"Awesome!"—Rhino, over and over and over again
Mittens: How do you say 'there's no way I'm doing this' in Crazy?
Rhino: Let it begin! LET IT BEGIN!
Bolt is a genetically altered dog with numerous superpowers who, alongside his 'person' Penny, fights the evil forces of Dr. Calico, who has kidnapped Penny's scientist father.
Bolt has spent most of his life on a Hollywood set, believing that his powers and adventures are real, while the crew carefully hides anything that might reveal the Truman Show Plot to the canine star. When the network executives demand the show to become more interesting, they choose a cliffhanger plot where Penny is captured by Dr. Calico—causing Bolt to escape from his trailer to try and rescue her for real (and is accidentally shipped to New York in the process). With the help of an alley cat named Mittens and an easily-excitable hamster named Rhino, he makes his way back to Hollywood and Penny, realizing along the way that his powers aren't real as well as learning what it means to be a normal dog.
The film went through several years of Troubled Production, beginning life with the title of American Dog and featuring a very different plot that still centered around a television dog that believed himself to be inside the show. Originally directed by Chris Sanders, friction after Pixar's integration into Walt Disney Animation led to Sanders being replaced and the film undergoing a significant overhaul into Bolt. The dust up led to Sanders departing Disney altogether, leading to his creation of How to Train Your Dragon for rival Dreamworks Animation. Though the final film performed modestly, easily besting Meet the Robinsons in box office and critical reception and even picking up an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature, Bolt was overshadowed by Pixar's mega-hit WALL-E and DreamWorks' Kung Fu Panda, as well as opening up against teen girl powerhouse Twilight. Despite this, Bolt was a much-needed success for the studio after several years of difficulty in the market it once dominated.
- A Girl And Her Dog
- Abuse Is Okay When Its Female On Male: Noticeably averted. Mittens is freely slapped around by Bolt and Rhino, despite being The Chick of the group.
- Air Vent Passageway: Subverted in that only Bolt can fit out this way, but Penny is too big.
- All Animation Is Disney: Inverted, as many people mistake this for a Pixar film.
- In this case partly because after Sanders left the project, Disney brought in Pixar director John Lasseter, who influenced the film heavily in his own style.
- All Just a Dream: The "Super Rhino" short, which is only available on the Bolt DVD.
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version has a different ending theme called "I Look Up at the Same Sky".
- American Accents: Several textbook examples displayed by the pigeons, mostly imitating LA, New York, and Midwestern accents.
- Animal Eyes: Well, animal eye. Dr. Calico has one in the Show Within a Show.
- A Minor Kidroduction: The film opens with Bolt as a puppy getting adopted, which may or may not be part of the show-within-a-show.
- Amplified Animal Aptitude: Although Bolt is the hero, he is also an extremely smart dog and can move his limbs well enough to deliver karate chops. The replacement Bolt isn't nearly as smart, nor are the dogs in the pound. Mittens the cat can actually read.
- And That Little Girl Was Me: Even though she never actually comes out and says it, it's pretty obvious that Mittens' rant about human companionship is the story of her own troubled past.
- Rhino did the same thing earlier in the movie, saying how he dreams of doing something really awesome, and Bolt was the one who inspired this dream, in order to motivate him to rescue Mittens. Although he let it slip that he's referring to himself.
- And You Thought It Was a Game: Inverted; see Truman Show Plot.
- Animal Superheroes: Subverted - Bolt in the show is one of these, Bolt in real life isn't.
- Animal Talk: Shown several times with Rhino's angry mutterings being heard as cute squeaks by humans, or where Bolt's attempts to "super bark" Mittens down from a tree is nothing but a yapping dog and yowling cat to an animal catcher.
- Anti-Villain: Mindy from the Network. Yes, she was threatening the director with canceling the show if the ratings dropped, and she also wanted to convince Penny to replace Bolt to continue the series. However, she was just doing her job; a poorly-rated show is bad for a business like a TV network, and if they didn't continue the show, many people would lose their jobs. Arguably, there wasn't even one evil bone in her.
