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:: Treasure Planet

‘Treasure Planet’ is a Disney adaptation of the Robert Louis Stephenson classic ‘Treasure Island’. Fifteen-year-old Jim Hawkins, a fatherless boy growing up on the planet Montressor, longs for adventure. He believes the stories he was told as a child about Captain Flint’s Treasure are true and that if he could find the eponymous Treasure Planet, he will find his fortune. When a strange turtle creature called Billy Bones crash lands outside his house, Jim tries to save him. Billy is mortally wounded and with his last breath warns Jim of a terrible cyborg who is chasing him because he wants the contents of the chest he is carrying – a map for Treasure Planet. The pirates who are pursuing Billy Bones then destroy Jim’s home, sending him on a quest to find the treasure before they do.

Walt Disney is promoting this film as an animation breakthrough because Treasure Planet is a combination of hand drawn artwork and state of the art computer graphics. They have created “virtual sets” for the drawn characters to explore combining the old world look of Robert Louis Stephenson’s story with visual aspects suitable for space travel. Thomas Schumacher, President of Disney Pictures also makes the claim that Treasure Planet “has some of the most brilliant acting ever in an animated film”.

In places, the animation is indeed beautiful but overall I found it to be very patchy. Frequently the hand drawn artwork sat awkwardly alongside the high-resolution wizz-bangery of the computer graphics; neither style coming-off well as a consequence. The hand drawn aspects of ‘Treasure Planet’ are weak by comparison to other Disney classics that John Musker and Ron Clements have created: ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘Aladdin’ and ‘Hercules’.

Emma Thompson and Martin Short give stand out performances but are working with a very pedestrian script. Considering the classic adventure that ‘Treasure Planet’ descends from, this is not a very exciting story. It’s a join-the-dots ‘hero’s journey’ film, typical of the tedious narrative legacy that Christopher Vogler (author of ‘The Writer’s Journey’ and senior story consultant at Disney) has become famous for. This film is targeted at pre-teens and yet the narrative standards are set for a much younger audience. Only a very small child would fail to see through such appalling narrative conceits as Dr Doppler’s escape from the ropes that bind him by discovering he has unusually thin wrists and can slip them off easily.

Not one of Disney’s greats but entertaining enough to keep the kids amused on a wet afternoon.