Treasure Planet (2002)

(Video on Demand, September 2015)  Of Disney Animation Studios’ fifty-odd animated features, some have become classics, while others languish as footnotes.  Fifteen years after release, it looks as if Treasure Planet is not going to be much more than a curiosity alongside much stronger works such as Tarzan and Lilo & Stitch.  That doesn’t make it a bad film, though: By 2015 standards, Treasure Planet gets extra points for a quasi-steampunk science-fantasy atmosphere that blends the plot of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island with just enough science-fiction details to make it interesting.  There are spectacular vistas, amusing details, clever anachronisms –this isn’t meant to be a serious SF film, after all, but a Victorian boy’s adventure transplanted in a deliberately retro notion of space.  It works pretty well at what it tries to do –it’s entertaining in its own right, occasionally thrilling and sweeping in scope.  The Long John Siler character is an interesting blend of antagonist and mentor, a bit of welcome complexity in Disney films.  On a technical level, there’s a lot to like about the integration of 2D characters with 3D environments: it’s remarkably successful and does expand the scope of the film quite a bit.  Treasure Planet, one notes, was a box-office bomb, its total revenues nowhere near equalling its lavish 140$M budget.  That may help explain why the film remains a less-known title even today… which means that it remains under-exposed and ripe for re-discovery even for those who think they know quite a bit about Disney movies.

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