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MOVIE INFO
Synopsis:
In the tradition of classic Disney storytelling comes a breathtaking tale of friendship, courage, and self-discovery. Buckle up for adventure as the directors of Aladdin and The Little Mermaid give Robert Louis Stevenson's timeless tale, Treasure Planet, a sensational, futuristic twist for an all-new generation.

Director:
Ron Clements, John Musker
Cast:
Roscoe Lee Browne, Corey Burton, Dane A. Davis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tony Jay, Austin Majors, Patrick McGoohan, Laurie Metcalf, Brian Murray, David Hyde Pierce
Writing Credits:
Ron Clements, John Musker, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio, based on the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson

Tagline:
Find your place in the universe.
Box Office:
Budget $140 million.
Opening weekend $12.083 million on 3227 screens.
Domestic gross $38.12 million.
MPAA:
Rated PG for adventure action and peril.

Academy Awards:
Nominated for Best Animated Feature Film.

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 1.66:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Surround
Spanish Dolby Surround
Subtitles:
English, Spanish, French
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 95 min.
Price: $29.99
Release Date: 4/29/2003

Bonus:
• Visual Commentary with Producer Roy Conli, Directors Ron Clement and John Musker, Animators Glen Keane and John Ripa, and Assistant Art Director Ian Gooding
• Three Deleted Scenes
• John Rzeznik “I’m Still Here (Jim’s Theme)” Music Video
• “Disney’s Animation Magic” Featurette
• “DisneyPedia: The Life of a Pirate Revealed”
• “RLS Legacy: An Exploration Adventure Game”
• Still Galleries
• Trailers
• Sneak Peeks


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RELATED REVIEWS


Treasure Planet (2002)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 24, 2003)

Sound a new death knell for traditional animation, as we find an another flop for the format. After the genre received a nice little shot in the arm from Lilo & Stitch in the summer of 2002, it experienced an expensive flop with that fall’s Treasure Planet. While Stitch raked in a fairly impressive $145 million, Planet limped home with a weak take of $38 million and generally lackluster reviews. That box office figure made Planet Disney’s lowest-grossing traditionally animated flick since 1990’s Rescuers Down Under. (I excluded half-assed efforts like Piglet’s Big Movie from this assessment, though even cheapo “sequels” like The Jungle Book 2 and Return to Neverland outgrossed Planet!)

In a number of my reviews, I’ve discussed the growing gap between all the successful computer-animated films and the many recent cel-animated disappointments. However, I’ve never offered my opinion of the reasons for the disparity, probably because I really don’t get it. Perhaps kids these days see cel animation as appearing old fashioned, and they only want the sparkly images of computer work. However, that doesn’t explain the success of Stitch, so your guess is as good as mine.

In the case of Planet, however, I will advance a theory: it shot for the wrong audience. It seems clear that teenage boys will attend computer-animated flicks, but they appear to shy away from cel pieces. However, studios consider that age group to stand as a virtual holy grail for success, so they continue to attempt to court them with traditional animation. Apparently no one learned from the dreadful failure of 2000’s Titan AE, probably the most aggressive attempt to land the teen boy fish. Disney did somewhat better with 2001’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire, but its gross of $84 million made it another Disney disappointment.

With Treasure Planet Disney went after the action crowd again, but as I noted already, the results seemed ugly. Why did Planet tank so badly? I don’t know, for I thought it offered a fun and lively adaptation that I genuinely enjoyed.

A reworking of the Robert Louis Stevenson novel, Planet takes place in an unspecified future and starts on the planet Montressor. We meet three-year-old Jim Hawkins (voiced by Austin Majors), a cute little kid who feels fascinated with the legend of a Treasure Planet; this involves a place totally filled with loot. After this brief prologue, the movie leaps forward to show us the 15-year-old Jim (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a risk-taking rebel who gets arrested due to some solar-surfing in a restricted area. This doesn’t provide Jim’s first encounter with the law, and his mother Sarah (Laurie Metcalf) pleads with the sullen teen to take the right path. She commiserates with one of her restaurant’s customers, astrophysicist Dr. Delbert Doppler (David Hyde Pierce), but she seems to be at the end of her rope.

