Disney animation hit some hard times in the early 2000s. Pixar was eclipsing them. Dreamworks released a mega-hit with Shrek. Disney’s star of the 1990s was falling fast, and they were trying to shake things up a bit to get back the crown as the kings of family entertainment. So they decided to attempt a couple of straight up action adventure animations. The first was Atlantis: The Lost Empire. The second was this film based on the Robert Louis Stevenson classic Treasure Island.
Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a rough and rowdy teenager living in a spaceport town with his mother. He keeps getting into trouble, and yearning for adventure. You know the type. One evening a mysterious alien named Billy Bones (Patrick McGoohan) stumbles into their inn babbling about being pursued by a dangerous cyborg. He hands Jim a strange sphere and dies, before space pirates arrive and destroy everything in sight looking for the sphere. Jim and his mother make their escape.
Jim determines that the sphere is really a map to the fabled treasure planet. He joins forces with the fussy Doctor Doppler (David Hyde Pierce) and charters a space ship to seek out the planet. With them are Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson) and John Silver (Brian Murray). It becomes apparent that Silver is up to something, and while he befriends Jim, he may be using him to find Treasure Planet. Martin Short, Michael Wincott and Laurie Metcalf round out the cast.
- Some amazing design, character animation and visuals
- A fun adaptation of the source material
- James Newton Howard provides a swashbuckling but modern score
- Some of the adaptation concepts are a little clunky
- The comic relief characters are painful… very painful
- Never finds the right tone, or pacing, or execution
A simple case of Disney trying WAY too hard. The visual aspects are the best part of the film, creating an interesting world to frame the classic tale. But time and again, the movie is scuttled by bad decisions. I lost track of the number of fart jokes. Martin Short’s character was aggressively annoying. Some of the obvious nods to the book were a little too obvious. Other times, they go in an interesting direction only to not follow all the way through. It was a movie I found myself wanting to like, but in the end found it to be a major misfire.
Scores (out of 5)