Treasure Planet: A Forgotten Example of Great Animated Filmmaking

Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker

November 27, 2002

Voice Cast

  • Jim Hawkins-Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • Jim’s mother Sarah-Laurie Metcalf
  • Dr. Delbert Doppler-David Hyde Pierce
  • Captain of the RLS Legacy Captain Amelia-Emma Thompson
  • Captain Amelia’s first mate Mr. Arrow-Roscoe Lee Browne
  • B.E.N (Bio-Electronic Navigator)-Martin Short
  • John Silver-Brian Murray
  • Morph-Dane Davis
  • Scroop-Michael Wincott
  • Billy Bones-Patrick McGoohan (Final film role)
  • Captain Flint-Peter “Optimus Prime” Cullen
  • Narrator-Tony Jay

On the far away planet of Montressor a young man enthralled by the tales of the villainous Captain Nathaniel Flint finds himself in possession of a map left by the mysterious Billy Bones that will lead to the pirate’s fabled Treasure Planet.

Who else has seen this all but forgotten amazing Disney film? There have been many adaptions of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic story Treasure Island over the decades, but this is probably the most unique take of all and that includes the 1987 Italian miniseries Treasure Island in Outer Space. This unusual animated take on the story is a very good film as well. I am always nervous when they make extreme changes to a classic tale to give it a new spin because they usually fall flat. Not here.

We have unusual aliens and sweeping well lived-in environments set on far away worlds. This is not a world of gleaming computer terminals or shiny new buildings. There is rust and decay. The environment, while futuristic, is also very much in the mold of the classic story. They do not fly around in spaceships but rather in space faring boats.

They toss in ancient alien technology in the form of the spherical map and the planetary device that served as the base of operations for Flint. This places the film definitely in the space opera category.

We got a great voice cast year filled with individuals who were either already at the top of their game or on their way up. Joseph Gordon-Levitt in particular has become a much bigger star since his debut in voice acting here. The creative minds turned his character of Jim Hawkins from a young boy on a great adventure into a pouting kid trying to find his place. While it worked mostly I dislike in general the pouting kid thing.

The cyborg John Silver is a highlight of the film’s animation. He is one of the most visually impressive of the characters and just a generally great character design. Cyborgs are common in science fiction and they do not always look good but this one is just fantastic. There is just so much going on with the character, but it does not look jumbled or busy.

Martin Short is an amazing talent and was great as B.E.N. (Bio-Electronic Navigator). Short is one of my favorite comedic performers. He can do aloof or delightfully crazy with a wink and a nod to the audience that brings them in on the joke. B.E.N. is a character that has quite literally lost his mind since it was removed by Captain Flint when he was marooned on the planet. He has the attention span of a cat with a laser pointer.

Despite being a Disney animated film and a stellar cast and a great looking production, this movie did not do well at the box office. The film cost around $140 million to make and only made around $109 million at the global box office. It is not as if Disney has not adapted the story before. This has action and adventure and great character designs in great take on a classic story. They even had the standard song aimed at the top 40 countdown. I just think Disney did not know quite what to do here with selling it to the public.

Disney has been turning animated features into live action films lately and if Disney should adapt anything into a live action feature it is this. It is as much Star Wars as it is a swashbuckling adventure of old.

Disney’s Treasure Planet, from its sweeping visuals to great script, is an unfortunately forgotten piece of animation. It is a great film that should be revisited. Watch it!

Published by warrenwatchedamovie

Just a movie lover trying spread the love.

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