Bolt – the first film from the Disney Animation Studios since Pixar supremo John Lasseter took the reins – was made in 3D, and released theatrically in that format. It has, thankfully, been released to DVD and Blu-ray in 2D only, and for that we can all be grateful. Why? Because films released in 3D on DVD and Blu-ray still use the red/blue glasses technology from the 1950s, rather than the modern polarising technology used in cinemas. And it looks awful, so I'd rather watch the film in normal 2D – and fortunately, Bolt is such a good film that it works perfectly well without all the 3D trickery.
Bolt (Travolta) is a dog who thinks he's a superhero. But he's not deluded; oh no, he's been led to believe that by the human makers of the TV show that he stars in. They don't want Bolt to realise that he's just an actor, they want him thinking he really does have super powers – they get a better, more natural performance that way. Bolt's co-star is Penny (Cyrus), and together they tackle all manner of evil-doers, saving the world week after week. One day, though, in a slightly contrived setup, Bolt gets accidentally mailed in a package from Los Angeles to New York. With the help of his new-found friends – Mittens (Essman), a mangey alleycat, and Rhino (Walton), a hamster in a ball who also happens to be a starstruck fan of our hero – Bolt needs to make his way back to Hollywood.
It's a simple setup, and not entirely original. But the execution is divine. Visually, it's a beautiful piece of work that has Lasseter's stamp all over it. The animation is as sharp as you'd expect, but the backgrounds are something else indeed – according to Lasseter, a new technique was developed so that the animators could give the backgrounds a hand-painted look. There's a softness to them, a certain quality that you don't normally see in computer animation, and they're simply gorgeous.
As for the film itself, it's well paced with a decent enough script that will keep the kids entertained throughout, but it just lacks that special something that you get in Pixar films that make them perfect for all ages – it's a little lightweight when compared to films such as WALL-E and Ratatouille. The characters are fairly well drawn, too – Bolt and Mittens are charming and likeable – but the standout star is the hyperkinetic hamster Rhino, who manages to steal the entire movie without even leaving his plastic ball. Rhino's the comic relief, and gets some of the best lines. Also impressive are some pigeons that Bolt meets in New York, who are probably the best animated pigeons in movie history – they move exactly as pigeons do in real life. Bolt is not as brilliant as the best films we've had from those fabulous Pixar people, but it's fun, funny, warm and lovable.
EXTRAS **** The Blu-ray features Super Rhino, a brand-new short starring that hammiest of hamsters, Rhino; a couple of deleted scenes (as storyboards); footage from a recording session with Travolta and Cyrus; a music video for the song I Thought I Lost You; a game called Bolt's Be-Awesome Mission (an 80s-style sideways-scrolling platformer); a behind-the-scenes featurette called A New Breed of Directors: The Filmmakers' Journey; a featurette called Act, Speak! The Voices of Bolt; a making-of featurette called Creating The World of Bolt; art galleries; and trailers for some other Disney films and TV shows. The DVD features Everything but the game and the galleries.