My opinion right after watching film
My opinion right after watching the film is that it is in the middle of the canon to me. There is a lot of good in it, but there is a lot that I did not really care for as well. This is not a favorite of mine, and I do feel like some of this film reeked of Marketing or Executive Meddling, as some parts were a bit gimmicky. Overall, it is a very decent film that holds up. Just not my type of flavor.
Production started in 1997, after they finished their work on Hercules. They have been pitching the idea since 1985, but John Musker and Ron Clements were forced to do The Little Mermaid instead, since Katzenberg was not interested in the idea. It makes sense why they greenlit this project in 1997 because by then, Atlantis: The Lost Empire was getting out of pre-production, and they wanted to change their audience.
They were having a bit of trouble with the film at first, as they had a hard time trying to update many things from the novel to a space setting, and they had to modify many things to suit the audience of the early 2000s
which I am sure the producers had a HUGE involvement with the many changes in this film. Later in production, they again made many changes to the story and characters. The crew had a law of 70/30, meaning 70% of the film, whether it is animation, sound, and story would be of traditional telling, while 30% of it was sci-fi.
The story starts with a narration from Tony Jay about us being in another world, and about Captain Flint raiding ships that float in the sky, and stealing their treasure, as they are approaching Treasure Planet. We soon realize that a 5 year old (I only say this because it says so on Wikipedia) Jim Hawkins (Austin Majors, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is reading a book about Treasure Planet, and when his mother Sarah (Laurie Metcalf) goes in his room, she initially tells him to go to bed, but she soon reads with him when he begs her.
He is dragged to his mother’s home and restaurant, as she is talking to her good friend Dr. Doppler (David Hyde Pierce) about how she thinks Jim is doing better since his father left, only for him to be escorted in the house by the police. They warn her about him potentially going to jail if he continues, and everyone in the restaurant is watching the scene. She lectures him about him needing to do better, and he goes outside to find a ship crash, and someone dying, muttering about the Treasure Planet, and Beware the Cyborg. Jim is given a sphere, and when a group of people attack their home, they flee to Doppler’s house.
Jim plays around with the sphere, to only find out that it is the map to Treasure Planet. His mother and family friend witness this, and he wants to go. He apologizes to her about screwing up all the time, but this could make it up to her. Doppler is overly cheery and excited, as he pushes Sarah to make him go, which she eventually does, because she has nothing else to lose.
They reach the boat-ship, and they meet the commanders and crew they hired for, meeting Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson) her aide Mr. Arrow (Roscoe Lee Browne), and she takes the map to keep it safe, and she demands Jim to work with the crew, where he meets the chef John Silver (Bill Murray). Jim is very suspicious of him because he took in the warning the person told him about Cyborgs; which John Silver is.
So they sail the ship into space, and for no reason, Jim almost gets beat up by John Silver’s colleagues, but is saved by Arrow. John Silver loses it on his crew when they almost blew their cover. So Silver and Jim talk, and we learn that his father abandoned him and Sarah for reasons unknown, and never came back. He did not die, but just left. We get a montage song of I’m Still Here.
A Supernova takes over, and it causes everyone to try to go through it with as minimal damage as possible. They tie themselves to a rope on a ship, so they can make it, but Arrow’s is cut off by a worker of Silver’s named Scroop (Michael Wincott) and he flies to his death. After they make it all through, Captain Amelia calls for him, and when she realizes what happened, she is visibly distraught. Scroop frames Jim to make it seem like it is his fault that Arrow died and the teen does not take it well at all. When Silver tries to assure him, it does not work, as he continues to freak out. Silver gives Jim a pep talk about having greatness in him, bu he needs to believe in himself.
The next morning, he wakes up to go to his work area to hear Silver’s crew confronting him about having a soft spot for Jim, which of course John Silver denies and says that he only cares about the treasure, which hurts Jim’s feeling, and reassured that he is the cyborg that the guy that died warned him about.
They land on Treasure Planet, and Jim makes it known that he now hates Silver. He tells Amelia and Doppler that the entire crew are pirates, which causes them to prepare to escape the ship. We engage in this long chase scene with the crew and Jim trying to get the map, with him escaping to Treasure Planet with Amelia and Doppler.
The pirates land on Treasure Planet to look for Jim, and he bumps into a robot called B.E.N. (Martin Short). The robot does not have a memory, since his owner took it out. He takes Jim, Amelia, and Doppler to his house. Jim thinks it is a good idea to go outside and to confront John Silver. He tells Jim that he did not mean a word that he told his crew about not caring for the lad, as they thought he was going soft. Silver asks Jim for the map, which causes them to argue, and the cyborg makes an ultimatum; get him the map by dawn tomorrow, or he will kill everyone. Back at the house, Amelia compliments Doppler’s eyes, and we realize that they have feelings for one another.