- Not to mention the changes she insists on happen in real life.
- Art Shift: "Barking at the Moon" shifts from real life places to 2D graphics in the style of the Waffle Barn map earlier in the movie.
- Ascended Fanboy: Rhino—and his voice actor, too, interestingly enough.
- Asskicking Pose: Bolt takes the same pose every time he does the Super Bark.
- Award Bait Song: "I Thought I Lost You" by Miley Cyrus and John Travolta
- Balloon Belly: Mittens, after exploiting Bolt's cuteness in order to get food for them. Her Lampshade Hanging provides the page's current quote:
"Hey! Look! My stomach's distended! How great is that?"
- Big Damn Animals: Several times, both in the show and out of it, such as the rescue of Mittens. The replacement Bolt actually flips out and botches his first one we see, causing the fire that is the climax of the film.
- Billing Displacement: Miley Cyrus is billed above the title but is basically a supporting character who doesn't appear for long stretches of time. Meanwhile, Susie Essman has more scenes but is buried in the middle of the credits.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Rhino is shown singing along with the background music while he and Bolt go to rescue Mittens from the animal shelter.
- Broken Bird: Mittens.
- Broken Masquerade: When Bolt finally learns he's not a super hero.
- Calling Card: Penny's preferred method of getting the attention of the bad guys was to roll a penny into their line of vision.
- Captain Ersatz: Bolt has more than a few resemblances to Krypto the Superdog. And that's Lampshaded by Bolt early on, when he scoffs at being asked if he can fly.
- Carnivore Confusion: Subverted, since Bolt and Rhino were domesticated pets as was Mittens, who is also declawed and thus unable to hunt.
- Catch Phrase
Penny's Agent: Let's put a pin in it.
- Penny has one too; each time she takes a photo of her and Bolt, she'll look at it and say "That's a keeper!"
- Cats Are Mean: Bolt sees all cats as servants of Dr. Calico early on, though eventually grows to become friends with Mittens. Mittens herself fulfills the trope at first, behaving like a Mafia don toward the local pigeons, but soon starts to drift away from it as the film progresses.
- In the show within a show, all cats are the servants of Dr. Calico and are mean. The show within a show plays the trope straight.
- It's addressed in a surprisingly mature way. When Bolt realizes that this trope simply isn't true (at least, not to the extent he thinks it is), it's the first major step in his Character Development. And while it's only Subtext, it's implied a few times that Mittens suffers from Fantastic Racism as a result of this perception.
- Cats Are Snarkers: Mittens definitely plays this straight.
- Chained Heat: Bolt and Mittens, although Bolt never seemed to mind it. In fact, he initiated it.
- Chekhov's Skill: Two of them. Bolt's "zoom-zoom" skill from the TV show later comes in handy pulling Penny through the smoke from the fire and observing Rhino use an air vent to magnify his voice allows Bolt to call for help when trapped in the burning building.
- Cliff Hanger: Created in order to make the Show Within a Show more appealing to a maturing target audience against its competition.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Both Bolt and Rhino qualify.
- Creative Closing Credits: The credits are pastel-colored, lineless 2D sequences showing Bolt, Penny, Mittens, and Rhino's life together. It's as cute as it sounds.
- Curse Cut Short:
Mittens: Slow down! You're scraping the fur off my * clang* ahhh....
- Cuteness Proximity: Invoked and exploited in the campgrounds by Mittens, as she has to coach Bolt on doing cute puppy-dog faces to get food. Bolt's begging works wonders, coaxing food out of an entire RV park.
- It doesn't work so well for Mittens, though.
- The Danza: Penny in the Show Within a Show. (Maybe...it's worth noting that outside of filming, none of the human characters ever address her by name.)
- Dark and Troubled Past: Mittens is a declawed cat who was abandoned by her owners. "They leave her... wondering what she did wrong." She now no longer trusts any humans.
- Darker and Edgier: The network executive basically forces the show's director to steer the show into this direction in order to grab ratings.
- Deadpan Snarker: Mitten has elements of this. A lot of elements. Ditto for Mindy Parker.
