Bolt

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Post by Neal » April 12th, 2009, 2:20 pm

I am disappointed to hear Rapunzel may largely be a comedy, and am a bit concerned that Menken says his inspiration for the music is 60's-style rock. I think Rapunzel has the potential to be Disney's most beautiful and moving film. I do not believe comedy or rock music should be two words used to describe it, especially not after the wonderful artwork we've seen.

However, I don't think every Disney film needs to be "breathtaking and original" ... just like too much comedy can become overkill, too much epic can, as well. Yes, films like "WALL-E" superbly balanced the sweeping music, unique environment, and moving moments with comedy, but sometimes I think a film can be much lighter and still have its moments.

The banter about being a house pet versus a wild animal, although no different than the Jessie/Woody talk in "Toy Story 2" or the Duchess/O'Malley talk in "The Aristo Cats", still offers a reflective side story to the frenetic comedy. Bolt's insistence to find Penny presents the unconditional love of animals, and again, while I may be a sap because I have a dog of my own, it was touching to me. I thought these moments were sweet and the comedy sweeter.

As we move into this projected 'second renaissance' at Disney animation, I'll be less forgiving. Then why am I so willing to glaze over the recycled story aspects of "BOLT"? Simply because it was vital to the sustainability of Disney. After many Disney aficionados threw in the towel when "Home on the Range" was the 'last traditionally animated Disney feature' and the CGI "Chicken Little" and "Meet the Robinsons" were considered mediocre at best by critics (and a fair amount of Disney fans), Disney realized they needed to step up their game and put out a feature that was just strong enough in the areas that their previous features had been lacking in to re-gain some viewership.

Disney's more experimental features were not big hits. Take "The Black Cauldron", for instance, many many people don't even realize it exists. When I showed my Disney montage video in media class, my friends knew "Saludos Amigos" and "Make Mine Music" but had never seen nor heard of TBC. I've heard the same said by others in forums. Disney's attempt at the dark and brooding failed miserably. "Treasure Planet" is the more recent TBC. Not a fairy tale or comedy, but rather a sweeping adventure film, it failed to find a widespread audience and some might say it doesn't even have a niche audience - it just didn't capture enough people's interests.

Even "WALL-E" has some of these issues. Countless parents whined on IMDb because "WALL-E" wasn't 'talky' enough. They were expecting another comedy a la "Finding Nemo" with the fish swapped for robots, and instead got a film that was silent sans some beeps and whirs for large portions of the film. They felt cheated and said their children fell asleep. Dozens of parents who said this. They were crusading that other parents go see "Kung Fu Panda" with their children instead.

Disney knew this. Lasseter knew this. And that's one understandable reason why "American Dog" could not be made. It was too much style. It was too quirky. Disney needed something mainstream if they were going to survive much longer. If traditional animation was going to see a return, than they had to be willing to compromise on the breathtaking and original qualities of "BOLT" in order to make a film that would keep the kids' attention and entertain parents, as well.

This is something DreamWorks has done with largely every film. I'm far too critical of them for for it. It makes sense from a business point-of-view. Why expand too far beyond the comedy films you've mastered making when they continue to make billions? If it's not broken, why fix it? Sure, some are more stale than others, but theater seats continue to be filled. DreamWorks has no reason to change their formula, it continues to rake in the gold. DreamWorks and Disney are first and foremost both companies who need money, so while DreamWorks continues to follow the same formula, Disney is treading carefully and not making anything too unusual. Only Pixar has the license for the out-of-the ordinary at this time.

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That is why "BOLT" has some flaws. Disney couldn't take risks, it couldn't afford another "Atlantis: The Lost Empire" or "Treasure Planet". What it needed was as "Shrek" - something full fat on comedy, lean meat on heart. It needed to fill theater seats.