Into this less than tranquil situation comes a crashed spaceship with an injured pilot named Billy Bones (Patrick MacGoohan). He claims that someone’s chasing him for his treasure, and before he passes, he warns Jim that a cyborg will come to get his chest. Some baddies immediately arrive, so Jim, Sarah and Delbert attempt to flee. Sarah’s Benbow Inn burns down in the process, and all that remains of Bones’ loot is an unusual glowing metallic orb.

As he plays with it, Jim finds a way to open it, and the sphere reveals a three-dimensional map. This seems to reveal the location of Treasure Planet. Of course, Jim wants to pursue the booty, but his mother resists. Surprisingly, the cautious Delbert supports the concept, and when Jim offers a heartfelt promise to go straight via this quest, she agrees to let the pair seek the bounty.

From there Delbert hires a crew to sail toward the legendary world. On the RMS Legacy, we meet Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson) along with first officer Mr. Arrow (Roscoe Lee Browne) and a crew of potential ne’er-do-wells organized by Delbert. The latter group include the ship’s cook, a cyborg named Long John Silver (Brian Murray) and his shape-shifting pet Morph (Dane A. Davis). After Bones’ warnings, Jim becomes suspicious of Silver and worries that he may be the cyborg the deceased alien feared. The pair get to know each other when the captain assigns Jim the job of cabin boy under Silver’s command.

The rest of Planet follows the quest to find the fabled land. We find out if Jim’s suspicions prove correct and learn of the truth behind Treasure Planet itself. Along the way, the gang meet a nutty robot named B.E.N. (Martin Short) as well, and they go through lots of adventure.

Whereas Atlantis mostly attempted to provide an action flick, Planet seems more like a hybrid. It incorporates a lot more comedy than I expected and it comes across as quite a lot of fun. I’ve read some comments from folks who felt B.E.N. was obnoxious and grating, but I fully disagree. I think Short’s presence helps bring the film’s second half to life and makes those elements quite lively and amusing. He provides a vivid performance that doesn’t seem showy; instead, Short creates a funny personality who shines when he appears.

Planet features good vocal performances from the majority of the remaining talent as well. Both Thompson and Pierce make the most of their underwritten characters, and Murray helps allow Silver to become much more three-dimensional than I expected. Actually, Silver provides one of the richest villains in recent Disney memory. He deftly skates between badness and more warm tendencies to keep us constantly off-guard, and Murray makes the personality quite vivid.

The only moderate weak link comes from Gordon-Levitt’s turn as Jim. He pours on the sullen loner elements but doesn’t bring much life to the performance. Gordon-Levitt doesn’t seem bad in the part, but he makes Jim appear more one-note than I’d like.

Jim creates a small hole at the film’s center, as the character also receives some of the flick’s worst dialogue and never comes across as terribly compelling. Still, there’s so much happening in Planet that I can excuse a less than stellar lead personality. At 95 minutes, Planet runs a little long for an animated film, but it moves at a good pace and keeps the viewer’s attention well.

The animation seems solid, though Planet involves a gimmick that could have been a dud. They created Silver via both traditional animation and some computer-generated elements; mostly he appears via cel work with a few CG bits grafted on to him. This proceeds surprisingly smoothly. A lot of time CG material in a cel film seems obvious and distracting, but the integration of Silver works well enough that it doesn’t stand out in a negative way.

Treasure Planet doesn’t quite measure up with the absolute best Disney flicks, but it provides a nice combination of comedy and action. The movie reworks a classic story well and comes across as a consistently fun and delightful experience. Planet may be stuck with a negative reputation due to its box office failure, but the film doesn’t deserve that status, as it mostly gives us some charming and entertaining family fare.


The DVD Grades: Picture A / Audio A- / Bonus B+

Treasure Planet appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.66:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. A “digital-to-digital” transfer, Planet presented a consistently excellent picture.

