His rodent gets struck by a ‘Bolt’ of luck

Disney story artist Mark Walton has always been happy to help, occasionally stepping outside his drawing duties to create new characters (the bulls in “Home on the Range” were his idea) or to voice supporting roles (he was Goosey Loosey in “Chicken Little”). So when the filmmakers behind the 3-D animated “Bolt,” opening Nov. 21, needed someone to temporarily voice one of the movie’s trio of heroes, well, there was Walton ready at the mike.

“They would eventually bring a real actor in with all the star wattage,” says Walton of directors Byron Howard and Chris Miller. Until then, he plugged away at the dialogue for an excitable hamster named Rhino who lives in his plastic ball and is obsessed with a TV adventure series starring a white German shepherd named Bolt (John Travolta) with super canine strength. When Bolt is accidentally shipped from Hollywood to New York City, the perplexed pooch attempts to travel cross-country back to his soundstage. It doesn’t take him long to discover he isn’t a dog of steel, so he must rely on Rhino and a crafty female cat named Mittens to find his way home.

So who’d they bring in to finally play the cuddly rodent? No one. “As it turned out, they seemed to think I was pretty good as a hamster and they never got around to replacing me,” Walton says.

Rhino lives in a trailer and “has found a way to actually change the channel on the remote with his little hamster ball,” Walton says. “Bolt and Mittens see this trailer park and see an opportunity to score a lot of free food. Rhino just happens to look at the window and there is Bolt. He immediately flees his owner to follow Bolt on whatever adventure.”

The little furry guy, says Walton, suffers from an overinflated self-image. “I think he imagines he’s actually something bigger and more powerful to match his big heart and big dreams -- which can’t be contained by his little hamster body.”


-- Susan King