Getting Some Action with ‘Bolt’

All images © 2008 Walt Disney Pictures

Wee! Back to writing about cartoons.

This is not a movie review.

But in case you were wondering: I liked Bolt. No complaints really.

Well, except that I was forced to wear glasses on top of my glasses so I could watch it in craptastic ‘Real 3D’.

The 3D thing was totally useless for this movie. Useless, I say! There was no reason for it but to gauge me an extra $3 for a ticket.

And the fact Disney gave away all the funny hamster bits in the trailers leading up to the movie release. (Yeah, thanks guys.)

But I digress.

I thought it would be a good movie to learn some lessons in action sequences.

Ahh, the action sequence.

Some board artists love ’em. Some hate ’em.

In a script they sit as cute little paragraphs. Seemingly harmless.

Then you start to thumbnail them out. And that cute little three-line paragraph suddenly morphs into a beast of pages upon pages of storyboarding hell.

I am not all that fond of them. I’m more of an ‘acting and dialogue’ kind of gal.

But they can be fun sometimes.

The opening sequences of Bolt have some really great ones. Because they are kind of spoofing action movies, there is a lot of cliched fun going on.

So let’s take a look at a few.

The Quick-Cut Mini Montage

I actually really like doing these. They are dynamic, fast and cut to the chase.

And are awesome ‘cheats’ to tell a lot of information without worrying too much about hook-ups.

Penny and Bolt are about to be chased by the bad guys. So Penny needs to get out her super-scooter thing.

How exciting would it be to storyboard this on a wide shot?


So with a series of quick little cuts from different angles, we get all the information we need.

Up shot on Penny lifting the scooter into shot.

Zing! The wheel comes to camera.

Cut to the front wheel on the ground. The camera is low.

Whoosh! The back wheel zips back to us as the camera pulls back with it fast.

The extreme close-up of Penny putting on her helmet.

Where was the helmet? In her backpack? Do we care? Do we really want to see her take it out and all that?

NO! We get the information without worrying about silly details like that. We just need to get the thing on her head.

They’re in a hurry, dammit!

Close-up of her thumb on the handle bar. She presses a button.

Very fast truck-out to reveal both of her hands on the handle bars, revving the scooter.

And it’s done.

The shot goes wide and off they scoot. Like I said, they are nice little cheats and a fast, interesting way to get that scooter scooting.

Plus it tells the audience the scooter has a few extra gizmos on it. Good information that comes into play later.

The Multi-Angle Slow Motion Series

Here’s some action flick goodness for you.

Bolt is about to get shot at from another helicopter that is off screen.

Slow that camera down so we see our hero missing those helicopter blades and soaring over it.

Change the camera angle and shot size so we see it continue. (Soarrrrrrrrrr)

One more time! From the top.

But notice they are cutting with continuity here. Where he ends up at the end of one shot, he continues along on the next one.

Then we get to the back of the helicopter and Bolt is off screen. It starts in slow motion, then speeds up to real time.

Just in time for his landing. And off he runs.

You can breathe now.

But it’s not over!

No, now we get the joys of:

The Multi-Angle Repeat-Action Series

How many times have you seen this one? Pure cliched fun here.

The up shot on the helicopter Bolt just jumped over.

Boom! The other helicopter blasts that sucker.

Let’s see it again. Higher and wider.

Boom! Oh yeah, baby. More! More!

Wee! One more from the side.

Boom! This one fills the screen with all it’s fiery awesomeness.

And now, just for good measure after all that pumping adrenaline, we need a little comic relief.

Extreme wide shot on the city with the explosion way off in the distance. And an empty soda cup in the foreground.

And it ever so gently blows over. Tap!

Nice touch. It’s smart to put that little pause in there.

It makes the audience smile.

It gives them a little break from all the fast action and gets them ready for more.

All that was missing was Penny and Bolt walking in slow motion away from a huge fiery blast in the background.

Or diving to camera with a huge fiery blast in the background.

None of this makes you roll your eyes because they are doing it on purpose.

This is all for the Bolt TV show in the movie. It’s supposed to be over the top and full of those action movie cliches.

Like I said, fun stuff.

I’ll probably continue with this little series. There are some great uses of up shots and down shots in the movie. Something I’ve been wanting to touch on for a while.

So tune in next week for the exciting continuation!!!


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23 thoughts on “Getting Some Action with ‘Bolt’

  1. Will Reinhardt

    I loved the not-a-review, and the breakdown of some fabulous shots. I think I may have even used a couple of these from time-to-time.

    I’ve seen this film a couple of times now and I can’t help but laugh (even now thinking about it) at Rhino’s rush of insane maniacal laughter as they’re about to jump onto a speeding train: “let it begin, LET IT BEGIN!”

  2. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Thanks Will.

    Yes, Rhino did steal the show. He could have turned out to be irritating but he didn’t.

    It’s just that I think I saw *every one* of his best lines in different trailers before the movie’s release. And not online…it was while I was seeing another movie.

