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Revisiting Disney: Meet the Robinsons and Bolt

meet the robinsons dvd cover

Welcome to Revisiting Disney! This week, we’re looking at two Disney movies that are full of heart and might make you cry, Meet the Robinsons and Bolt!  Like always, I have labeled each category so if you want to skip to the parts that interest you most, feel free. And, of course, if you have any thoughts, burning or otherwise, please share in the comments!

bolt DVD cover


Meet the Robinsons was released on March 30th, 2007, and although it wasn’t nominated for any Academy Awards, it was nominated for two Annie Awards and a Saturn Award by the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films in 2008.  This was also the debut of the new Disney castle logo in an animated film.

Meet the Robinsons was directed by Stephen J. Anderson, who had worked as a writer on Tarzan, The Emperor’s New Groove, and Brother Bear, and would write for Winnie the Pooh. He also worked in the animation department on Bolt, Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and Zootopia. The writing team for Meet the Robinsons was made up of seven people (Jon Bernstein, Michelle Bochner Spitz, Don Hall, Nathan Greno, Aurian Redson, Joseph Mateo, and Stephen J. Anderson).

Wilbur and Lewis; Meet the Robinsons Photo: Disney
Wilbur and Lewis; Meet the Robinsons
Photo: Disney

Bolt was released on November 21st, 2008 and was nominated for the 2008 Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards, though it would lose to WALL-E. Bolt is also unique in that it was the first film that was produced by Disney after John Lasseter became Chief Creative Officer. Bolt was also released on a Thanksgiving, which hadn’t happened since Aladdin in 1992.

Bolt was directed by Byron Howard and written and directed by Chris Williams. Howard had worked on Lilo & Stitch and would go on to direct Tangled and Zootopia, and he had also worked on Mulan, Brother Bear, and Pocahontas. Williams had worked on Mulan, The Emperor’s New Groove, Brother Bear and would go on to direct Big Hero 6. Dan Fogelman also wrote the screenplay for Bolt, and he would also go on to work on Tangled, having previously worked on Cars.


The music of Meet the Robinsons was composed by Danny Elfman, who wrote the music and lyrics for the films Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas. The songs are written and performed by Rufus Wainwright, who sang “Hallelujah” in Shrek, except for “Where is Your Heart At?” which was performed by Jamie Cullum, and “Give Me the Simple Life,” by Harry Ruby and Rube Bloom, also performed by Jamie Cullum. “The Future Has Arrived,” also by Danny Elfman, was performed by the All-American Rejects.

The musical tone of Meet the Robinsons is hopeful and futuristic. At times, it’s fun and a little kooky, while at other times, it’s soft and hopeful. Danny Elfman manages to convey both sides of this in the music. It’s a really wonderful soundtrack.

Penny and Bolt Meet; Bolt Photo: Disney
Penny and Bolt Meet; Bolt
Photo: Disney

With John Travolta and Miley Cyrus starring as the leads in Bolt, they needed to sing at least one song. The song “I Thought I Lost You” was sung by them, with Cyrus and Jeffrey Steele writing it.  “Barking At The Moon,” was written and performed by Jenny Lewis, and “Dog-Face Boy” was performed by Motorhead, and written by Michael Burston, Phil Campbell, Mikkey Dee, and Lemmy.

The general musical feel for Bolt is another great one; it has the right blend of hopeful and action-packed to give the movie just the right tone. The moment when Bolt and Penny first see each other is a great example of the human-animal bond, and it made me want to hug my puppy.


Meet the Robinsons is one of the only Computer Animated Feature Films by Disney to get a G rating (Chicken Little is the other one), as most of the other films after this were rated PG. This was also the first film to be made by Walt Disney Animation Studios, formed after the Disney/Pixar pact had expired.

Meet the Robinsons had actually started as a live-action film, and the animated film took about four years to create.  About a year before it came out, over sixty percent of the film was re-done, adding in some new story and action scenes. It was also unique in that the entire movie was storyboarded out and then filmed, which is really awesome.

The Future; Meet the Robinsons Photo: Disney
The Future; Meet the Robinsons
Photo: Disney

I also think it’s very neat that the future and the past use different colors. The present is in very regular colors, while the past in browns and grays. The future, however, is full of bright colors and just pops.

Bolt’s design was inspired by the paintings of Edward Hopper, and the films of the 1970s, particularly films like The Godfather, Annie Hall, Deliverance, and The Long Goodbye. It was also interesting to learn that the artists used brushstrokes, to try to make the computer generated animation look softer than it usually does.

