Monday, August 13, 2012

Treasure Planet: 10th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Sean Ferguson
From the directors of Disney’s Aladdin and The Little Mermaid comes a classic story of courage, friendship, and self-discovery.  A secret map inspires a thrilling treasure hunt across the universe as young Jim Hawkins and his hilarious cosmic crew, headed by the daring Captain Amelia, set off in search of their destiny. Aboard a glittering space galleon, Jim meets the ship’s cyborg cook, John Silver, who teaches him the value of friendship and the power of dreams. Jim soon teams up with his crazy new robot pal, B.E.N., and the shape-shifting Morph to discover a treasure greater than he ever imagined.

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Having already made a successful movie adapting Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” with Robert Newton, Disney made another attempt, but this time set the tale in a distant future that seems futuristic and retro at the same time.  Instead of sailing the seas, galleons traverse the stars during interstellar journeys.  Pretty much everything else remains the same, including the wily and mysterious John Silver. Bringing the story to the future may make the movie more palatable to modern audiences, but it doesn’t add anything to the story but it does make for a more visual experience.  The film cost $140 million to make but only recouped $110 million worldwide which was a rare misfire for Disney.  Despite that, Treasure Planet was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature in 2002.
The film starts with a prologue that sets up the rest of the movie as we see a young Jim Hawkins reading a storybook about the legendary pirate Captain Flint who could appear and disappear at will.  This tactic made him impossible to catch or prepare for and he was said to have taken all of his amazing loot to a place called Treasure Planet.  Twelve years pass and Jim (Jospeh Gordon-Levitt) is now a sullen teenager who has a chip on his shoulder because his father abandoned Jim and his mother years before.  He spends his time getting into trouble by skysurfing on his board that is powered by a rocket.  His pastimes and his inability to be responsible has frustrated his mother Sarah (Laurie Metcalf) but nothing she does seems to get through to him.  Even when the police catch him, it doesn’t faze Jim who is no stranger to the authorities.
Things finally do change when one day a spaceship crashes near the inn that Sarah and Jim run.  The ship’s pilot, Billy Bones (Patrick McGoohan) gives Jim an orb and warns him to beware the cyborg before dying.  The inn is soon overrun with pirates who are looking for the orb and Jim, Sarah, and one of the inn’s regulars Dr. Delbert Doppler (David Hyde Pierce) escape just in time.  Jim figures out that the orb is actually a holographic projector that projects a map that Jim believes leads to the fabled Treasure Planet.  Doppler and Jim charter a ship under the command of the cat-like Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson) and her loyal first mate Mr. Arrow (Roscoe Lee Browne).  The rest of the ship’s crew however are a more unsavory group and Jim suspects the cook John Silver (Brian Murray) may be the cyborg he was warned about.
Despite his mistrust, Jim soon finds that he enjoys John Silver’s company and it seems as if Silver shares the sentiment.  The two work in the galley and their relationship becomes almost akin to a father-son bond which makes sense since Jim has been looking for a father figure for most of his life.  Over the course of their journey, Jim’s self-esteem grows and he becomes a valuable member of the crew and he even loses a lot of his attitude.  When Silver almost goes overboard because of a supernova, Jim manages to save him which also improves his confidence.  That confidence is shaken however when Mr. Arrow is lost overboard which Jim blames himself for as he was responsible for tying the lifelines.  What Jim doesn’t realize, is that one of the mutinous crew named Scroop (Michael Wincott), a ruthless space insect actually cut the line to remove a formidable opponent that could have turned the tables on their plans to seize the ship later.   When they discover Treasure Planet, the mutineers led by Silver take over the ship and Jim, Doppler, and Captain Amelia are forced to escape and crash land on the Planet where the pirates soon follow. Soon, each person will have to decide what’s important to them as they approach the magnificent and deadly treasure of Captain Flint.
I’m not sure why this movie didn’t do better than it did upon release.  Combining pirate action in a futuristic setting in space sounds like a win win proposition to me.   Does it make any sense or follow any known laws of science?  Heck no as pirate galleons don’t sail through the stars and none of the characters bother with protection out in the depths of space, but it’s still a lot of fun if you can let all of that go. There’s some fantastic animation here, both the traditional 2D animation and also the CG additions as well.  Disney blends both styles together to fantastic results and there’s some beautiful visuals in this movie.  I could have done without the whole rebel without a cause angle to the movie, but once the group sets off for Treasure Planet, it’s clear sailing ahead.  The voice cast is impeccably chosen and I especially thought that Brian Murray, David Hyde Pierce, and Emma Thompson did especially fine work here.  I wish Disney would make more of these kind of adventure movies and a lot less of their usual Princess focused ones, but at least lately they seem to be trying to blend the two with recent efforts likeTangled.  If you’re looking for a good action adventure movie from Disney, then I heartily recommend you give this one a try!