We can only hope that now that they pulled out a relative hit with "BOLT", they can keep the momentum but raise up the heart on the balance and lower the comedy a stinch. "Princess and the Frog" has the opportunity to be equally epic/beautiful and funny - for every laugh, there should be a tear.

We can only hope.

But I stand by my belief that "BOLT" was better than it's being given credit for, and believe the flaws being pointed out were almost a 'necessary evil' in order to ensure Disney will be around for some years to come. That's why tPatF may be an hour and a half advertisement for the Disney Princess franchise - more desperate attempts at sustainability. And if we want to see Disney return to its once golden self under Lasseter's tutelage, we may have to live with a few films that don't deliver the kind of heart, beauty, and epicness we want. We're taking a detour before we return home.
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Post by Ben » April 12th, 2009, 4:13 pm

Great post Neal. But you don't need to keep shouting the title out. Bolt's letters do not stand for anything. ;)

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Post by Neal » April 12th, 2009, 7:32 pm

Just as there's the 'The Aristocats' / 'The AristoCats' / 'The Aristo Cats' debate, there's some confusion over whether it is 'Bolt' or 'BOLT'.

As the spine of my Blu-ray and the WDAS site both list it as 'BOLT', I've adhered to that.

And glad you liked my post! :)
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Post by Ben » April 13th, 2009, 10:30 am

Well...no. The AristoCats is a play on words, and the title reflects that. On the film's title it reads The AristoCats. That was always the gag in that title.

Bolt is the name of a dog. Short for thunderbolt. It's only in capitals because Disney marketing wants to make an impact with that name. Most film titles are in captials if you actually look at them, but that doesn't mean we should keep shouting them out.

No confusion, but, you know, go follow the sheep... ;)

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Post by Neal » April 13th, 2009, 12:01 pm

Alright, maybe I'll stop yelling all the time. I've just always followed the title cards. The DVD spine says 'The Aristocats' but the title card is 'The AristoCats' so I went with the latter.

Either way, totally pointless debate.
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Post by ShyViolet » April 14th, 2009, 12:16 am

Yeah, very good post Neal. :) It definitely makes sense that Disney shouldn't try to make a Nightmare Before Christmas or Black Cauldron after such a long hiatus of "flops"---(although it's not like the films in question made absolutely zero profit, because at least Robinsons and Chicken Little crossed the 100 million dollar line)--I understand they need to restore their reputation first. That's kind of what Oliver and Mouse Tech did before Mermaid came in, paved the way for a more secure future.
Still, if you think about it, neither of those films can really be described as "conventional". Mouse Tech adapted a well-respected children's book into a fun but also very exciting film, and took risks by employing computer animation as well. A Sherlock Holmes type mystery combined with dogs and mice might not seem all that "quirky" nowadays, but for 1985 it was kind of a different choice, especially with all the Care Bears/Rainbow Brite/Transformers mentality of the time. Disney knew they couldn't fall into the assembly line, even if it came out better than their rivals. Even back then, they KNEW they were Disney and that they had to be different then the rest...Mouse Tech was a risk, but that was just Disney then.

And so was Oliver. Billy Joel and Bette Midler singing in an animated movie might seem incredibly "normal" nowadays, but it was new back then. The film had some dead spots but scary ones too. No one said: "Hey, a little girl getting kidnapped by a gangster who obviously kills people? A kitten abandoned and abused? A guy getting his head cut off by a moving train? No way, Disney can't afford to take these risks right now. We need a safer film." Mouse Tech and Oliver were certainly made to restore Disney's dollar power, but no one ever said: "These films can't be too quirky, what if they don't make enough money?" George Scribner and Ron and John did what everyone knew they were perfectly capable of doing...making good films, good Disney films.