In reading about the production of Bolt, I was very interested in the fact that this was the first Disney film that an original digital format, ie, not one Pixar had used. They also used hand-drawn storyboards, which I like adds a nice touch. The animation team also made several research trips, particularly looking at how the setting of their movie interacted with light (so that they could draw it appropriately).

Bolt and His Bus; Bolt Photo: Disney
Bolt and His Bus; Bolt
Photo: Disney

The final interesting thing about the animation of Bolt is that it was actually made in 3D; apparently both Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons had been made in 2D and converted to 3D.


Meet the Robinsons is the story of little orphaned Lewis, a boy inventor who has had 124 adoption interviews. His excited personality and inventions tend to drive prospective couples away, but, determined to find his birth mother, he decides to invent a memory scanner to help him remember her and enters the project in the science fair.

Lewis at the Science Fair; Meet the Robinsons Photo: Disney
Lewis at the Science Fair; Meet the Robinsons
Photo: Disney

At the science fair, Lewis is approached by Wilbur Robinson, who claims to be a time-traveler from the future. Wilbur is looking for a man in a bowler hat, who stole his time machine. When Lewis’ invention is sabotaged by Bowler Hat Guy, Lewis loses his confidence and determines to never invent again. Wilbur, however, tells Lewis that he needs to keep moving forward and convinces Lewis to come with him to the future. He also promises to take Lewis to see his mother if he goes with him.

When Lewis gets to the future, he is embraced by Wilbur’s weird and wacky family, the Robinsons. Meanwhile, the man in the bowler hat and his sinister flying hat, Doris, is out for revenge against Lewis and the Robinsons. Plus, he has a time machine. Could he be trying to alter the time stream? Why is Bowler Hat Guy so angry? What is his end goal? Is Doris more sinister than she lets on? And will Lewis be adopted or remember his mother? Why is this movie so heartwarming, hilarious, and tear-inducing?!

"I have a big head...and little arms." Photo: Disney
“I have a big head…and little arms.”
Photo: Disney

Bolt opens with a little puppy at an animal shelter being adopted by a little girl named Penny. Five years later, the two are starring in action-adventure movies, with Bolt being genetically altered to protect Penny. However, to make sure it looks real, Bolt doesn’t know he’s an actor.  As a result, he is very protective of Penny and convinced that he is a superhero, which Penny is concerned about (she wants him to have a chance to be a real dog).

When the show decides to try to boost ratings, they end an episode with a cliffhanger. In the cliffhanger, Penny is kidnapped by their nemesis and to make it look real, the studio decides to not let Bolt see that she’s safe. Separated until filming the next day, Bolt escapes his trailer to save Penny, and. falling into a box in the shipping department is accidentally mailed to New York.

Penny and Bolt Are Older; Bolt Photo: Disney
Penny and Bolt Are Older; Bolt
Photo: Disney

Meanwhile, Penny is horrified and missing Bolt, trying her best to find him while faced with the pressure of having to replace him for the sake of the show. At the same time, as he is trying to save Penny, Bolt is learning that he doesn’t actually have superpowers and has been living a lie. With the help of his new friends (after a time) Mittens and Rhino, Bolt learns how to be a real dog as he tracks down his girl. Will Bolt and Penny be reunited? Can they learn to separate show business from real life? And will Mittens find a home?


Meet the Robinsons is based on a children’s book by William Joyce from the early 1990s, titled A Day With Wilbur Robinson. Joyce served as a producer on the film, and the story draws from the quirky and warm characters. The characters in the films are really closely based on the characters from the book (who are loosely based on Joyce’s own family and a neighbor house).

Bolt went through some changes since it was originally planned. The original story, as written by Chris Sanders (who wrote and directed Lilo & Stitch), had Bolt named Henry, and in some ways, he looked like Stitch. Mittens was a male cat who also worked as a mechanic, Rhino was a radioactive rabbit who was larger than usual, and the setting was the Southwest.

The Cats Mock Bolt; Bolt Photo: Disney
The Cats Mock Bolt; Bolt
Photo: Disney

However, Sanders was replaced and the project completely rebooted in 2006. This gave the team only 18 months to make the film, and a film of this scope usually takes around four years to make! Bolt reminds me a lot of The Truman Show because Bolt was the only part of the show that didn’t know it wasn’t real and he slowly learns the truth.

The 2000’s

2007 was marked by thunderstorms, blizzards, earthquakes, tornadoes, and fires in the United States and around the world. This was also the year of as the April 16th shooting at Virginia Tech and a shooting at a secondary school in Finland, and numerous terrorist attacks worldwide, in addition to continuing conflict in Darfur.

