Friday, May 12, 2017

Family Movie Night: TREASURE PLANET

Welcome to a new installment of FAMILY MOVIE NIGHT, where we give our family friendly recommendations.This week, we take a look at the 2002 Disney Animated Film...TREASURE PLANET!

This one's a personal one for me. When I was young, Treasure Planet was one of those films that I would watch endlessly, up there with other Disney classics like The Lion King and Robin Hood. This film captured my imagination with its captivating combination of styles and periods, its wonderful design work, and some brilliant animation. Going back to it recently, I had some worries that this would be one of those films I loved as a kid, but hadn't aged well, a la the original Shrek. Fortunately, I found that it is still a wonderful gem of a film that many more people need to see.

The story focuses on Jim Hawkins, a young rebel without a cause embittered by his father abandoning him, and his mother, searching for meaning in life. We finds him when a chance encounter with an injured man sets him and his scientist friend on the path of a mysterious intergalactic pirate treasure Jim remembered from tales of from his youth. Setting out with his scientist friend, finding transport with the spaceship, the RLS Legacy, and its feline captain and cyborg cook, the two are in store for a journey that promises to be full of adventure, danger, and, if he's lucky, purpose.

Treasure Planet had the unfortunate fate of being released at a time when 2D animated films, as well as Disney in general, were taking a backseat to the 3D animation coming out of a then-independent Pixar. That's sad because Treasure Planet has not only aged well, but still looks gorgeous. This is post-Renaissance Disney, as such the animation is fluid, full of life, and a great example of evolving technology. The cyborg cook, Silver, is notable for being the very first example of a 2D animated character with 3D animation integrated into it (the 3D being used on his robotic limbs). The tech behind it is seamless. If nothing else, it's a great film to get kids, especially older kids, interested in the tech and the craft behind animation. It gets them thinking about how some of the visuals are pulled off and the process is almost as compelling as the result.

As a story, the film is classic Disney in almost every sense. Once again, we have a protagonist coming of age looking for something to make them whole. Instead of a love interest, Jim is looking for a father, and this journey is embodied in his growing friendship with Silver. This emotional heart combined with the fantastic action sequences makes the film so memorable. The characters are fun, the action is frenetic, and what kid doesn't love pirates? As an adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's book, Treasure Island, the film follows the story fairly faithfully, but much of the novelty is in the design, a great blend of the kinds of ships you'd see during the Golden Age of Piracy with the science fiction aspects of space travel, antigravity, and even black holes.

I've been of the opinion that we don't get many good pirate movies anymore. Pirates of the Caribbean fills a bit of that niche, but Treasure Planet is on a whole other level. Whereas those Johnny Depp films are fun popcorn rides, this is a real, sincere, and heartfelt film that excites as much as it satisfies. Truly a lost gem in the Disney catalog that never quite got the respect it deserved back in the day. This still makes for an exciting film for the whole family to enjoy, with just enough of that classic Disney magic.

Tony's Score: 9/10

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