I realize that things are different now, Disney's had a really tough time, and they have, but still. They're Disney. Ron and John saved Disney not once but three times from 1986-1992.
Disney knew this. Lasseter knew this. And that's one understandable reason why "American Dog" could not be made. It was too much style. It was too quirky. Disney needed something mainstream if they were going to survive much longer. If traditional animation was going to see a return, than they had to be willing to compromise on the breathtaking and original qualities of "BOLT" in order to make a film that would keep the kids' attention and entertain parents, as well.
I totally understand this argument, and, leaving the "we'll never know what Sanders' American Dog would have been like" argument alone for now, :wink: let's focus on Bolt. The film did adequately but definitely not spectacularly. Why else would Lassetter have done a "post-mortem" on why the film didn't do better? (From what I understand a post mortem is when a film does not do anywhere near as good as predicted and a producer/studio takes a long hard look at what happened.) The film had fun moments, but I don't think that all in all it left that much of an impression, on children or their parents. I hate saying this because I understand how much hope/effort has gone into this film and am in no way trying to slam it...far from it, I had hopes for this film too. That's why I was disappointed.

The truth is that, with all due respect to Lassetter, Iger & co, I don't think Disney should be willing to compromise. Mediocre films are not going to put them on the map any more than the "bad" ones did. American Dog, Rupunzel and Princess were not supposed to "set the stage" for the hoped-for Renaissance. They WERE the Renaissance. Sanders and Keane and Ron and John were Disney's Brain Trust.


But I stand by my belief that "BOLT" was better than it's being given credit for, and believe the flaws being pointed out were almost a 'necessary evil' in order to ensure Disney will be around for some years to come. That's why tPatF may be an hour and a half advertisement for the Disney Princess franchise - more desperate attempts at sustainability. And if we want to see Disney return to its once golden self under Lasseter's tutelage, we may have to live with a few films that don't deliver the kind of heart, beauty, and epicness we want. We're taking a detour before we return home.
My opinion: it had its moments, but nothing really stood out to me. And a Disney film, even one after a relatively dry period, shouldn't be a "necessary evil", no matter how seemingly dire the situation is. No matter what, Disney is still Disney. And Princess being a necessary promotion for the Princess franchise--I sure hope this doesn't happen. That's not a detour--that's an off-ramp that I don't think Disney should be taking at all. Once again, I totally get the delicate position the company's in, and it's totally understandable that they want stability. They'll get that if...they can just be Disney again! :)

One last thought: It also really surprised me that Bolt got the Best Animated nom when Meet the Robinsons didn't. Even with its flaws Robinsons affected me way more than this film. There was passion in that movie, as there is in the best of films, and passion is rarely if ever associated with "safe."
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Post by droosan » April 14th, 2009, 1:19 am

So, it went from The Adventures of the Great Mouse Detective, to just The Great Mouse Detective, to .. Mouse Tech..? :lol: :P

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Post by Sullivan » April 14th, 2009, 3:16 am

Bolt isn't short for Thunderbolt.


It's short for FULLYBEAWESOMELEGENDARYBOLT.

(According to Rhino.)

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Post by Neal » April 14th, 2009, 8:18 am

ShyViolet - I see "The Little Mermaid" as the first 'mainstream' title trying to re-energize Disney. It set the stage for the 'fab four' - Mermaid, Beauty, Aladdin, Lion - while itself being the change Disney needed.

I see "BOLT" err.. "Bolt" being part of the change Disney needs right now, but not being enough to hold up as a classic. Sort of like it took one for the team, did what it could but was never prepared to be a timeless classic.

Lasseter's post mortem concluded that Disney marketing focused too much on sidekicks and not main characters - such as the fact most of the "Meet the Robinsons" press dealt with the Dinosaur, from ads to the poster, that was their big sell.

Then, the first teaser for Princess/Frog seemed to want to push Ray big time.

I think we'll see less of that now.

And he changed the release date of Princess/Frog. The Disney brand is no longer strong enough to hold its own - not against teenage vampire-obsessed girls or CGI chipmunks - so rather than make the same mistake twice, he had the date moved.

All very smart plays.

