Super Bowl ads: VW spot gives Bolt the dog his breakout role

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One of the stars of this weekend’s Super Bowl will be Bolt, a 3-year-old Saint Bernard-Australian shepherd mix, who appears in a commercial for Volkswagen’s Beetle.

Bolt is no slouch, although he does initially appear in the 60-second spot as a chunky couch potato. Inspired by a zippy red VW Beetle, Bolt decides to get fit by putting himself through the paces: running up and down stairs, hitting the treadmill and swimming laps in the backyard of a home in the Chapman Woods section of Pasadena.


To achieve the desired weight-loss transformation, executives with Deutsch LA, the agency that created the commercial, outfitted the normally lean (but furry) Bolt with a fat suit to make him look heftier. The suit comes off after he “sheds” pounds.

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The team shot the commercial in Pasadena in early January, a little later than the filming of most Super Bowl ads.

‘We had to teach the dog to act, so he would get comfortable in front of a camera -- and comfortable wearing the fat suit -- and so he would give us all the right expressions,” said Michael Sheldon, chief executive of Deutsch LA. “All the prep work had to be perfect before we could shoot.”

Months were spent training Bolt, who was born in Japan and previously performed -- with his brother Lewis and sister Hina (pronounced Hee-nah) -- at an animal show at Universal
Studios in Osaka, Japan. The show closed early last year, and the dogs were moved to L.A.

The Volkswagen ad, called ‘The Dog Strikes Back,’ was not Bolt’s first time in front of the camera. He was part of the ensemble cast of the upcoming movie ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua 3,’ but it’s probably safe to say that more people will see Bolt this weekend in the ad airing on NBC.

Bolt and his siblings live in Santa Clarita with their primary trainer, Gary Mui, according to Jennifer Henderson, operations manager at Birds & Animals Unlimited, the company that owns the dogs.


Agents need not apply. Bolt already has shot a TV pilot, which is under consideration, Henderson said. The proposed show is called ‘Scent of the Missing.’ If the pilot gets picked up, Bolt will be a regular, playing a pooch who follows his nose to find missing people.

For more about Los Angeles advertising agencies’ Super Bowl creations, read our article in today’s Los Angeles Times.


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-- Meg James