Sharpness looked immaculate. The movie always remained crisp and detailed. At no point did I discern any signs of softness or fuzziness during this distinct image. Jagged edges and moiré effects created no concerns, and I also witnessed no signs of edge enhancement. Given that the movie as transferred never saw a frame of film, it presented absolutely no source defects, and I thought that artifacts also caused no problems.

Planet featured a vibrant and rich palette, and the DVD demonstrated excellent color reproduction. It mixed a nice variety of hues. For example, the supernova sequence featured some brilliant orange lighting, and the reds seen during a segment on the Legacy late in the flick also looked vivid and dramatic. Overall the colors were excellent. Black levels seemed similarly distinct and rich, while low-light shots came across as appropriately dense but lacked any issues related to excessive opacity. The supernova segment demonstrated highlights in that department as well; the shadow detail in those shots looked smooth and tight. Disney don’t often botch transfers of modern flicks, and Treasure Planet presented another visual winner.

Treasure Planet’s Dolby Digital 5.1 audio didn’t seem quite as impressive, but it also worked well. Although the soundfield moderately emphasized the front domain, it presented a nicely balanced and engaging effort. Some smooth directional dialogue popped up at times, and the score demonstrated clear stereo imaging. Effects appeared in their appropriate places and moved cleanly across the spectrum. The surrounds added solid reinforcement of these elements throughout the film, and they kicked into gear well during louder sequences. The movie’s many action sequences provided some nice discrete audio, with elements that seemed accurately located and dynamic.

Audio quality was similarly positive. Speech seemed natural and distinct, and the lines showed no problems related to edginess or intelligibility. Music was lush and vivid, as the score appeared bright and dynamic throughout the film. Effects came across as accurate and clean. They demonstrated no signs of distortion, and they presented fine bass response as necessary. Low-end was warm and tight overall, and those elements lacked any signs of looseness. Ultimately, the audio of Treasure Planet lacked the ambition to earn a really high grade, but it came in with a solid “A-“.

While not equivalent to Disney’s superb two-DVD special editions, Treasure Planet nonetheless tosses in a pretty good package of extras that seems better than what I anticipated. We open with an unusual feature called a Visual Commentary. This combines a traditional audio commentary with some automatic branching features that include additional material. For the chat-only portions, we hear from directors Ron Clement and John Musker, producer Roy Conli, animators Glen Keane and John Ripa, and assistant art director Ian Gooding. A deftly edited piece, it sounded like the track came from two separate sessions; I got the impression one included the directors and the producer and the other recording involved the animation talent.

Whatever the case may be, the track provided a lot of great information and it neatly melded technical and creative elements. In the former category, we learn about the film’s combination of cel and computer animation, the use of color, and other filmmaking challenges that arose. Amusingly, the participants noted that the most difficult to draw characters were the first to die. For the creative side, we heard about the tale’s long gestation, casting and character development, story issues, elements that got dropped along the way, comparisons with the original story, and other pieces. I usually enjoy the commentaries that accompany Disney animated flicks, and the solid and informative track for Treasure Planet was no exception; it worked well and gave us a great deal of nice notes.

As for the visual components, here’s how those functioned. After a 50-second introduction from Clement, Musker and Conli, you’ll find that the DVD “branches” off 20 times during the film. When that occurs, we find clips that last between 38 seconds (a feature about Silver’s CG arm) and four minutes, 14 seconds (a music video); all told, the visual elements last a total of about 38 minutes.

The branching videos cover a variety of topics. We find discarded concepts, deleted scenes, character development, discussions of technical elements like lighting and the 2D/3D integration, other design concerns, and much more. The different pieces offer lots of useful notes and give us a nice look behind the scenes.

However, I must admit I’m not wild about the DVD’s implementation of the program, mostly because of the way it affects the audio commentary. As far as I can tell, there’s no way to listen to that track without the branching activated. I tried to flip audio channels to no avail. This meant that the commentary constantly got interrupted with video pieces, and that made it more disjointed than I’d like.

As for the video snippets, those are much easier to access. You don’t have to watch the whole movie to get to them. Just flip ahead to the various chapters and they’ll appear that way.