- Deathbringer the Adorable: Rhino the hamster.
- Disappeared Dad / Missing Mom: Penny has only a mother, but her in-show role is a character with only a father.
- Dirty Coward: Most of the people in the studio. When a fire starts while Penny is literally tied up in the set, most of the people are in such a hurry to get themselves out that they don't even take a few seconds to help untie Penny. This nearly causes her death. Subverted when three of the crew try to reach her, but are overwhelmed by the smoke and forced to escape.
- Distant Reaction Shot: The explosion of a helicopter in the opening knocks over a paper cup several miles away.
- Dogs Are Dumb: Subverted with Bolt, who is naive but not stupid, and played straight with the dogs in the animal shelter.
- Bolt is likely an Indian Spitz, or at least some sort of smallish Spitz. Those dogs are known for being very bright. The others are, well, dogs. The other wiki says that he's a White Shepard (like Miley Cyrus has), which I guess is smart too.
- Bolt is an American White Shepherd, which is a genetic off-shoot of the German Shepherd. GSD/AWS are highly intelligent, and fairly easy to train, not to mention very loyal to their owners. They're also very fast learners, just ask anyone who owns one just how easy they are to housebreak, and you can get an idea of just how quickly Bolt picked up his role in the Show Within a Show, as well as learning the harsh lessons between New York and LA.
- Bolt is likely an Indian Spitz, or at least some sort of smallish Spitz. Those dogs are known for being very bright. The others are, well, dogs. The other wiki says that he's a White Shepard (like Miley Cyrus has), which I guess is smart too.
- Enforced Method Acting: The whole premise of the movie is this trope taken to its extreme, to the point of a Truman Show Plot.
- Every Car Is a Pinto: In the Show Within A Show, naturally, but at least as effective if not more so when a sign falls on a truck (with a propane tank on board) in the real world.
- Executive Meddling: In-universe network executives (most preferably, Mindy Parker) ordered the Bolt studio to do something to keep the production profitable and stop audience members from "changing the channel" to the competition. The cliffhanger production that results is much to Penny's dislike, and spurs the main plot of the movie itself.
- Expy: Mitten's pigeon mobster underlings are most definitely not the Goodfeathers from Animaniacs.
- Face Palm: A mook in the opening does this after accidentally blowing up a helicopter. Hilariously, he forgot he was wearing a taser gauntlet at the time.
- Fake-Out Opening: You'd think that this was a movie about a superhero dog if you haven't seen the trailers, but then it shows Penny and Bolt wiping out an army of Mooks, then walking into a trailer a short distance away.
- Fantastic Racism: Several varieties.
- The cats who play Calico's cats clearly look down on dogs.
- Bolt sees cats as "degenerate creatures of darkness." Earlier on, anyway.
- Mittens seems absolutely convinced that no human ever had real love for an animal. At least until she saw Penny genuinely sad that Bolt wasn't there.
- Female Feline, Male Mutt: In the case of Mittens and Bolt. And really, we're never told what kind of dog Bolt is.
- Freudian Excuse: Mittens was abandoned.
- The Funday Pawpet Show: Cast member Carrot gets a cameo as Bolt's chew toy.
- Genre Savvy: Rhino finds that a hero having to do something himself often results in a need for backup when hearing that Bolt is going to finish the trip to Hollywood on his own.
- Gilligan Cut: "YOU'VE GOT NOTHING. No super strength, no super bark! ...And no heat vision."
- Growling Gut: Mittens' stomach growls during her first scene, and she uses it as a tactic to scare one of her bird servants. This also happens to Bolt, and he freaks out thinking the growls of his stomach are caused by a poison that Mittens implanted in him.
- Happily Ever After: As the executives complain, every week of the show turns out this way.
- The movie itself ends in this way.
- Hate Sink: Seeing as this film has no real antagonist, the studio director and Penny's agent both qualify as this.
- Heel Face Turn: As noted in Cats Are Mean, Mittens starts out as a petty criminal who intimidates the New York pigeons into bringing her food, but redeems herself by helping Bolt.
