Retro Review: Treasure Planet

Disney has tried to venture into more action-adventure oriented animated films where they promise to connect kids and adults through their imaginations. Their first foray was with the Disney release of “Tarzan” but with that film they brought along their family audience. The film opened a lot bigger audiences than Disney had hoped.

With last year’s box-office flop “Atlantis: The Lost Empire”, Disney decided to hit the adult-animation audience with Disney style and panache. It failed miserably even though the film did show some growth for the animation studio.

At least the film made more money than Fox’s “Titan AE.” Which was another experiment of getting into adult-aimed animation. Last June’s “Lilo & Stitch” proved that Disney still has their family audience but they are still trying to crack into adult-animation.

That brings us to the subject of this review. Disney’s “Treasure Planet” which could be the “mouse-house’s” boldest move into adult-animation yet. The film is a space operatic re-imagining of the classic Robert Louis Stevenson story, “Treasure Island” which stars young Jack Hawkins (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who happens to stumble upon a mythical map that promises to unlock the secrets of buried pirate treasure.

The only person standing in Jack’s way is the quick-witted and scheming pirate Long John Silver (voiced by Brian Murray). Along for the ride are Jack’s guardian, Dr. Doppler (voiced by Frasier’s David Hyde Pierce), Captain Amelia (voiced by Emma Thompson) and the unstable C3PO-esque BEN (voiced by Martin Short).

The film has an amazing scope that I have never seen in an animated piece. The world that we find ourselves in is like something ripped right out of every little boy’s imagination. There are giant ships that sail through space opposed to seas.

The worlds these characters visit are filled with interesting aliens and scenic landscapes. It’s amazing how much is crafted into the scale of this picture. You almost get the feeling that it’s “Star Wars” meets the world of Horatio Hornblower.

It is amazing to look at. I also think that since audiences are familiar with the classic story it will help ease them into the movie. I have found that original stories seem to get heavily bogged down with the style of the movie and don’t focus on actually telling an entertaining story. This was one of the evident problems with “Atlantis” and “Titan AE”.

I enjoyed the pacing and the development of the characters. I loved the voice acting of Pierce, Short and Thompson. Each had a distinguishable hold on their character and the animators seemed to evolve with the actor’s portrayal. I also liked that the film focused a lot on the relationship between Hawkins and Silver. I liked the tugging and pulling between what is good and bad that these characters endured.
There are some scenes in the film where young Hawkins screams across the landscape on a sort of a “wind-surfer” for space. These scenes reminded me a lot of the Tarzan sequences where he was flying down the branches like a skateboarder or that harrowing speeder-bike chase in “Return of the Jedi” or maybe even the pod-races in “The Phantom Menace”.

My only problem with the film was the Treasure Planet itself in the film. I found the planet to be very “Gooniesque” which refers to the 1985 movie “The Goonies”. I found that the element was maybe on too large of a scale. More story and detail should have been focused on the planet.

The sole greatest thing about “Treasure Planet” is how it looks and how it moves
seamless and fluid which is extremely difficult in a non-computer animated film. Locked with a classic story as its backbone, this film is what “Atlantis” and “Titan AE” should have been.

(4 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

Side Note: Disney is doing also making cinematic history with Treasure Planet as it unloads prints into both I-Max and standard cineplexes. If you have the chance see in I-Max it’s a film that deserves to be showcased that big. Unlike the Star Wars Imax Experience, the film can be enjoyed in its complete splendor.

(4.5 out of 5 for I-MAX)

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