**½/**** Image A Sound A- Extras B-
screenplay by Ron Clements & John Musker and Rob Edwards, based on the novel Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
directed by John Musker & Ron Clements
by Walter Chaw Beginning as a clever updating of Robert Louis Stevenson's kiddie adventure classic Treasure Island, by its end Disney's Treasure Planet washes out as another bombastic familial reconciliation fable that marks the flat trajectory of most Disney "boy" animations. Released just a few months removed from Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away in North America, Treasure Planet's narrative and character shortfalls are all the more glaring for their studied lack of depth and the picture's general overreliance on excess, broad comic relief, and all of the stale portfolio of hackneyed Disneyisms. Treasure Planet even comes complete with that most irritating of cutesy crutches: an anthropomorphic globular whatzit created with what appears to be more of a concern for ease of holiday season polymer mass-reproduction than narrative foundation. The existence of one slapstick comic relief gag not enough, enter Martin Short as homosexual robot B.E.N.--an animated caricature of Short's Ed Grimley character whose appearance mid-film is as handy a signal as any that Treasure Planet, for all serious intents and aesthetic purposes, is over.
Along for the journey is fussy Dr. Doppler (David Hyde Pierce), yet another comic relief device who arranges in his awkward academic way (a way with which we're recently reacquainted in Disney's own Atlantis) for the services of the feline Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson, modeling her chop-chop interspeciel love interest character on Minnie Driver's Jane (Tarzan)) and her ship, the R (obert) L (ouis) S (tevenson) Legacy. And what a legacy it is. In a way, it seems cozy that Stevenson's adventure saga has been updated as a science fiction space opera--the audacity and flight of fancy is initially as bracing as a first reading of the novel as a young child. An early space station setting modeled on the Mos Eisley haven of scum and villainy so vividly evoked in Star Wars (1977), however, reveals that Treasure Planet is less a literary adaptation than a hodgepodge of regurgitated experiential images borrowed from the galloping sci-fi genre ploughed (into the ground) by George Lucas and, consequently, one most viscerally familiar to modern viewers. Treasure Planet isn't an adaptation of Treasure Island so much as a reassuring affirmation of years of pop-culture assimilation.
With planetscapes resembling the watercolour work of fantasist William Stout and action sequences executed with an invigorating energy (if a surfeit of real invention), Treasure Planet is the bemusement park of Aladdin without the unkind racial stereotypes. Interrupted periodically by an embarrassing music video montage (scored to the music of the Goo Goo Dolls) and late-'80s shtick from the increasingly unpalatable Short, there are no surprises in the pocket double-crosses and plodding plot movements--nor would any surprises be welcome, I dare say. Serviceable and breezy, Treasure Planet provides the sort of surface intrigue and plastic excitement that lends itself to fast food tie-ins and, of course, the narcotizing bland (sinister, though not nearly so sinister as the biennial Disney girl movie) machinations of the biennial Disney boy movie. Originally published: November 27, 2002.
by Bill Chambers Treasure Planet arrives on a repetitious THX-certified platter from Disney. The 1.66:1, direct-to-digital anamorphic widescreen transfer almost lives up to the incredible standards the studio has set for itself with the DVD releases of their newest animated films, but in the end, some minor edge-enhancement (causing haloing on fine lines) costs the image a gold-star rating. Strangely, the allied Dolby Digital 5.1 track (why is Disney leaving the DTS option off major releases like this one and Lilo & Stitch but including it on such direct-to-video tripe as Cinderella II: Dreams Come True?) starts off strong and loses lustre, mirroring the trajectory of Treasure Planet itself; despite the action-heavy nature of the film, no sequence sounds either as lush or as bold as the early panoramic of the spaceport where the RLS Legacy is docked (chapter 4). Supplementing the show proper is a "visual commentary" (i.e. we're frequently leapfrogged from the yak session to relevant supplementary material that's also accessible through the disc's bonus features menu) with producer Ray Conli, co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker, and unlisted participants Glen Keane, John Ripa, and Ian Gooding, who are interrupted so often by clips that they never really get a momentum going.
Under Intergalactic Space Adventure, find the "RLS Legacy: Virtual Tour and Treasure Hunt", an activity geared towards the kiddies in detailing the inner workings of the space-boat. DisneyPedia: The Life of a Pirate Revealed is a storybook account of life on the high seas; the first section with content of any non-juvie interest is Disney's Animation Magic, a subdued 15-minute segment hosted by Roy Disney that covers Treasure Planet's blend of CGI and hand-drawn animation, reference maquettes, and deleted footage (introducing a particular omission, Clements incredulously compares the film's reconception of Jim Hawkins to Holden Caulfield!) before resorting to hawking Disney producer Don Hahn's book, conveniently titled Disney's Animation Magic. In this section as well, Goo Goo Dolls' singer John Rzeznik's video for "I'm Still Here (Jim's Theme)."
Behind the Scenes labels the trailer for the original Treasure Island and story art galleries for Treasure Planet as Story. 1- and 2-minute featurettes begin cropping up under Art Design with "The Brandywine School", about the influence that Maxfield Parrish and other illustrators had on the film, which becomes explicit when paging through the three complementary "Story Art Galleries". "The 70/30 Law" refers to the fundamentally arbitrary rule-of-thumb/mandate that every visual element of Treasure Planet look "70% old-fashioned, 30% sci-fi." The Characters houses sixteen character design galleries; Animation recycles the "Hook" test seen elsewhere and briefly encapsulates the thinking behind Delbert Doppler's Goofy-esque facial abstractions. Silver Progression Animation again double-dips one of the fragments of Disney's Animation Magic, Pencil Animation compares sketch-work to the finished product, and Deleted Scenes offers two additional elisions--an alternate prologue and epilogue, the former too protracted, the latter too hasty.
Dimensional Staging contains four layout-type galleries, Merging 2-D and 3-D Worlds explains just what "Pose Camera" and "Effects Animation" mean and revisits the aforementioned Virtual Tour of the RLS. Music gives us one more opportunity to avoid Rzeznik's song while Release encompasses typical promotional items: the teaser and standard theatrical trailers for Treasure Planet, and an anemic collection of poster art. Trailers for Finding Nemo, Brother Bear (shudder), Atlantis II: Milo's Return, Stitch, Bionicle: The Movie - The Mask of Light, and The Lion King: Special Edition commence automatically upon firing up the DVD. Originally published: May 1, 2003.
95 minutes; PG; 1.66:1 (16x9-enhanced); English DD 5.1, French Dolby Surround, Spanish Dolby Surround; English SDH, French, Spanish subtitles; DVD-9; Region One; Disney