In addition, all of the visual commentary components except its introduction show up in other areas on Planet. I’ll denote pieces that don’t pop up in the visual commentary with an asterisk. When we head into the Behind the Scenes domain, we discover a myriad of elements. Story includes two bits. We get the trailer for the 1950 version of Treasure Island plus a *“Story Art Gallery”. This offers 26 drawings intended to help with the visual design of the film.

Art Design breaks into three smaller areas. “The Brandywine School” gives us a two minute, 25-second clip about the storybook look of Planet. We hear from chairman of Walt Disney Feature Animation Roy E. Disney, artistic supervisor backgrounds Dan Cooper, art director Andy Gaskill and associate art director Ian Gooding. “The 70/30 Law” lasts 98 seconds and provides remarks from Gooding and Gaskill. They relate the movie’s design philosophy of 70% traditional, 30% sci-fi for the flick’s look.

“Art Design” concludes with three *“Still Art Galleries”. These look at “Visual Development” (127 drawings), “Paintings” (92 stills), and “Moments” (47 frames). The last one seems a little odd since it looks like nothing more than a collection of cels from the final product, but the first two feature some really gorgeous art.

The next section covers The Characters and it divides into a whopping 16 subdomains. 13 of these present *concept art for specific characters: Jim (11 frames), John Silver (19), Dr. Delbert Doppler (10), Captain Amelia (22), Mr. Arrow (7), Scroop (16), Sarah Hawkins (5), Billy Bones (6), B.E.N. (10), Hands (4), Flint (3), Morph (16), and Blind Pew (4). More general sections cover Pirates (59) and Spaceport Crescentia (89).

A repeat from the visual commentary, a three-minute and 12-second clip examines “Maquettes”. This features remarks from character sculptor Kent Melton, CG animator Eric Daniels and John Silver supervising animator Glen Keane. In addition, the John Silver and B.E.N. sections include some extra material. For Silver, we get “The Hook Test”, a featurette that shows footage created to test the integration of Silver’s CG arm. In this 62 second clip, we watch one scene from Peter Pan mutated to give Captain Hook a robotic arm. Glen Keane introduces this piece.

The “Silver” section also features a “Silver Arm Test”, a 38-second piece with Eric Daniels in which we get details about the pirate’s artificial appendage. The “B.E.N.” domain adds “3D Character/2D World”, another repeat from the visual commentary. Clements, Musker, and Conli comment on the character’s visual development in this 65-second clip.

Now we go to the Animation domain, where we again split into smaller areas. After a repeat of “The Hook Test” we move to “Animation: Delbert Doppler”. The 70-second piece includes information from Doppler supervising animator Sergio Pablos as he chats about how they came up with the visual look for the personality. “Silver Progression Animation” runs two minutes, 28 seconds and starts with information from Glen Keane. We then watch a scene involving Silver go from rough status to final product.

“Pencil Animation” divides into two sections. Despite the odd name, “Amelia’s Cabin” actually involves the visual development for that character. We hear from Capt. Amelia supervising animator Ken Duncan and see a examples of different concepts and rough animation in this two-minute and 10-second piece.

The “Rough Animation to Final Film Comparison” offers a look at the scene in which Jim meets B.E.N. The snippet runs 100 seconds and begins with an intro from Jim Hawkins supervising animator John Ripa. It runs the rough material on the top of the splitscreen with the finished footage at the bottom.

Deleted Scenes gives us three cut sequences. “Original Prologue: Adult Jim” lasts three minutes and begins with comments from Musker and Clements. The other two also include similar directorial introductions. “Alternate Ending: Rebuilding the Benbow” runs 69 seconds, while “Jim Meets Ethan” goes for one minute, 58 seconds. None of these seem terrific, but they’re fun to see. (Note that the three deleted scenes also occupy their own separate area on the DVD, but nothing different appears there.)

Dimensional Staging breaks into four sections. *”Color Keys” gives us 36 stills with art to help establish appropriate lighting in various scenes. “Layout Demonstrations” lasts 84 seconds and provides comments from artistic coordinator Neil Eskuri and artistic supervisor CGI Kyle Odermatt as it looks at the film’s sets.