    Ticked me off. And once they showed the whole ‘breaking out of the pound’ sequence! 6 minutes!! I couldn’t believe that one. Ugh.

    But yes, I loved that part too. He’s a great, fun character that must have been a blast to animate. 🙂

  3. David Andrade

    Rock on >_<! We’re working on some pretty intense action sequences here at work and I’m boarding in a few cheats like this. Good to see it here for reference 😀 Do they have a book of all of these things? I’ve kind of learned storyboarding from self study. Hmm!

  4. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    David, meet Will…”Rock on” is his line too. 😉

    There may a be a book about all this stuff but I don’t know of one off hand (until I write one…hee hee). And do keep in mind, I named all these sequences myself. It’s not official lingo or anything, but I like it.

    Yay for cheats! There’s nothing I like more than a *good* cheat (bad cheats are just…bad). Are you working on a series or a film?

    Thanks for dropping by!

  5. davidbernal

    Oh I love this!! enjoy very much the way commentary/explanation between images, so awesome.

  6. Friar

    So howcome I missed this one?

    I cant’ even remember when this came out. Is it still playing? It seems to have slipped through the cracks.

    Though, in my defense, I’m pretty sure this never played in our small hick-town theaters. And I don’t get to a “Big City” Cineplex that often.

  7. David Andrade

    *Waves to Will*
    Working on a spot for the local football team and a summer blockbuster movie. When it comes out I’ll be sure to post! And speaking on books, I just got Robert McKee’s story. It looks exciting!

  8. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    @ Friar – I don’t know how you missed it. It’s Disney, so I would think your hick town would still pick it up. It came out after Wall-E, but I’m not sure when exactly. The DVD has been out a month or so.

    Rent it. You’ll get a kick out of the hamster character and you like critters, so I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. 🙂

    @ David – Be sure to let us know and pimp out your stuff here. 🙂

    Ah, Robert Mckee. If you ever get a chance to go to one of his Story seminars, it’s quite the experience. They can be a little pricey, but he’s an interesting character himself.

  9. chris kawagiwa

    Sweet breakdown– I love how even though it’s reduced to so few frames, I still catch myself chuckling at the funny parts. I think this is one of those rare examples where being able to use cliche action sequences is acceptable… if not required~ 😛 And the soda cup is absolutely Pixar quality fun-ness!

    I’ve heard it mentioned before in storytelling discussions, the benefit of balancing out the high and low action points.. even better if its a humorous pause. They made even the action parts so preposterously intense, I thought they were funny too without rolling my eyes. I do believe the multi-angle repeat can only be done in parody nowadays~ Remember movies that “meant” it ?! 🙂

  10. Paul Nethercott

    Karen thanks a lot of the “Mini Critique” you did for “Moving.” Your critique was clear, prompt, professional and well worth the investment.

    I thought the audio file worked very well; in combination with your drawings and notes on the storyboards it gave me invaluable input that will result in a better film.

  11. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hi Chris – Yes, a humorous pause can go a long way. It’s just like the hula dance in The Lion King. Everything surrounding it was quite serious and intense. Laughing at Timon was great timing and got the audience ready for it.

    And yeah that multi angle repeat thing can pretty much only be done in parody now. Because it’s been so OVER done, it’s a joke.

    But I’m sure people (as in Hollywood) are still doing it seriously. The same for the walking (in slo mo) or jumping away from the explosion in the background.

    More Bolt to come!

    Hey Paul!
    Wow, a testimonial right in the comment section. Cool!

    I may be copying and pasting it elsewhere if that’s OK with you. And I’ll have to update the mini consult page to include the audio option. Looks like it worked out well for both of us.

    So glad you found the consult helpful and good luck with your shoot!

  12. Pingback: Facing Off With ‘Bolt’ | Karen J Lloyd's Storyboard Blog

  13. Paul Nethercott

    You are welcome to use my “testimonial” in any way you like.

    I will let you know how the shoot goes, only a few more days and it will be “in the can.”

    Thanks again, Paul

  14. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Yes, it IS great stuff! Thanks for that information Paul.

    And don’t *you* have the coolest job ever? Did you work on ‘Bolt’ too?

    Thanks a bunch for dropping by. 🙂

  15. pbcbstudios

    a little bit – but no where near the heavy lifting others did.

    Princess and the Frog is the one I recently worked on – currently heading up a film called King of the Elves.

    Great blog!

  16. Karen J Lloyd Post author

    Hey that’s awesome!

    I’m really looking forward to the Princess and the Frog and the return of 2D at Disney. I miss it so!

    I may have to hit you up for an interview in the near future.
    If you were game, of course. 🙂

  17. Andre

    hey there, thank you for the great “not-a- review” lol. I really enjoyed the comments on the different types of shots, they were inspirational, and bolt is a great movie. lol, however, it seems that after reading all that, i’m still trapped in the zone where i cannot get any ideas. I dont know what it is, but i have an action storyboard script in front of me, and i can’t seem to get anything on paper after all this time. It’s due next week for storyboarding class. argh. If you have any other posts that may be of help, then please link. But thank you for the help though–



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