- Heroic Fire Rescue: Bolt running into a burning soundstage to rescue his girl Penny.
- High Altitude Interrogation: Bolt does this to a mook in the TV show, and again in the real world when he does this to Mittens and she says anything to avoid being dropped.
- The Homeward Journey
- Humans Are the Real Monsters: Mittens' opinion through most of the film, not without reason.
- Hypocritical Humor: Rhino also believed that Bolt's powers were real, despite it not being realistic (in-universe anyway), then at the end of the movie when he watches a new episode of Bolt that incorporated aliens into the storyline, Rhino turns off the TV in disgust while commenting on the idea "being totally unrealistic".
- Impairment Shot: Played with: Penny in the Show Within a Show—her vision goes from blacked out to immediately clear as her bandages are removed with no transition for her eyes adjusting to the light.
- I Need to Go Iron My Dog: Rhino does twice—he gets a ladder so that Bolt and Mittens can have a serious talk, and rolls away while pondering on Bolt's awesomeness so that Bolt and Mittens can reconcile.
- Lampshaded when Rhino actually comes back with a ladder.
- Ink Suit Actor: Averted with most of the characters, but Penny's agent bears a pretty remarkable resemblance to his voice actor, Greg Germann.
- Interspecies Romance: A lot of people seem to think Bolt and Mittens are having some heartwarming relationship.
- Invincible Hero: The Network Executive's criticism of the show is that there's no tension since Bolt never loses, and every episode ends with him victorious, thus prompting the cliffhanger and thus, the plot of the movie.
- Ironic Echo:
"We had a deal!"
"The deal's just expired."
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Play straight during the TV show. Subverted when Mittens plays along to Bolt's delusion in order to save herself from being dropped off a bridge.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mittens.
- Jerk with a Heart of Jerk: Penny's agent, who at first seems to sympathize with Penny's mother in her distress, but then tries to persuade her to use the disaster for publicity.
- Jumped At the Call: Lampshaded by Rhino.
Rhino: Ring, ring! Who is it? Destiny? I've been expecting your call.
Dr. Calico: Aliens!
[cut to Rhino sitting on a couch]
Rhino: That is totally unrealistic.
- Karma Houdini: The somewhat-crazed director of the TV show never does get any form of punishment for his... questionable method of making Bolt believe everything in the show is real.
- Same can be said for the Bolt replacement who ran away and caused the studio fire, though the ethics of putting an untrained dog into such a scenario does mitigate his responsibility somewhat.
- Keet: Rhino.
- Kryptonite Factor: Bolt assumes Styrofoam packing peanuts took his powers away when he first discovers he doesn't have powers. However, he refuses to believe he doesn't have the powers he thought he had, so he assumes on one occasion that the object he's trapped in (a dog catcher's truck) is made out of Styrofoam.
- Large Ham: Bolt and Rhino both qualify.
- The director of the Show Within a Show is arguably even hammier though.
The Director: Let me ask you, Mindy from the network, what do you see here?
Mindy Parker: Uhh... the dog?
The Director: "The dog" she says. Oh, Mindy. Poor, poor Mindy.
Mindy Parker: ... am I missing something?
The Director: You're missing everything, Mindy. You see a dog. I see an animal that believes, with every fiber of his being; every fiber; that the girl he loves is in mortal danger! I see a depth of emotion on the face of that canine, the likes of which has never been captured on screen before. Never, Mindy from the network. We jump through hoops to make sure Bolt believes everything is real. It's why we don't miss marks. It's why we don't re-shoot. It's certainly why we do not allow the dog to see boom mikes... because, Mindy from the network... if the dog believes it... then the audience believes it.
- Licensed Game: One that functions as Rhino watching the "Bolt" TV show instead of following the film.
- Load-Bearing Hero: During the climax of the film, Rhino uses his own hamster ball to prop open the collapsing entry into a burning studio while Bolt dashes inside to save Penny. Mittens gets him safely out of the ball before it is shatters from the weight.
Rhino: It is a good day to die...
Mittems: Not on my watch, rodent!
