The expectations are high; it's been two years since John Lasseter (mastermind of Pixar) took over Disney animation, and we're only just now beginning to see the films he's guided through that department.
The buzz on Bolt thus far has been negative in most circles, not because of the quality but because of the troubled pre-production (Disney fired the original creator and revamped the story).
Still, based on what was screened this morning at Comic-Con, it looks to be quite a step up for a studio that has been creatively stagnant for years. While Bolt feels like a Pixar carbon-copy, the twenty minutes that were screened seems to capture a lot of their charm. Visually, it's really quite gorgeous. The directors wanted it to feel hand painted, even though it's completely digital animation, so they developed software to emulate the brush strokes of traditional animation ... so much software in fact that they have anywhere from 3 to 15 patents pending from the U.S. government.
The story line is cute if somewhat contrived: a dog named Bolt is the star of an action packed television show. He's a super-dog, complete with super-strength, a sonic bark, and lazer beam-shooting eyes. The catch is, Bolt thinks it's all real, until he is accidentally lost on a location shoot and is forced to realize he's just a normal dog. Along with a cat and hamster, he must travel back to Hollywood and ... well, I think you get the idea.
The humor and directing in Bolt are spot on ... like Pixar films it seems to really think about the scenarios and characters that its story creates and utilize their unique quirks for laughs and tears.
This doesn't look to be the film to herald another golden age of Disney, but it's a step in the right direction.