Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Screenplay by
Produced byClark Spencer
Edited byTim Mertens
Music byJohn Powell
Distributed byWalt Disney Studios
Motion Pictures
Release dates
  • November 17, 2008 (2008-11-17) (El Capitan Theatre)
  • November 21, 2008 (2008-11-21) (United States)
Running time
96 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$150 million[1]
Box office$310 million[1]

Bolt is a 2008 American animated action-adventure film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. It was directed by Chris Williams and Byron Howard (in their feature directorial debuts) and produced by Clark Spencer, from a screenplay written by Williams and Dan Fogelman. The film stars the voices of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell, James Lipton and Greg Germann. This was also one of the final film roles for Lipton before his death in 2020, the other being Igor which was released the same year as Bolt.

The film's plot centers on a dog named Bolt, who has spent his entire life on the set of a television series and firmly believes that he has superpowers. When his beloved owner Penny is "kidnapped" on the show, Bolt runs away from the set to rescue her, eventually teaming up with sarcastic alley cat Mittens and a hamster named Rhino who is a fan of Bolt's television series, to embark on a cross-country journey back home.

Bolt premiered at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles, on November 17, 2008, and was released in the United States on November 21. Despite a relatively marginal box-office performance, the film received a strong positive critical reception. It is also regarded for helping to instigate a rebirth of Walt Disney Animation Studios, setting the studio on a new creative direction that led to other critically acclaimed features such as Tangled (2010) and Frozen (2013).[2][3]

The film was nominated for a series of awards, such as the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song.


A White Swiss Shepherd puppy named Bolt is adopted by a 7-year-old girl named Penny. Five years later, Bolt and Penny star in a hit television series named after Bolt, in which Bolt and Penny fight crime and foil the plans of the villain, Dr. Calico, who has kidnapped Penny's father, with Bolt using various superpowers in their adventures. To gain a more realistic performance from Bolt, the show's director has arranged the filming in such a way that Bolt believes everything in the show is real, including his invulnerability, super-strength, and percussive sonic "Superbark". This means Bolt can never leave the set and live as a normal dog, much to Penny's dismay. After a cliffhanger episode causes Bolt to believe Penny has been kidnapped, he escapes from his on-set trailer in Hollywood, but knocks himself unconscious and falls into a box of packing peanuts, which is then shipped to New York City.

Upon arrival in New York, Bolt is shocked to discover that his "superpowers" are useless. He encounters Mittens, a cynical feral cat who runs a protection racket for pigeons. Believing that Mittens is an "agent" of Calico, Bolt ties her to his collar with a leash, and forces her to guide him back to Penny. Meanwhile, in Hollywood, a less-experienced White Swiss Shepherd dog is brought in so filming can resume. Penny is distraught over Bolt’s disappearance, but reluctantly agrees to halt the search so production can continue.

Feeling hungry for the first time in his life, Bolt accepts Mittens' advice and behaves like a cute and needy stray, securing food for them both at an RV park where they are joined by Rhino, a fearless hamster and huge fan of Bolt. Rhino's description of Bolt's adventures causes Mittens to realize Bolt is from a TV show, but she is unable to convince Bolt of the truth. In frustration, Bolt repeatedly attempts to "superbark" Mittens, but the noise draws the attention of the local animal control service, and Bolt and Mittens are both captured and taken to a shelter.

Bolt, freed from the patrol van by Rhino, finally realizes and accepts that he is just a normal dog. However, he regains his confidence after Rhino (oblivious to this revelation) gives him a motivating speech, and they rescue Mittens from the shelter. As they travel west, Bolt and Mittens form a close friendship; she teaches him how to be an ordinary dog and enjoy typical dog activities. Mittens makes plans for the three of them to stay in Las Vegas, but Bolt is still determined to find Penny. Mittens reveals to Bolt that she was declawed and abandoned by her owners, and believes that no human truly "loves" their pet. Bolt vehemently disagrees with her, and continues on alone to Hollywood. After finding out about Bolt's departure, Rhino convinces Mittens to go to Hollywood and find him.

When Bolt reaches the studio, he finds Penny embracing the replacement dog during a rehearsal, and, believing that she has replaced him, leaves feeling heartbroken. Mittens, who has caught up to him and witnessed the events, reassures Bolt that Penny does love him. At the same time, the Bolt look-alike panics during the show's filming and accidentally knocks over lit tiki torches, setting the stage on fire with Penny trapped inside. Bolt arrives, and the two reunite inside the burning studio, but are unable to escape and Penny begins to suffocate from the smoke. Bolt stays with Penny and repeatedly barks into the building's air vent, alerting the firefighters to their location.

Bolt and Penny are rescued. Penny and her mother quit the show after Penny's agent proposes that they exploit the incident for publicity. The show continues with a replacement "Bolt" and "Penny" and a bizarre new storyline involving alien abduction. Penny adopts Mittens and Rhino, and they move to a rural home to enjoy a simpler lifestyle together.

