a state of paranoia and borderline violence. Through studio and producer nastiness, Bolt winds out out in the world.

He’s joined by a mangy cat (Essman) and a hamster who can’t distinguish reality from TV (Walton) and travel to LA to be reunited with Penny. His experiences in the ‘real world’ of Middle America force Bolt to come to terms with his normality and learn his limitations.

This is a wild concept. Weirdly enough it’s the one Disney movie that most resembles the modern world. In fact, it’s distinctly 2008 with Green Day still informing most of the fashion choices. There are soul patches and black and white stripes everywhere. Aside from A Goofy Movie, I don’t think any Disney movie leans this heavily into the current era.

Now, the movie is basically Bolt reacting to people telling him that he’s not in a TV show, and Middle America pigeons who don’t know who Bolt is. Bolt can’t use his super-bark, Bolt can’t use super-speed, Bolt can’t use laser-eyes…each one of these reveals get their own reveal. In alternating scenes Bolt experiences hunger, or discomfort, or dogcatchers, or whatever thing he’d never encountered before. It’s a fairly repetitive story. On the way, Bolt learns the value of friendship or family. One of them.

Mostly I felt sorry for the dog. He’s seriously messed up at the beginning of the movie, completely convinced that he has to protect his owner. This is a really depressing situation. It would make Bolt a sympathetic character if he wan’t…you know…John Travolta. It’s a really bad choice for a cartoon dog.

It’s a nice looking movie, but the story simply isn’t engaging enough. There’s a set-up for a modern media critique but this angle is never explored. It’s just the one joke about Bolt not understanding the real world stretched out to a full length movie.

Coolest Easter Egg: In a weirdly sly reference, a bus that zooms under Bolt dangling Mittens off a bridge is bus #2525 – potentially being driven at 50mph or faster by Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.

Weirdest Trivia: The younger version of Penny who appears at the beginning of the movie is played by Chloe Grace Moretz.

Rating: THREE out of TEN


The most distinctive quality of this movie is how unremarkable it is.

Click those titles if you want to see what we said about the other movies.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Robin Hood
  3. Aladdin
  4. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  5. Wreck-It Ralph
  6. Alice in Wonderland
  7. Beauty and the Beast
  8. Moana
  9. Big Hero 6
  10. Frozen
  11. Tangled
  12. The Sword in the Stone
  13. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  14. Mulan
  15. Emperor’s New Groove
  16. Fantasia
  17. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  18. The Three Caballeros
  19. The Princess and the Frog
  20. Hercules
  21. Oliver & Company
  22. The Aristocats
  23. Saludos Amigos
  24. Bolt
  25. Dinosaur
  26. The Fox and the Hound
  27. Pocahontas
  28. A Goofy Movie
  29. Treasure Planet
  30. Chicken Little


In one part of the movie, Bolt is really cute. Really, REALLY cute.

  1. Frozen
  2. Emperor’s New Groove
  3. Zootopia
  4. Moana
  5. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  6. Mulan
  7. Hercules
  8. Alice in Wonderland
  9. Wreck-It Ralph
  10. Tangled
  11. Bolt
  12. Pocahontas
  13. Dinosaur
  14. The Aristocats
  15. The Princess and the Frog
  16. Robin Hood
  17. Beauty and the Beast
  18. The Three Caballeros
  19. The Fox and the Hound
  20. The Sword in the Stone
  21. Saludos Amigos
  22. Oliver & Company
  23. Aladdin
  24. Treasure Planet
  25. Big Hero 6
  26. A Goofy Movie
  27. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  28. Chicken Little
  29. Fantasia


Josh feels that some parts of this movie are good and some parts are bed. So he slated in around the middle.

  1. Zootopia
  2. Big Hero 6
  3. Aladdin
  4. Emperor’s New Groove
  5. Treasure Planet
  6. Moana
  7. Ralph Breaks the Internet
  8. The Three Caballeros
  9. Saludos Amigos
  10. Wreck-It Ralph
  11. Frozen
  12. Mulan
  13. The Princess and the Frog
  14. Robin Hood
  15. Bolt
  16. The Sword in the Stone
  17. Beauty and the Beast
  18. Oliver & Company
  19. Tangled
  20. Pocahontas
  21. A Goofy Movie
  22. The Aristocats
  23. Fantasia
  24. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
  25. The Fox and the Hound
  26. The Nightmare Before Christmas
  27. Dinosaur
  28. Hercules
  29. Alice in Wonderland
  30. Chicken Little