- Look Behind You!: "That's a weird place to put a piano."
- Lucky Translation: "Bolt" has many meanings in Russian as well, but the most popular and widespread is "screw". Thankfully, "Volt" wonderfully goes with the existing lip sync and bears a connotation related to electricity, which sort of explains all the lightning signs.
- Mama Bear: Penny's mother punching out the agent when he tries to tell them they can use Penny's burns from the accident at the end of the film as publicity.
- Meadow Run: Studio run, more precisely. First instance was the Show Within a Show, but the second is Penny genuinely reuniting with Bolt.
- Mean Character, Nice Actor: Arguably, the villains of the Show Within a Show. Towards the end of the film, Rhino spots one of Dr. Calico's underlings and charges toward him to attack. The actor merely picks up Rhino's ball and proceeds to gush about how adorable he is, oblivious to Rhino's attempts to fight him.
- Meaningful Name: Dr. Calico. "Calico" is a breed of cats.
- Misguided Missile: During the in-show Action Prologue.
- Mismatched Eyes: The Green-Eyed Man, Dr. Calico.
- 90% of Your Brain: it would seem this (or something close) is at least part of what the Show Within a Show uses to justify the powers Bolt is given as the alterations include extra connections in his brain.
- No Antagonist: Various characters cause problems for the heroes—the studio executives, the dog catchers, etc.--but there really isn't any villain of the movie. (Though Bolt spends a good part of the movie assuming Dr. Calico, the bad guy in his show, is behind everything.)
- No Name Given: Various examples, but Penny's acting agent and the director of the Show Within a Show stand out, as they are highly quotable characters who have to be referred to by description rather than by name.
- No OSHA Compliance: The in-show studio went up in flames really fast; apparently it was full of flammable materials, which, considering they were filming with a lot of torches in the set, was very stupid. Also, nobody had a fire extinguisher handy, nor did the building appear to have any manner of suppression system.
- The Nth Doctor: When Penny quits the show in the ending, her replacement is Handwaved in-show as a result of facial reconstruction.
- One-Scene Wonder: Malcolm McDowell's background role as the Show Within a Show's villain.
- Only Sane Animal: Poor, poor Mittens.
- The Other Darrin: Another dog takes on Bolt's show role while he is gone; the actor Penny immediately recognizes it's not "her" Bolt, but continued on for the sake of the show.
- Perspective Reversal: This movie involves, earlier on, Bolt believing that Penny's love for him was sincere, and Mittens believing that it wasn't. Later in the movie, Bolt sees Penny hugging another dog, assuming himself to have been replaced, and walking away before Penny can even see him... then Mittens sees Penny sobbing at the real Bolt not being there, and figures she was wrong about Penny. After this point, it's Mittens who thinks Penny's love for Bolt is sincere, and Bolt believing that it wasn't.
- Proscenium Reveal: The movie opens with an extended action sequence in which Penny and Bolt battle a horde of mooks. After Bolt vanquishes the last of them with his Super Bark, Penny picks up Bolt and walks away—to a trailer with Bolt's name on the door. As they step inside, a bell rings, and the film crew wander into shot and start striking the set, while the "dead" bodies get up and walk off.
- Punch Clock Villain: A literal example, as Dr. Calico and his minions are just actors and extras.
- Pounds Are Animal Prisons: Unless you're cute.
- Either downplayed or subverted; the pound is never portrayed as a "prison" for anyone but Mittens. The dog catcher's van, on the other hand, is a clear parallel to a prison paddywagon, but one could chalk this up to Rule of Drama.
- Power Trio: Bolt, Mittens and Rhino (more or less).
- Product Placement: Penny's agent wields a first-generation iPhone, while during Bolt's escape scene there's a whole shot of a guy editing on a Mac in what appears to be Final Cut Pro.
- There's a whole scene that takes place on a U-Haul truck.
- Reality Ensues: Bolt's early attempts to use his superpowers in the real-world never end well. It takes him awhile to start learning that he doesn't actually have any.
