Bolt Composed by John Powell
walt Disney Records (2008)
More soundclips below provided by AmazonMp3
effort certainly helps to lift BOLT emotionally, but could be
considered by some to be an "average John Powell score." Granted, an
"average" score from Powell is pretty doggone good!”
Alternative Powell Source
Review by Christopher Coleman
Composer John Powell has, once again, been one of the busiest composers of the
year. Following JUMPER, STOP/LOSS, HORTON HEARS A WHO, HANCOCK, and KUNG FU
PANDA, comes his sixth project released in 2008 - Walt Disney Animation's BOLT.
The animation studio was certainly in need of help with a seemingly endless
number of previous releases, which were largely considered to be
box-office-failures. With Disney's acquisition of Pixar in 2006, it was only a
matter of time before the Pixar-expertise would have some positive impact on 3-D
features produced and released at Walt Disney Animation Studios as well. In BOLT
we can see, John Lasseter, now Chief Creative Officer of both Pixar and Walt
Disney Animation Studios, already having an effect. BOLT is easily the best from
the studio to date, featuring decent voice-talent, en-par CG work, a well told
story, and the music from the "Animation Score King," JOHN POWELL.
BOLT is the story about a television, dog-star, only he doesn't know that this
is what he is. Everything the tv-hero thinks is real, isn't...except for the
love of and by his owner, Penny. Thinking that Penny has been captured by their
arch-enemy, Calico, BOLT is set off on a cross-country adventure to save her,
but he'll have to do so without his tv-powers, because the circumstances which
have moved him from Hollywood to New York are real and not set in his latest
episode. Along with way, BOLT meets several comical, but devoted characters that
help him in more ways than one.
The bar of expectation could hardly be any higher for composer JOHN POWELL these
days. He has delivered entertaining scores one after another for years now.
While every score may not be a home-run, few of his scores for animated films
lack creativity. Powell has become the "sound" of 3-D animation, having composed
scores for just about all of major studios of the genre...except for Disney/Pixar.
That streak comes to an end with BOLT, where Powell takes advantage of the
story-telling and weaves together a score that contrasts the real-dog, BOLT,
with his tv-superhero-personality.
From the onset of the movie, we hear Bolt's real-dog theme which also represents
his bond with his owner, Penny. At the film's onset, we see Bolt as an innocent,
puppy in a pet store and we are introduced to his aggressively curious nature
which is the trait that gets him chosen over all the other bundles of lively fur
sharing his pen. Powell gives us a light performance of lullaby-like theme on
strings and piano in "Meet Bolt" (1) and calls on the theme several times in the
latter half of the score. As the television, dog-star, BOLT, is given a
five-note heroic theme that POWELL employs whenever Bolt is in hero-mode.
He uses this motif when Bolt is unknowingly filming his television show and even
after he's been ejected into the real world, but remains under the delusion of
holding super-powers. We get our first clear and bold quote of the theme at the
conclusion of "Bolt Transforms" (4). We hear it again during a action packed
chase scene from the tv-show and also have introduced Bolt's secondary action
theme in "Scooter Chase" (5). It's this secondary theme that the
over-achieving-Bolt-fan, Rhino the hamster comically sings in "Sing-Along Rhino"
(11). As the Bolt learns and accepts the reality of his abilities (or lack
thereof) and we move into tracks like "Saving Mittens" (12) we hear the hero
theme arranged and performed more organically, sans all of the hyper-electronica
found in the earlier action tracks. Bolt is still a hero - remaining heroic
despite is knowledge of being "just a normal dog." The final five tracks lose
the Bolt-action theme altogether and instead rely heavily on his real-dog theme.
As he takes the final steps of his journey to rescue Penny, Powell raises the
level of emotion and intensity from Copland-esque, Americana arrangements to a
driving, determined performance at the conclusion of "Rescuing Penny" (16). In
the film's denouement, Bolt and Penny have retiried from the tv-business, and so
leave behind their 5-note, Bolt theme with the actual show. Bolt, the
show,goes on with replacement actors. "Unbelievable TV" (18) provides us our
final quote of the theme as big, dramatic piece which is placed in direct
contrast to the real-heroes living free in the country, "Home At Last / Barking
At The Moon (Reprise)" (19).
JOHN POWELL, of course, doesn't leave things as simple as all that. He also
provides a versatile theme for Bolt's reluctant side-kick, Mittens. It is
introduced in track 7, "Meet Mittens" as a mafia-like, Italian folk song, with
mandolins and all. Later, Powell delivers a sad variation on the theme in "Las
Vegas" (14) as we learn of what lead to Mittens' life in back-alley's of New
York. Speaking of New York, we hear an unashamed nod to famous New York
composer, George Gershwin, at the onset of "New York" (6), where the piece
starts with and extended rising note a la "Rhapsody in Blue;" replacing
Gershwin's clarinet with saxophone. BOLT departs from the convention of animated
films in making one of the main themes into a pop vocal track. Of course, that
doesn't mean there aren't any pop tracks to be found. There are two, in fact,
and they are used to start the soundtrack (rarely a favorable choice from the
score fan's perspective). The first is a duet between Penny and Bold a.k.a.
Miley Cyrus and John Travolta, "I Thought I'd Lost You" (1) and second is a tune
by Jenny Lewis "Barking at the Moon" (2) which is barely connected in final few
moments of film as heard in track 18. Neither song is particularly outstanding,
but it wouldn't surprise me to find the duet being nominated and performed at
the upcoming Oscars.
BOLT easily surpasses Walt Disney's previous 3-D productions like MEET THE
ROBINSONS, CHICKEN LITTLE, and THE WILD. While BOLT doesn't quite hit the level
of fine detail that other 2008 releases like WALL*E and KUNG FU PANDA do, it
remains a very entertaining film. The same remark can be made of JOHN POWELL's
score. His effort certainly helps to lift BOLT emotionally, but could be
considered by some to be an "average John Powell score." Granted, an "average"
score from Powell is pretty doggone good. Those who really connect to the film
or those who are looking for yet another decent score from JOHN POWELL to feast
upon will find that BOLT is a mostly satisfying soundtrack. Unfortunately, the
average time track time being under 2 minutes and the total running time being
just under 37 minutes. Considering that there are two pop tunes included in that
37 minutes, it would have been nice to have gotten a bit more score, perhaps in
the form of a suite. Then again, it's not like John Powell hasn't delivered
enough music for us in 2008.