Treasure Planet was released in 2002 and is an animated science fantasy action-adventure known for being one of the last few traditionally animated films produced by Disney. Co-directed by Ron Clements and Jon Musker, the film stars Joesph Gordon-Levitt, Brian Murray, David Hyde Pierce, Martin Short, Roscoe Lee Browne, Emma Thompson, Michael Wincott, Laurie Metcalf, and Patrick McGoohan. In the studio’s third rendering of the classic novel, a rebellious teen is given a map by a dying pirate, driving him on a grand adventure across the universe to find a planet that promises a neverending bounty of treasure.
While I don’t find the film matches the heights of other Disney classics, Treasure Planet offers enough fun swashbuckling adventure and visual splendor to satisfy. Through a combination of traditional and CG animation, the film effortlessly brings this vision to life. I love the combination of futuristic and retro elements that is a keen element in this particular universe. We got aliens, electric paragliders, and ships capable of traveling through space. But it’s set in a location that’s very much in line with 16th century England in how the locations, customs, and tech are visually designed.
The music also contributes to this too. James Newton Howard is on-point as he usually is, blends classical-styled music in the same vein as other space operas such as Star Wars and Celtic music. It’s the major factor that, in my eyes, truly makes this film wholly unique from the rest of Disney’s catalog.
Treasure Planet also finds itself benefitting from its explorations of the father-son dynamic set up between Jim Hawkins and the cyborg John Silver that Hawkins meets once his adventures begin. Throughout the film, much of Jim’s conflict results from feeling abandoned by his father, who left his family for reasons unknown, and Silver unknowingly ends up filling that hole. Silver is the film’s strongest character, without a doubt. Stuck in a place where he wants to serve his own wishes without a second thought and being the role model Jim never had. Much of the emotional payoff comes from this relationship, and the film would lose all of its heart without it.
It’s also a very fast-paced film that’s eager to get into the swing of its space swashbuckling antics, which would be usually fine, but I feel the film would have benefitted from just letting itself relaxed in regards to pacing from time to time. It’s hard to appreciate what going on visually when everything speeds by so quickly.
The cast of characters, on the whole, is pretty amusing. Much of that praise undeniably goes to the very talented cast of voice actors who managed to give their roles that level of charisma and energy that matches the overall film. Though also from Jim’s and Silver’s relationship, much of the character writing isn’t fleshed out aside from the bare minimum. Thankfully, the cast keeps them afloat, with maybe one exception in Martin Short’s comedic relief role. While I can’t deny his level of talent, in other words, most of his work in this effort just didn’t do much for me, even if the character does carry enough plot significance to warrant his presence.
Even though these are major areas for improvement, I’d have a pretty fun time with Treasure Planet. The film’s central conflict, animation, and unique setting provided enough entertainment that makes me sadder than anything that this film ended up being such a financial failure for Disney.