- Reality Subtext: Miley Cyrus plays a child actress who is being marketed for all she's worth, and robbed of a childhood in the process. John Travolta plays a big-name star who has been duped into believing that a patently redonkulous sci-fi scenario is the truth. Does This Remind You of Anything?
- Real Life Writes the Plot: An in-universe example. After Penny leaves the show, she is replaced with a different actress. Her different appearance is basically Handwaved with plastic surgery.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Mindy Parker
- Redemption in the Rain: Only briefly, but with bonus points for the extra layer of symbolism. The rain is also washing away Bolt's lightning bolt mark, and he's perfectly fine with that.
- Right-Hand-Cat: Dr. Calico has multiple ones.
- Running Gag: A few, one minor one involves a pair of college-age men moving across the US from New York presumably to somewhere in the West. They cross paths with Bolt and friends a few times, though the two groups only notice each other once or twice.
- Road Movie: A large portion of the movie features Bolt and his friends traveling across America.
- Scenery Porn: Which of course, leads to this.
- Show Within a Show
- Stock Super Powers: In-show, Bolt has Eye Beams, a Super Bark, Super Strength, and Super Speed. Basically, he's a Flying Brick, without the actual flying part.
- Note that Bolt does have the ability to leap over enemy helicopters In a Single Bound...
- Story-Breaker Power: "Speak" is Penny's command for Bolt's super-bark.
- Stylistic Suck: The scenes from the Show Within a Show are an acute (and rather vicious) parody of most modern children's entertainment: an escapist fantasy with an inane premise, dumbed-down and shortsighted morals, and embarrassingly atrocious scriptwriting. Bolt realizing how pathetic and shallow that world is as compared to the real one is more or less the entire point of the movie. The show even Jumps The Shark in the end.
- Take My Paw: Bolt to Mittens while on the train. Subverted in that she ultimately refuses to do so, causing Bolt to have to grab her by the neck to get her to come along.
- The Power of Friendship: Especially in Rhino's speech to Mittens in Las Vegas.
- They Changed It, Now It Sucks: In-Universe, After Penny and Bolt leave the show, they are replaced by different actors and the new Big Bads are now aliens. Rhino is not happy with the changes.
- Third-Act Misunderstanding: Bolt witnessing Penny embracing his replacement and running off thinking Penny never really loved him when she was actually just acting in a scene.
- This Is Wrong on So Many Levels: Mittens said a variant of this:
Bolt: If I stare at the lock really hard, it'll burst into flames and melt.
Mittens: (with a look of shock) Now I'm concerned on a number of levels.
- Toilet Humour: Literal, when Mittens introduces Bolt to a toilet, implying she told him dogs drink from it.
Bolt: Out of this?! But...but...
- Travel Montage
- Triumphant Reprise: "... no home like the one you've got, 'cause that home belongs to you."
- Tropey Come Home
- Troperrific: The entire opening is a complete spoof of Jerry Bruckheimer and Michael Bay films. There are tons of tropes and cliches in the action and the dialogue. It's hysterical.
- True Companions: Only Penny and Bolt at the start, but Rhino and Mittens eventually fit in, as well. Rhino even points this out during his speech before he goes after Bolt in the last stretch to Hollywood.
- Truman Show Plot
- Underside Ride: This is the means by which Penny and Bolt infiltrate the lair of their show's Big Bad. It is reprised a few times throughout the film in different contexts.
- Unnamed Parent: Penny's mom.
- Unwilling Suspension
- Weaksauce Weakness: Played with; see the Kryptonite Factor example.
Bolt: You don't know the power of Styrofoam!
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Lampshaded by Mittens when she and Bolt get picked up by Animal Control.
Mittens: They always pick the cute ones -- the ones that look like you, Bolt -- but the rest of us never come back out.
- Window Pain: Both played straight in Bolt's TV show, and subverted when he attempts to try the same thing in the real world.
- Your Other Left: When Mittens is teaching Bolt how to do the dog begging face and pose.
- Actor-Role Confusion: Rhino is just as oblivious to Bolt being an ordinary dog as Bolt himself is.