Dog design in Disney’s ‘Bolt’

Dr. Stephen L. Zawistowski

Bolt comes from an animal shelter. That’s a great idea. What’s interesting is the bond Bolt has with the little girl and the extent to which he sees that bond driving his journey of self-discovery. It tells you about the affection and loyalty people and dogs have for one another.

Bolt’s body shape and some of his other lines are puppyish. He has the look of the classic dog, but all the edges have been rounded off. There’s a lot of research that says images of round faces tend to evoke smiles from babies. In a lot of animals, what we really like are neotenized characteristics. Neoteny is when an animal maintains juvenile characteristics into adulthood. The clearest example is Mickey Mouse.

When Bolt does that classic dog stance of getting those feet down sturdy in front of him and puffing up the body, that’s a dog defending his turf. When he does it at the end of the film, he’s doing it knowing that he doesn’t have his superpower. He’s summoning his inner dog in the way that a dog would really do it.

Dr. Stephen L. Zawistowski is executive VP and science adviser for the ASPCA.

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