Eskuri and Odermatt also appear in “Treasure Planet Found”, a two-minute and nine-second examination of the design of the world’s core. Lastly, “Lighting” brings back the pair for this 73-second look at how lighting affects different elements.

In Merging 2D and 3D Worlds, three subdomains appear. “Pose Camera” covers the integration of these pieces and provides information from Eskuri. “Effects Animation” combines Eskuri and Odermatt again for a 79-second discussion of that topic.

Finally, the “RLS Legacy Virtual 3D Tour and Treasure Hunt” breaks into another three subsections. *“Technical Tour” includes remarks from Eskuri as he guides us through a CG representation of the boat. It runs 11 minutes and 10 seconds and offers a nicely executed and well thought out piece.

The *”Nautical Tour” provides a similar feature with production designer Steven Olds. It lasts nine and a half minutes as Olds gives us a different perspective from the one by Eskuri. Finally, the *”Treasure Hunt” features narration from Roscoe Lee Browne as Mr. Arrow, who gives us another tour of the boat from an alternate viewpoint. It’s more interactive and lets you click on items to get information, and it includes a modest game as well. All of these seem pretty fun and informative.

The only component of the Music domain is the same music video seen in the visual commentary. We get this clip for John Rzeznik’s “I’m Still Here (Jim’s Theme)”. Release features some ads. We get two *trailers: theatrical and teaser. *”Posters” includes two sheets shown in the same frame.

That finally finishes “Behind the Scenes”. The Intergalactic Space Adventures area repeats two of its extras: this domain provides the same music video and “RLS Legacy Virtual 3D Tour and Treasure Hunt” we’ve already seen.

It adds two new components. DisneyPedia: The Life of a Pirate Revealed. This narrated program shows lots of clips from the movie as well as a few images of appropriate things like paintings and shots from other pirate flicks. It goes through six topics: “Pirate Definitions”, “Pirate Flags”, “Real Pirates”, “Code of Conduct”, “Pirate Ships”, and “Treasures: Lost and Found”. Each of these offers a brief, kid-oriented look at their subjects. These bits offer a decent little introduction to their various subjects; they’re very short – the entire program runs a little more than 12 minutes - so they lack depth, but they could give kids the basis to become more interested in the areas.

Hosted by Roy E. Disney, Disney’s Animation Magic offers a 14-minute and 25-second featurette that offers a quick look behind the scenes. Unfortunately, other than Disney’s introductions, we find almost nothing new here. The program simply rehashes four of the same clips we saw in both the visual commentary and the “Behind the Scenes” domain: the modification of the Captain Hook shots, creation of maquettes, the Silver animation progression reel, and the “Jim Meets Ethan” deleted scene. If you’ve already watched these, there’s no reason to bother with “Magic”.

As the DVD starts, we encounter a mix of ads. We find trailers for Finding Nemo, Brother Bear, Atlantis II: Milo’s Return, Stitch, Bionicle The Movie, and The Lion King. In addition, you’ll see these clips in the DVD’s Sneak Peeks domain along with promos for Castle In the Sky and George of the Jungle 2.

We also get the THX Optimizer. This purports to help you set up your home theater to best present the movie on the disc in question. Apparently the Optimizer is unique for each DVD on which it’s included; unlike programs such as Video Essentials, the Optimizer should tweak your set-up differently every time. Frankly, I’ve been very happy with my already-established calibration and I’m afraid to muck with it, so I’ve never tried the Optimizer. If you lack calibration from Video Essentials or a similar program, or if you’re just more adventurous than I, the Optimizer could be a helpful addition.

While not on a par with the greatest Disney animated flicks, I felt Treasure Planet seemed a lot more entertaining than its poor box office reception might lead you to believe. It provided a lively and amusing movie that moved at a good pace and was generally well executed. The DVD presented excellent picture and sound as well as a surprisingly deep set of extras. The supplements repeated too many materials throughout the package – examine everything and you’ll see the same stuff many times – but there’s a lot of good things here, and the disc’s pieces occupied me for quite a while. I thoroughly enjoyed Treasure Planet and I highly recommend this solid DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3382 Stars Number of Votes: 68
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