Jim goes back onto the ship and looks for the map, when he comes face to face with Scroop. They fight for a little bit, and Jim is about to be cut into the sky to die (like Arrow was), but he jumps to the pole, and pushes Scroop to fly to his death. He returns to B.E.N.’s house to see Doppler and Amelia tied up by John Silver and his crew, and he demands Jim to open the map (after he fails to open it himself). Jim opens it, which reveals where the treasure is, but closes it soon after, and tells Silver that he has to go with them as well.
When they reach the treasure, they find B.E.N.’s memory, and when it is installed in his head, B.E.N. reveals that his master set a bunch of booby traps so no one could take his treasure, which is also why he ripped out B.E.N.’s memory. While the booby trap goes on, Amelia and Doppler untie themselves, and Silver goes after Jim, who falls and ends up in a position where he may die. Silver saves Jim over the gold, and they all try to escape and head towards the portal. Jim skysurfs to open the portal to take them home, and they escape just in time.
Silver decides that he needs to leave, so he takes a boat, and right as he is about to leave, Jim stops by, and he offers the lad to join him on a never ending look for treasure, but Jim declines, saying that he needs to chart his own course (I swore this message was already in Pocahontas). So they have a warming goodbye, which you can tell that they both realize that they will never see one another again.
So the ship lands in the town, and Jim reunites with his mother. A few years (or months) later, Captain Amelia and Doppler have quadruples, Sarah opens a new restaurant, and Jim returns with a nice haircut, and as a military cadet. They all have a party, and Jim sees Silver’s face as a cloud, and he smiles.
The characters for the most part are likable, and they do have some depth to them, but for some reason, a lot of them has a gimmick to them. I cannot really fully engage in them or like them for some reason. They are just eh, and I do think I might forget some of them.
The animation is……..very good. The character designs are very good, the backgrounds (which are mostly CGI) are very detailed, intricate, nicely designed, and aged really well. The animation adds a lot to the theme and the feeling of the film. I have to say that it is very fluid, and the CGI and traditional animation blends really well together. They really pull off the 18th century/futuristic settings and bringing them together, though I do not understand why they merged the two styles in the first place.
There is only one song in the film called I’m Still Here, and……..it is okay. It does have a typical pop-rock style, instead of the adventure and pirate-y theme that the entire score has for itself. The score is good, but for some reason, I kept on thinking that it sounded familiar, and that I heard it from several other films.
Reception at Release
When the film was released on November 27, 2002, it was a box office bomb, and is still known as one of the biggest flops in existence. It only made an embarrassing amount of $38 million domestically, and $71 million overseas, leaving the amount of $$109,578,115 worldwide. This is an issue because the budget was $140 million, and the marketing was another $40 million, meaning they lose over $70 million on this film. This is what officially sunk traditional animation. With this and the underperformance of Sinbad a few months later, WDAS and DreamWorks soon stated that traditional animation is dead. Disney made plans to close off their traditional animation studios almost instantly. They took a huge hit with this. The failures of Atlantis and Emperors already made the first 2 years of the 2000s rough, but this was a huge hit to the company.
Critically, it got favorable reviews. Many praised it for it’s action, story, and visuals, liking how it did not completely ignore the book, while others criticized it for having a crappy script, and the fact that it had an overly gimmicky feeling to it.
It surprisingly was nominated along with Lilo and Stitch by the Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature, but both lost to Spirited Away. It was also nominated for a bunch of Annie awards.
Out of all the Disney canon, I would say that this is the film that the company hides the most (actually, The Black Cauldron might fight with this film for the one that is deeper in the Disney Vault). Despite that, many has mixed thoughts of this film, as a lot do not see it as bad, but not good either. It does have a big fanbase and a cult following nonetheless.
= 30.5/40 = 76%
16 thoughts on “Walt Disney Animation Studios Review: Treasure Planet”
I still think that the failure of Treasure Planet had mostly to do with them releasing Lilo and Stitch in the very same year (which was a successful movie, so yeah, traditional animation was soooo dead…NOT) and sending Treasure Planet in direct competition with Harry Potter AND Lord of the Rings. What were they expecting?
