Giant Print Ads Tell the Story in Bolt Movie

Animated print campaigns, anyone?

Although it probably doesn't stand a chance against Wall-E, the animated kids' film, Bolt, is getting lots of attention thanks to an Oscar nomination, so I figured I'd check it out…with my, er, nieces and nephews, of course. The movie was cute, and what really impressed me was its great use of print advertising.

Bolt is peppered with huge outdoor signage in the form of vehicle wrap printing, billboards, and massive banner printing, all advertising the TV show that the main character, a dog named Bolt, stars in.

I love seeing print designed not just for film, but for animated film. Visually, it's such an effective way of communicating a concept. Print has always been used to do this in live action film, and of course, on the news, but now it's made the transition to animated film, and that just goes to show how visually powerful print is, even in a completely digital world.

In this case, the crux of the plot is that Bolt's whole life revolves around playing a super-powered dog on TV, to the point where he doesn't even realize that he's not actually a super dog. His forays into the real world, and his first glimpses of himself on building-sized print ads, come as a rude awakening. The use of print advertising in the animated film provides the point around which the juxtaposition of reality and fantasy revolves.

Now imagine if we lived in a future without print. How would we communicate big ideas like this? Through massive LCD screens the size of buses and buildings? Or in the style of speculative fiction like Minority Report, through small specialized hologram ads directed at you, John Smith, as you pass a sensor on the street? (And I thought PURLs were weird!)

As cool and weird as both these options may be, neither would serve the same purpose of telling a story and revealing illusion as did the animated print collateral in Bolt. Not only a nice homage to the power of print, but a great reason why I like to say: Don't Stop the Presses!

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