Treasure Planet Blu-ray Review

In this futuristic update to the classic Robert Louis Stevenson book Treasure Island, a young man takes flight aboard a spaceship, armed with a map to a planet where untold fortunes lie. Unfortunately, the ship’s cook plans to seize the ship, and the treasure, for himself.

This 2002 Disney animated feature seems largely underrated, even with an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film. It is not quite as classic a tale as the book that inspired it, but it provides an entertaining ride nonetheless.

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With a nice mix of traditional animation and CGI, Treasure Planet has a unique look that effectively gives the old-school animation a futuristic feel. The filmmakers smartly chose to make the spaceships look like old pirate ships. Sure, it may not make total scientific sense, but it looks cool.

Treasure Planet stays faithful to the original story, which keeps the film on track. It knows it has a great story and chracters and does not deviate from it much. It does manage to inject a bit of humor into the story to make it more appealing to younger children, but the sci-fi elements and the many aliens put it in the 10-12 year old boys category.

The movie is not perfect. It has trouble setting a tone; it varies between science fiction actioner and swashbuckling adventure, which are very different in execution. It needed a stronger musical score and some memorable songs to tie it all together. While some of the voice acting is quite good (David Hyde Pierce is excellent), others fall short, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jim and Brian Murray as John Silver. I can’t fully fault them, as the script doesn’t give them enough to chew up and make memorable.

As an animated adventure, Treasure Planet provides more than enough sizzle to entertain both kids and adults. It may not click with younger children, but it doesn’t try to be anything but a tale for older kids and adults. Fun and satisfying, Treasure Planet deserves to be seen, and will likely win over more fans who discover this underrated gem.

This is a fantastic looking film, with a pristine video transfer. Going in, I thought the Blu-ray would expose the differences in CGI and traditional animation, but in high definition, they blend perfectly. Detail is excellent, and colors run the gamut from earth tones to jewel colors to bright pastels. This ten year old feature looks like it was made last year. The 5.1 DTS HD audio mix provides an active, deep soundtrack throught all channels.

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Some extensive extras are included on the disc. They are recycled from the previous DVD release, and are not in high definition, but are still worth watching. Actress Laurie Metcalf introduces the extras and often provides introductions to many of the features.

The 3D tour of the Legacy (the spacehip from the film) is quite impressive, as we are given two passes along the vessel, first a technical tour of the ship’s features, and then a nautical tour of sailing ship features incorporated into the spaceship. The “Disneypedia” feature provides a educational lesson on the history of real pirates.

Roy Disney hosts an “Animation Magic” featurette that breaks down the traditional and CGI animation process. It is actually quite interesting, and includes an early test that melded CGI animation with traditional animation of Captain Hook from Peter Pan.

Three deleted scenes are included, with alternate beginnings and endings. It is an interesting addition, even if some of the animation is unfinished. The “Story” extra is basically the trailer to the original Treasure Island film from Disney, with an introduction from Metcalf. The “Music” extra is a music video from John Rzeznik from the Goo Goo Dolls, again with an introduction from Metcalf.

An “Art Design’ featurette delves into the history of how the old-school romantic storybook art perfected at Pennsylvania’s Brandywine School influenced the film. They also discuss how they set a standard called the “70/30 rule,” which basically meant 70% of everything on screen was traditional technology, and 30% science fiction elements, which helped keep the film looking familiar. The “Characters” section of the extras looks at the design of several of the main characters, and includes some tests and a look at the character’s maquettes.

The “Animation” section looks at several characters and explains how they were animated. A comparison of the rough to final animation is shown. The “Dimensional Staging” section features a look at the CGI animation that was incorporated into the film. Finally, the “Release” section includes the teaser and theatrical trailers.

Oddly, the video commentary that is promised on the box is not included on the Blu-ray. What we do get is an audio commentary only. Producer Roy Conli and co-directors John Musker and Ron Clements lead the audio commentary, with assorted animators providing input at different times. It is interesting to listen to, especially if you are an animation fan.

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Ratings (1-10 scale)
Movie: 7
Video: 9
Audio: 8
Extras: 9
Overall Grade: 8.25

Treasure Planet may not be a classic in the same vein as Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King, but it is entertaining and inventive. The extensive extras add value to the release, and are quite entertaining. It is worth at least a rent, but at the right price, a worthy buy.    

Release Date: July 3, 2012
Running time: 95 minutes
Rating: PG
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital
Subtitles: English for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, French, Spanish
Special Features: Introductions by Laurie Metcalf, Three deleted scenes, 3D Virtual Legacy tour, Disneypedia: The Life of a Pirate featurette, “Animated Magic” featurette, Original Treasure Island trailer, “I’m Still Here” music video, The Brandywine School featurette, Character Design profiles, Character Animation profiles, “Dimensional Staging” featurette, theatrical and teaser trailers.  
Audio Commentary: With Directos John Musker and Ron Clements and producer Roy Conli.

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