About your LJS question…if you know (and love) the book, you need some time to get used on the Disney take. Because the original character might be the best written villain of all time. He is charming, yet utterly evil. Intelligent, yet set on throwing everything he already build for himself on blood money away for get even more money. He is terrifying and likable at the same time. Some part of you will always root for him, even though you know that you shouldn’t, that this guy deserves to burn in hell hundred times over. One of the more chilling scenes in the book is when he commits a murder, which reveals how utterly dangerous and without remorse this man is. And yet, your feel kind of triumphant when he kind of gets away victorious in the end (without ever repenting anything). Compared to that Treasure Planets LJS is just a cheap copy.
But if you are able to think of him independent from the story of the book and into the new “daddy issues” story they created for the movie, he is a good fit.
But I think that is the other reason why Treasure Planet has such a difficult standing. For fans of the book, it is not really understandable why the focussed so much on the voyage but went very fast through the fights on the island/planet which is easily the high point of the original story. I myself needed some time to get away from thinking “what could have been” and look at the movie on terms of what it is and what they were trying to do…and I think they did really, really well. There is a reason a lot of people consider that an underrated classic.
The fact that this was released a few months after Lilo and Stitch had some influence as well, but I do not think that it is a huge reason for the flop of Treasure Planet. Lilo and Stitch was not a huge success though, but it was better than the profits they were making as of recent years. The Harry Potter franchise was already an established box office gold mine.
Thanks for answering the LJS question. I don’t really see why they would have issues with the “daddy issues” that was added in the movie.
I have to agree that the fights on the boat were very fast, but when it comes to the climax, it just drags on and on. Whenever I try to write a review, I try not to focus much on “what should/could have been”. It is underrated, but I don’t see it as a classic.
It is simply a different story. Do you know my “By the Book” review of the movie? In it, I explain in detail how the movie differs from the book, which might you help understand why it is not so easy to get used to some of the changes. I initially had the same problem with “The Little Mermaid”, which is very different in tone and theme from the original fairy tale. Most of the time I eventually get over that feeling.
I think the way Treasure Planet turned people off from Disney was like “Hm, Lilo and Stitch was pretty good. Maybe Disney still has it… *Treasure Planet gets released* Nope, what was I thinking? They’re done. Disney’s done. Traditional animation is done.”
I do think that 2002 seemed like a decent year for Disney to get their groove back. Dreamworks’ Spirit: Stallion of the Cimmaron I don’t think would have been much of a competition, Pixar had no films being released that year, and as long as they stayed away from the release dates of Harry Potter, Star Wars, Spider-Man, and Lord of the Rings, they might have had a better shot. Lilo and Stitch did well enough. Maybe they should have saved Treasure Planet for another time? Either at a different date or pushed back to 2003? I don’t know. I guess it was still doomed to fail any way.
As for the movie itself, I do think it’s underrated. I don’t really read or watch other adaptations of Treasure Island, so it wouldn’t affect my opinion of Mr. Silver, which I do like in this movie. The movie does have heart in it, and I appreciate that. I love the animation. Gorgeous!
Can’t wait for your review of Brother Bear. But before that, I’ll probably see you at UnshavedMouse’s Frozen review this week (and most definitely swanpride as well). To prepare, I rewatched the movie today to refresh my memory of it. *dons flame armor* See you there!
I see that. I also think that the fact that they tried a film like Atlantis a year after that mess was released, and the fact that the movie seemed so anti Disney turned people off from Treasure Planet.
When it comes to animation, there was no real competition for 2002, outside of Spirited Away. I already covered Spirit, but overall, it was a good chance for Disney to catch up (especially with Pixar), but they really missed the mark. Releasing it beside established franchises was a dumb choice as well.
I rewatched Frozen for m review of it, so I am ready for the comments on UnshavedMouse’s review.
Don’t forget that they gave Peter Pan 2 a theatrical release the very same year. Most people don’t really know the difference between the Toon Studios and the Animation studios, if it is animated, it is Disney.
I very much love this movie! The only thing I don’t like about it is B.E.N.
B.E.N. was pretty annoying. Not as annoying as I thought he would be though.
I tend to excuse B.E.N because I don’t enjoy Ben Gun in any adaptation and this version is less annoying than usual.
I think they were just early on the steampunk bandwagon. If they released it now when the movement is pretty popular I think it would have more success.
For me I admired the visuals but some of the rules of the world didn’t make sense. Like it is easy to understand why an ocean hurts a ship but what about a supernova storm? I needed more of an explanation to feel invested in the tension.
Also, for me it dragged in parts. If they had made it a little bit tighter I would have gone with it more.
Still I gave it a C which I think is the right grade. Right in the middle.
What is your opinion on B.E.N. and Scroop?