Everyone knows how much I love and respect Disney Home Video for the love and care they put into their Blu-ray releases – live action. I’m not counting the suckfest that was Iron-Man 3. For them the “Diamond Edition” label actually means something so they take extra time and care when releasing their classics on Blu-ray. The Little Mermaid Diamond Edition is finally out and it is glorious,.
Today at Disney D23 Expo, Walt Disney Animation Studios unveiled several new projects including a new Toy Story special, more information on Frozen (which was first announced at CinemaCon with a teaser image), The Last Dinosaur and brand new projects. Kristen Bell and Indina Mendez where on hand for the presentation.
With Mars Needs Moms, Disney and Robert Zemeckis [Monster House, Polar Express] team up to create a kind of CG/motion capture take on the family films that Disney did so well in the fifties and sixties [The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes] crossed with a bit of B-movie science fiction weirdness.
Walt Disney’s Bolt is a thoroughly enjoyable bit of fluff with just the right amount of darkness and danger to give kids [and their parents] a bit of a scare before everything works out. In terms of animation, it’s almost to the level of PIXAR, though the storytelling isn’t as fluid. The 3D, however, works really well, and the film has more of a feeling of solidity than I expected – and the number of showy 3D sequences is much lower than I would have expected [and none that don’t actually serve the story].
The movie’s conceit is that Bolt [agreeably voiced by John Travolta], a German Shepherd pup who was rescued from an animal shelter, and became the lead in a hit TV show – but since he’s never been off the set, he thinks his TV superpowers are real. When he accidentally gets mailed across the country, he has to get home to save Penny [Miley Cyrus], whom he believes to have been kidnapped by the show’s villain, The Green-Eyed Man [Malcolm McDowell]. He is aided by a streetwise cat called Mittens [Susie Essman] and a hilariously overeager hamster in an exercise ball, named Rhino [Mark Walton].
The second film from the Disney Animation Studios since Disney bought PIXAR, Bolt also went through a creative disembowelment at the hands of John Lasseter and seems to be the better for it. It’s much better than Meet The Robinsons on every level. The animation is first-rate [Dreamworks quality, if not yet PIXAR level]; the script is genial and genuinely amusing, and the voice cast works like a dream. If Bolt feels like a weird hybrid of Inspector Gadget, Super Friends and Homeward Bound, that isn’t really a bad thing.
Something to note: some of the scarier moments might be too much for really young kids. There were a few outbursts of tears and crying at the screening I attended. In a way, that’s a reinforcement of Bolt’s effectiveness as an entertainment – it does secure the emotional reactions it seeks. There are also more than a few laugh out loud moments [a few more than the scary darker moments] and, overall, the film does provide a number of giggles, chuckles and grins. Bolt is light entertainment, but it’s good light entertainment.
Final Grade: B+