Voice cast



In November 2002, Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, the directors of Lilo & Stitch (2002), had signed a multi-picture deal with Walt Disney Pictures. It was also reported Sanders was working on an untitled computer-animated film.[4] Nearly a year later, in November 2003, the project had been titled American Dog.[5] The plot centered on Henry, a famous canine star, who one day finds himself stranded in the Nevada desert with a testy, one-eyed cat and an oversized, radioactive rabbit who are themselves searching for new homes, all the while believing he is still on television.[6] In August 2005, the project's conceptual artwork and synopsis were then showcased publicly at the annual SIGGRAPH conference.[7] By November 2005, American Dog had been slated for a summer 2008 release.[8]

Following the corporate acquisition of Pixar Animation Studios, John Lasseter and Ed Catmull had been respectively appointed as Chief Creative Officer and President of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar. In the fall of 2006, Lasseter, along with other directors from Pixar and Disney, attended two screenings of the film and gave Sanders suggestive notes on how to improve the story. Catmull stated "somewhere along the way, the plot had also come to include a radioactive, cookie-selling Girl Scout zombie serial killer. I'm all for quirky ideas, but this one had metastasized."[9] In December 2006, Sanders was removed from the project,[10] and by early 2007, he had joined DreamWorks Animation.[11] According to Lasseter, Sanders was replaced because he had resisted the changes that he and the other directors had suggested. Lasseter was quoted as saying "Chris Sanders is extremely talented, but he couldn't take it to the place it had to be."[12] Earlier that same month, Disney had laid off about 160 employees within its animation division.[13] Sanders said he had no ill will over being removed from the film, and hoped he could revisit some of his ideas in the future. He approved of the final film and the changes made, stating: "I think it would have been frustrating if the movie were essentially the same but with only slight changes. And I suppose my scenes and storylines are still sitting there on the shelf. I could actually pull them out and do them again. But it would be completely different."[14]

In February 2007, Lasseter had confirmed Chris Williams and Byron Howard were the film's new directors.[15][16] As directors, Williams focused on the story reels and layout while Howard tackled character design and animation.[17] The radioactive rabbit and eyepatch-wearing cat characters were removed from the story while the dog Henry (now renamed Bolt) was redesigned into a White Shepherd with a lightning bolt-shaped patch that runs down the left side of his body. Furthermore, Lasseter ordered the American Southwest setting to be removed given his then-recent film Cars (2006) had a similar terrain.[18] Following the story overhaul, the animation team was told to complete the animation in 18 months instead of the usual four years that is normally required to produce a computer-animated feature.[19] On June 8, 2007, Disney announced that the film, now under its current name, would be released on November 21, 2008, in Disney Digital 3-D.[20][21]


The look of the film was inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper and the cinematography of Vilmos Zsigmond.[22] New technology in non-photorealistic rendering (NPR) was used to give it a special visual appearance, a technique later used in Tangled (2010). To give the film's 3D backgrounds a hand-painted look, the company artists used new patented technology designed specifically for the film.[23]

Bolt's characteristics are based on an amalgam of breeds, although the designers started with the American White Shepherd.[24] Joe Moshier, lead character designer, said, "they American White Shepherds have really long ears, a trait that I tried to caricature in order to allow the animators to emphasize Bolt's expressiveness."[24]

The design of Rhino in his plastic ball was based on executive producer John Lasseter's pet chinchilla, which was brought to an animators' retreat during the film's production.[25]


"Barking at the Moon" redirects here. For the album by Ozzy Osbourne, see Bark at the Moon.

Bolt (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedNovember 18, 2008 (2008-11-18)
LabelWalt Disney
CompilerWalt Disney
Walt Disney Animation Studios chronology
Meet the Robinsons (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Bolt (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
The Princess and the Frog (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

The score to Bolt was composed by John Powell.[26] The soundtrack featured the film's score and two original songs – "I Thought I Lost You" by Bolt's stars Miley Cyrus and John Travolta (nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song on 2009) as well as "Barking at the Moon" by Rilo Kiley singer Jenny Lewis.[26] The soundtrack was released on November 18, 2008.[27]

Motörhead's song "Dog-Face Boy" (from their Sacrifice album) is in a scene in which a mailroom worker is listening to it on headphones while inadvertently wrapping Bolt up in a box that gets shipped to New York City.[28]

Track listing

Bolt (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) track listing
1."I Thought I Lost You"Miley Cyrus, Jeffrey SteeleCyrus, John Travolta3:35
2."Barking at the Moon"Jenny LewisLewis3:17
3."Meet Bolt"John PowellPowell1:49
4."Bolt Transforms"PowellPowell1:00
5."Scooter Chase"PowellPowell2:29
6."New York"PowellPowell1:43
7."Meet Mittens"Powell, James McKee SmithPowell1:25
8."The RV Park"PowellPowell2:14
9."A Fast Train"PowellPowell2:38
10."Where Were You On St. Rhino's Day?"PowellPowell1:58
11."Sing-Along Rhino"PowellPowell0:41
12."Saving Mittens"PowellPowell1:02
13."House On Wheels"PowellPowell3:07
14."Las Vegas"PowellPowell2:01
15."A Friend In Need"PowellPowell1:13
16."Rescuing Penny"PowellPowell3:09
17."A Real Life Superbark"PowellPowell0:46
18."Unbelievable TV"PowellPowell1:20
19."Home At Last / Barking At the Moon (Reprise)"Powell, LewisPowell, Lewis1:29
Total length:37:05