Finally, it seems as if Princess/Frog is very much a vehicle for the princess franchise.

It features two girls who grow up wearing tiaras and crowns, pretending to be princesses while hearing princess stories. Any coincidence Disney sells child-sized princess costumes?

One girl continues to imagine, and goes to a ball dressed as a princess. And surprise! She meets the prince and eventually becomes one.

The film is rife with princess merchandise opportunities. While Beauty, Mermaid, and others were - I really think you'll see the underlying advertisement in this movie.
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Post by Ben » April 14th, 2009, 12:15 pm

I think it's quite amusing to see someone criticize the marketing they were a part of. What, Lasseter never okayed the use of the sidekicks?

On his side though, I will say that he shouldn't be judged on this one. Like Robinsons, it was still an inherited project. Sure, it wasn't as far down the line as Robinsons, but we know that Lasseter didn't want to make the dog movie in whatever form it took and only had to proceed because the marketing partners had already been sold on this concept.

So to say that the film was his fault isn't fair...he obviously didn't have the same amount invested in it that another one of his projects would do. Honestly, he probably wouldn't have chosen to make a movie about an action dog, but they did the best with the elements that were in place and with those they could change to basically get a half decent movie out there.

The real test will be Princess And The Frog...this will be his first, truly generated in-house project and the one he's built up from scratch. He's brought in the directors, the composer...the film will have Lasseter's feel all over it. That's the one that will be the real test. Bolt is a stepping stone to that, but as far as I see it, Disney's still in the doldrums overall.

We haven't had a Mermaid yet, though if you see Robinsons as the Mouse Tec, and Bolt as the Oliver, there is hope... :)

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Post by Once Upon A Dream » April 14th, 2009, 12:30 pm

Bolt isn't sucessful? and Neal,I"m really not surprised about how Princess And The Frog is a lot like the Princess franchise,that movie was created only to add a black Princess and make more money,can you imagine a little Belle dressed up like a princess and Murice telling her fairy tales and she pretends to be a princess? no,because Beauty And The Beast wasn't created to add a new Disney Princess to the line but Princess And The Frog did,it's a film created to sell more merchandise while Beauty And The Beast,Aladdin,Mulan,The Little Mermaid or Enchanted weren't.
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Post by Whippet Angel » April 14th, 2009, 11:20 pm

The film had fun moments, but I don't think that all in all it left that much of an impression, on children or their parents.
Disagree with you there. I keep hearing people (including adults) refer to the film as "That really cute movie where the dog tries to protect the little girl." That element of the film obviously left an impression on people.

Bolt obviously wasn't meant to be an epic. It's a light comedy with a lot of heart in all the right places. That's very much the same way I feel about Oliver and Co.

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Post by ShyViolet » April 15th, 2009, 2:17 am

ShyViolet - I see "The Little Mermaid" as the first 'mainstream' title trying to re-energize Disney. It set the stage for the 'fab four' - Mermaid, Beauty, Aladdin, Lion - while itself being the change Disney needed.

In my opinion Mermaid was certainly engineered as a mainstream commercial success, but I also think it was in many ways a gamble. It was the first Broadway/Ashman-Menken Disney film ever, for one, not counting Ashman's song in Oliver. It seems relatively "safer" and more commercial now but for 1989 it was in many ways quite radical. The fact that it was made in the style of a Broadway musical (while at the same time with the traditional Disney cartoon style) drew a lot of attention. It forged new roads because it took risks...on the songs, the action, a return to a princess/fairytale, a more "cinematic" style than other Disney films, etc...pretty much everything.



And he changed the release date of Princess/Frog. The Disney brand is no longer strong enough to hold its own - not against teenage vampire-obsessed girls or CGI chipmunks - so rather than make the same mistake twice, he had the date moved.