Video (5 out of 5 stars) 

Once again Disney delivers another stellar 1080p (1.68:1) transfer that is just beautiful to look at.  The film’s colors are simply breathtaking to view and every cosmos has its own iridescent beauty.  There’s a wide variety of colors to marvel at and each hue looks distinct and lovely. Black levels are pitch black and wonderfully inky while contrast is spot on.  The detail present is very impressive and the blend between the 2D and CG elements is perfect.  This transfer looks clean, crisp, and it represents another top notch image from Disney who takes their heritage seriously.

Audio (5 out of 5 stars) 

Treasure Planet’s DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is equally superb with a lively soundtrack that utilizes every channel to its full potential.  The front channels deliver clear dialogue that is never overshadowed by the sound effects or score. The rear channels offer an impressive degree of surround sound that’s full of activity across the channels.  The LFE channel also provides some well timed power when needed especially during the final sequence.  The film’s sound effects are accurate and well delivered throughout the channels.  The film’s score by James Newton Howard also sounds wonderful and crisp.  Like the video quality, Disney has outdone itself again with another fantastic mix!

Extras (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

There’s a decent amount of extras included here but I found myself wishing for more and some that would’ve gone a little deeper into the making of the film.
  • Laurie Metcalf Introduction - A short introduction by actress Laurie Metcalf  who plays Sarah Hawkins in the movie.
  • Audio Commentary  – If you go to the audio menu you can select the audio commentary for the movie that stars  the directors/writers John Musker and Ron Clements, producer Roy Conli, and supervising animators Glen Keane, John Ripa, and Ian Gooding.  There’s some interesting information here, especially hearing their approach to the movie.
  • Production Featurettes - At forty-three minutes long, these featurettes cover a lot of ground including  some early animation tests, animatics, trailers, and more in the chapters labeled: “Story,” “Music,” “Art Design,” “The Characters,” “Animation,” “Dimensional Staging” and “Release.”   Even though much ground is covered with a lot of information that’s worthwhile, it’s annoying that there isn’t a “Play All” option included.
  • Disney’s Animation Magic - A short look at the film by the late Walt Disney Feature Animation chairman Roy Disney which goes into detail about the character designs and how they evolved.  We see the process of creating the characters and how various techniques are used to bring the characters to life.
  • Deleted Scenes - Three deleted scenes are included on the disc including: “Original Prologue: Adult Jim,” “Jim Meets Ethan” and “Alternate Ending: Rebuilding the Benbow.”  Each scene is hosted by the directors of the film.
  • R.L.S. Legacy: Virtual 3D Tour - This extra is made up of two virtual tours of the ship from the film.  You can choose between the “Technical Tour”  and the “Nautical Tour”  which cover the same ground but from different viewpoints.  Both tours are fairly dry and recommended only for die hard fans.
  • DisneyPedia: The Life of a Pirate Revealed - A twelve minute look at the historical lives of pirates broken down into chunks.  The segments included are: “Pirate Definitions,” “Pirate Flags,” “Real Pirates,” “Code of Conduct,” “Pirate Ships” and “Treasures: Lost and Found.”  My son (as one of the intended audience) enjoyed this but he also loves all things pirate.

Summary (4 out of 5 stars) 

This is one of those rare Disney films that’s intended more for guys than girls which is a nice change.  While I can enjoy all of their films, I especially enjoy their action adventure films like Aladdin and their other ones like this one. The film may not be perfect, but it does have a great cast, fantastic animation, and this Blu-ray does a great job showing off the film’s wonderful audio and visual quality.  The extras could have been a little more in depth, but Disney did provide a decent amount of special features so I can’t really complain too much about that. If you haven’t seen this one before, I recommend that you check it out as it’s never looked or sounded better than this!
 Order your copy today!

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