An airplane crash in Brazil killed over 150 people, and the economy of the United States started to hit a bit of a rough patch (the housing bubble burst, there was an increase in foreclosures…all sorts of fun stuff). The President of Pakistan imposed martial law, six miners were trapped in Utah, a drought in Australia affected wheat prices around the world, and a bridge in Mississippi collapsed (I remember this because it was really similar to a bridge collapse in the 6th Harry Potter book, only that bridge was sabotaged by Death Eaters).

Some of the Robinsons; Meet the Robinsons Photo: Disney
Some of the Robinsons; Meet the Robinsons
Photo: Disney

On a more positive note, the Final Harry Potter book was published, the iPhone was released, and, um, Beyonce was popular? Sorry, I ran out of positive things to say about 2007. Meet the Robinsons is a movie about the importance of family, of reaching for your dreams, of fighting for what’s right, believing in yourself, and letting go of the past to embrace the hope of the future. It’s got a happy ending, and for this year that was definitely something good to remember.

In 2008, President Bush signed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 into law, showing that the economy was still not doing so hot at that point in time. Oil prices and inflation continued to affect countries around the world, while earthquakes, cyclones, and tornadoes plagued the world. The truce between the government of Sri Lanka and the Tamil Tiger rebels ended, while Fidel Castro resigned as president of Cuba. School shootings, terrorist attacks, and other violent events also occurred this year.

2008 also was the year of the Hollywood writers strike, a strike that lasted for 3 months and ended with a compromise. This, of course, affected my television viewing, but I totally understand the reasons the writers went on strike. This year also brought us Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, because Joss Whedon got bored. In other news, the Blu-ray beat out the HD DVD as the new format for film, the MacBook Air was marketed by Apple, and the Columbus, a space lab from Europe, joined up with the International Space Station.

Mittens; Bolt Photo: Disney
Mittens; Bolt
Photo: Disney

Bolt, to me, emphasizes believing in yourself and going to great lengths to protect the people you love. Everyone is a hero in some way. It also emphasized the important bond between people and their pets; with some many people struggling, don’t be like Mittens’ owners.


The main thing that I took from Meet the Robinsons is the importance of letting go of the past and embracing the future (and the hope that is there). Another lesson from Meet the Robinsons is that it’s important to believe in yourself and that it’s not the end of the world to fail. It’s all about how you deal with that failure.

The Bowler Hat Guy; Meet the Robinsons Photo: Disney
The Bowler Hat Guy; Meet the Robinsons
Photo: Disney

Meet the Robinsons also highlights the importance of living your dream and doing what makes you happy in your life, of reaching for your dreams. It also teaches the importance of family and of fighting for what’s right, no matter how hard it is.

Bolt reminded me of the strong bond between people and their pets. Penny loved Bolt and tried to stand up for him, while Bolt was willing to risk everything to save Penny. Another lesson from Bolt is that we need to be kind to our pets. Like I said above, don’t do what Mittens’ owners did. Another lesson is that anyone can be a hero. Finally, you never know who you’re inspiring. Bolt inspired Rhino through his show, and Rhino went on to say them several times.


These two movies are sweet, imaginative, and poignant. I cry more at Bolt, but that’s just me. I love the whacky story of Meet the Robinsons, though, and there’s always something new to see. Neither movie is available as an instant film on Netflix, but both are available on DVD and to rent through Amazon. These are two Disney movies that you really don’t want to miss.

For Next Week: The Princess and the Frog

If you enjoyed this post and the others in the Revisiting Disney series, and have found yourself wishing that you could find them all in one convenient and bound book with eight extra essays, there is an option for you! Check out A Journey Through Disney: My Look Back Through Disney Canon, now available on Amazon as both a Kindle book ($4.99) and a paperback ($11.99).






Bailey, Adrian. Walt Disney’s World of Fantasy. Everest House Publishers. New York, New York. 1982.

Finch, Christopher. The Art of Walt Disney: From Mickey Mouse to the Magic Kingdom. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. New York, New York. 1975.

Johnston, Ollie and Frank Thomas. The Disney Villain. Hyperion. New York, New York. 1993.

Thomas, Bob. Disney’s Art of Animation From Mickey Mouse to Hercules. Hyperion. New York, New York. 1992.

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By on July 3rd, 2016

About Bailey Cavender

Bailey grew up in North Idaho where she was encouraged from a young age to love reading, writing and learning; as a result, storytelling is a major part of her life. She believes that no story is ever the same to anyone and that everyone has a story to tell. With that in mind, she someday hopes to write a humorous and inspiring book (or ten, either way).

Her books, "A Journey Through Disney," "The Mermaid," and "Dear NSA: One Man's Adventures in Phone-Tapping and Blogging," can be found on Amazon.

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