Bolt had its world premiere on November 17, 2008, in Hollywood, Los Angeles, at the El Capitan Theatre.[29] It was commercially released in theaters in the United States on November 21, 2008. By its fourth week in theaters, the film was accompanied by Pixar's Cars Toons short Tokyo Mater.[30]

Home media

Bolt was released on Blu-Ray in the United States on March 22, 2009. The Blu-Ray combo set included a standard DVD and digital copy versions of the film. Single-disc DVD and Special Edition DVD with Digital Copy versions followed in Region 1 on March 24.[31] This marked the first time a major home-video release debuted on Blu-ray Disc before DVD.[32] Bolt was released on both Blu-ray and DVD in the United Kingdom on June 15, 2009.[33]

A short film called Super Rhino is included in the DVD and Blu-ray versions of the film.[34] By December 2009, the DVD has sold over 4.5 million copies, generating $81.01 million in consumer sales.[35]

The 3D Blu-ray version of the film was released in November 2010, in France[36] and UK.[37] A month later, it was released worldwide exclusively to select Sony TVs.[38][39] In the United States, it was released on November 8, 2011.[40]


Box office

On its opening weekend, the film opened in third place, earning $26.2 million behind Twilight and Quantum of Solace.[41] On its second weekend, it rose to second place, earning nearly $26.6 million behind Four Christmases.[42] Overall, Bolt grossed $114.1 million in the United States and Canada and $195.9 million in international territories, totaling $310 million worldwide.[1]

Critical reaction

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 90% of 191 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.2/10. The website's consensus reads: "Bolt is a pleasant animated comedy that overcomes the story's familiarity with strong visuals and likable characters."[43] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 67 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "generally favorable" reviews.[44] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[45]

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote that Bolt was "a sweet Disney family film, but Lasseter's oversight has made it smarter than it otherwise would have been. It's not in Pixar's league, but it's laced with idiosyncratic characters with pleasantly wacky attitudes. That may sound like the obvious thing to do but that doesn't mean anyone else has done it."[46] Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter felt the film was a "notable step up for Walt Disney Animation Studios", although he felt the script needed "more of a comedic punch, with fuller character quirks and complexities to go along with the enhanced visual dimension." Nevertheless, Rechtshaffen complimented the vocal performances from Travolta, Cyrus, and Malcolm McDowell.[47] Todd McCarthy, reviewing for Variety, noted the film was an "OK Disney animated entry enhanced by nifty 3-D projection" as it "bears some telltale signs of Pixar's trademark smarts, but still looks like a mutt compared to the younger company's customary purebreds."[48]

A. O. Scott of The New York Times complimented the film as "a real movie[,] not a great one, perhaps, but a more organic and thought-out piece of work than the usual animated hodgepodge that lures antsy children and their dutiful parents into the multiplexes. It has its sentimental strains, but it doesn't push them too hard, or resort to the crude, pandering humor of, say, the Shrek franchise."[49] Perry Seibert of TV Guide gave the film 3 stars out of 4 and wrote the film "amuses both those who make up the film's target audience and the parents along for the ride. This winning mix of exciting action, heart-tugging sentiment, and gentle character comedy makes Bolt yet another solid addition to Disney's history of family-friendly fare."[50] Tasha Robinson of The A.V. Club gave the film a B+, stating that "Bolt is the studio's first film since Lilo & Stitch that feels like it's trying to recapture the old Disney instead of aggressively shedding it in favor of something slick and new. And yet it comes with a healthy cutting-edge Pixar flavor as well."[51]

Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune awarded the film 1+12 stars out of four, writing he personally "felt abandoned just watching it. It's a seriously withholding action comedy, stingy on the wit, charm, jokes, narrative satisfactions and animals with personalities sharp enough for the big screen, either in 2-D or 3-D. I saw it in 3-D, which helped, especially with an early, massively destructive chase through the streets and freeways of Los Angeles. Plus, the herky-jerky movements in the head and neck region of three credulous pigeons -- those were funny."[52] Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal wrote: "I did not find Bolt lovable. Likable, yes, and occasionally endearing -- yet the best parts involve a hamster in a plastic ball. The movie dog's confusions are entertaining, though they're familiar to anyone who has seen Buzz Lightyear in Pixar's peerless Toy Story films. But the spunk of the hamster, a corpulent rodent named Rhino, is stirring, and there's a timeless purity to the spectacle of him scurrying around in his private little sphere."[53]


Bolt was nominated for the following awards:

Video games

Main article: Bolt (video game)

Disney Interactive Studios produced a video game based on the film, released in November 2008 for Nintendo DS, Wii, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.[65] The game focuses on Bolt's fake TV life, not the actual storyline.[66] A separate game was released for mobile phones,[67] and a third game, RhinoBall, was released as an application on Apple's App Store.[68]


  1. ^ Distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures through the Walt Disney Pictures banner.


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