Take a Drink: every time a sci-fi sounding name comes up
Take a Drink: every time Morph turns into another character
Do a Shot: when you question the physics of this universe
Take a Drink: whenever someone gets killed (in a Disney film of all places)
Take a Drink: whenever B.E.N is shouting
Do a Shot: for the really blatant exposition early in the film
By: Reel 127 (Five Beers) –
Treasure Planet is the story of Jim Hawkins, a teenage boy who discovers a treasure map to a planet from legend that is stashed with “the loot of a thousand worlds.” Jim joins an expedition to find the planet, but unbeknownst to him the crew of the ship is pirates who intend to steal the treasure for themselves. Things get more complicated when he befriends John Silver, a cyborg who is the cook for the ship and also the leader of the undercover pirates.
In my vast travels across cyber space I have found that this film seems to have a cult following. Specifically a cult following among Millennials on Tumblr. Treasure Planet was released in 2002, just when Disney was beginning its transitional time; just after the end of the Disney Renaissance in 1999 and before things began to pick up again in 2010. So in the 2000s we got a slew of hit and miss animated films that had great concepts and design but flawed substance that would ruin the movie on the whole. It’s also a remake of an old Italian mini-series called Treasure Island in Outer Space so I’m sure it can’t be that terrible…right?
Yeah. This just screams potential Disney film.
Design wise this is probably one of the most beautiful Disney films to come out of the 2000s. The space station towards the beginning of the film is pretty ingenious, being made to look like a crescent moon in the sky. The score is one of the most memorable things about this film. It is unique to the movie and hearing just the music for it alone you would say, “This is from Treasure Planet.” Brian Murray as Long John Silver easily gives the best performance of the voice actors. There are several good moments where you can really be drawn into the film, like when the ship is first launching into space. The score and the animation blend just right so you feel like you are part of this amazing moment.
Right off the bat this film is a product of its time. Rather than making something lasting, Treasure Planet has too many moments where they are trying to make something “cool” for the current generation. One of the very first scenes in the film is Jim Hawkins wind surfing because he has to be a totally radical teenager rather than a compelling character. Just to make it seem like that scene had a point, Jim jury-rigs a new board to surf on in order to save the crew from being blown up. It almost seems like the studio was forcing several things that were seen as “marketable” into the movie to make it more appealing. This is a very odd thing for a Disney animated film to do. We also get a grungy rock song “I’m Still Here,” that was clearly meant to be the Best Original Song contender for this film much like Zootopia’s recent “Try Everything” single. Unlike other memorable Disney songs that were natural to the flow of the film and were probably made at the same time as the script, this one was probably shoehorned in towards the end of the production. We get an extended montage sequence as the whole song plays through it, which really disrupts the film’s pacing.
“Radical man!” And other stuff Disney thinks teens say and like.
About forty minutes in to the movie, the crew passes by a star going supernova and turning into a black hole. My head began to hurt as it seems a star can turn into a black hole in approximately three minutes in this universe. As the crew tries to escape the pull of the dying star, the first mate falls off the ship, screaming the whole way as he falls into the black hole. It’s about here that I wonder how oxygen works for the characters. Does the ship create a field of air around it? Well, about thirty minutes later we get another character flying off into space, screaming the whole time. Around here I realized they were just working off Jimmy Neutron rules and said “Fuck it! They can breathe in outer space!”
At least this one is worth watching again.
The CGI can be very distracting. Long John Silver actually has a very nice blend of traditional animation and CGI, but literally every other use of CGI in this film feels so out of place. It’s kind of like early live action films that had animation mixed in with them. At first you think “Oh, that’s cool.” But after a bit it becomes really obvious how out of place it is.
Also, plenty of things that should have been developed more for us to understand the universe were not explained. I seriously believe that the population of Jim’s home planet is probably about thirty people. Even from the first lines in the movie, we are given information that won’t be explained with “the Etherium.” They bring it up immediately only to never say if it is a place, if it is the name for space, or if it is even the galaxy this story takes place in. The filmmakers just put in cool words to sound like they have this great big world to explore, but keep it in such a linear area: home, space, Treasure Planet, home.
I hate the “comic relief” in this film so much. Most films have only one character who serves as comic relief. Treasure Planet has three different “comic relief” characters, with only one of them being adapted from Treasure Island. The most annoying is easily Morph, a little blob that can shapeshift and talks in “cute” noises. He only gives influence to the plot twice and that is mainly just from being an asshole to Jim. The rest of the time he feels forced into scenes as just that thing that is floating around.
B.E.N., a robot on Treasure Planet who is based off Ben Gunn from Treasure Island, is voiced by Martin Short. And guess what! He does a really loud and annoying voice, something Martin Short totally doesn’t do on a regular basis with his voice roles. Much like Morph, he barely influences the plot; however his time on screen is mercifully short. Lastly, you have Delbert, who does have some importance to the plot, but really just ends up re-enforcing the idea that this film is a product of its time with dialogue from him like, “Go Delbert! Go Delbert! Go Delbert!”
My brain hurts just thinking about them.
This film had a huge amount of promise and fell really hard. Even at the time of Treasure Planet’s release it flopped pretty hard at the box office. In fact, it was Disney’s biggest box office bomb until John Carter in 2012. Give it another couple of decades and I am sure this film will end up forgotten largely in the Disney canon much like The Black Cauldron. Which honestly is a shame. This film was originally pitched at the same time as The Little Mermaid, so Treasure Planet had been in the works for quite some time. Had this been made earlier, like in the 90s, it probably would have been more like the well-made films of the Disney Renaissance, instead of the shameful attempt at being cool that it is.