I also think that was a smart move, but opening on the right day isn't going to make that much difference unless there's as much marketing as possible. There's never a "perfect" time to open--a film can open on Christmas/Thanksgiving/Memorial Day and still die a death. I also agree that opening against Twilight was suicide, but it shouldn't have been that way in the first place. The Disney brand should be strong enough to draw viewers from every demo, not just kids age 3-10 and their parents. When Ratatouille came out, a lot of the marketing was kid-orientated but people from all different age groups went to see that movie, and 99.999% of everyone around at least knew what it was. That's the way it should have been with Bolt. Moving the date won't matter if no one knows it's even there.



The film had fun moments, but I don't think that all in all it left that much of an impression, on children or their parents.
Disagree with you there. I keep hearing people (including adults) refer to the film as "That really cute movie where the dog tries to protect the little girl." That element of the film obviously left an impression on people.

Bolt obviously wasn't meant to be an epic. It's a light comedy with a lot of heart in all the right places. That's very much the same way I feel about Oliver and Co.
Bolt was well-made and I'm sure there were plenty of parents and kids who liked it. I guess what I meant by an impression is not just remembering the film and liking it but being totally knocked out by it, the way someone would be blown over by a Nemo or an Incredibles--seeing the film multiple times, buying the merchandise, wanting a sequel to come out, etc...it's just not the same as "liking" a movie.

About Bolt not being an epic, it didn't have to be--animated comedies don't have to be the Ten Commandments but they can still have moments of genuine pathos and sadness, even with the humor. I just didn't see much of that in this film. There was that one moment when
Bolt saw Penny with a dog just like him, (of course, not her choice) but that was pretty much it.
I also love Oliver but I feel it aimed higher than Bolt did. Oliver is literally abandoned in the rain in the first ten minutes and almost killed several times. His relationship with Jenny was more real and poignant than Bolt's with Penny, and Jenny is also more vividly realized as a character. There's also a VERY strong villain in Oliver, which Bolt also lacks.

I am totally willing to give the new films a chance though...I really want them to be good, and I think they will be well-made and compelling, at the very least. I just also want that “wow!” feeling you’d get after a film like WALL-E, or The Little Mermaid. Disney is Disney—why shouldn’t they aim to be the best?
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Post by Whippet Angel » April 15th, 2009, 12:09 pm

I also think that was a smart move, but opening on the right day isn't going to make that much difference unless there's as much marketing as possible. There's never a "perfect" time to open--a film can open on Christmas/Thanksgiving/Memorial Day and still die a death. I also agree that opening against Twilight was suicide, but it shouldn't have been that way in the first place. The Disney brand should be strong enough to draw viewers from every demo, not just kids age 3-10 and their parents. When Ratatouille came out, a lot of the marketing was kid-orientated but people from all different age groups went to see that movie, and 99.999% of everyone around at least knew what it was. That's the way it should have been with Bolt. Moving the date won't matter if no one knows it's even there.
Interesting way of looking at it, but this is one of those things we can only speculate on. In other words, we'll never really know what "could've been."

In my opinion, it wouldn't really have mattered how strong the Disney brand was at the time. There is something about a cultural phenomenon (Twilight/Harry Potter/LOTR) that is very difficult to compete with. Had Ratatouille been released around the time as one of these, the results might have been quite different, and we'd all be here debating on what might've happened (weather the marketing wasn't strong enough, the film was just too original, the competition was too strong... etc). Aside from being a family film, Bolt kinda falls into that teenager/date movie demographic as well. I'm guessing most of the latter category opted for Twilight that weekend. It's interesting to think how the film might have done if that were not the case, or how other hit films would have done if that actually WERE the case.

Like I said, we can only speculate. :wink:

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Post by Neal » April 15th, 2009, 2:43 pm

Whippet Angel wrote:Had Ratatouille been released around the time as one of these, the results might have been quite different, and we'd all be here debating on what might've happened...
Right, like "what if Lasseter hadn't fired Jan Pinkava?!?!?!"

:wink:
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