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OnTV Today's Date:

Treasure Planet
Rating: PG
Release Date: April 29, 2003
Running Time: approximately 95 minutes
Ten-second Rundown: A secret map leads young Jim Hawkins on a voyage to a legendary hidden planet - if he can avoid space pirates along the way.

  • Visual Commentary
  • Deleted Scenes, including alternate prologue and ending.
  • Virtual 3-D tour of the RLS Legacy
  • "Disney's Animated Magic"
  • Behind-the-scenes with Roy Disney
  • Disneypedia: The Life of a Pirate Revealed
  • Art Galleries
  • Various featurettes on the technical aspects
  • Music video from John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls
  • RLS Legacy Treasure Hunt

    Choice Scene: As it should be, Long John Silver's first appearance.

    Tech Specs: Widescreen, aspect ratio 1.66:1, English Dolby DTS 5.1 surround sound, THX Certified, French and Spanish language tracks

    Making an animated film aimed squarely at young teen boys is easy. The hard part is getting those boys to actually go see the movie. Such has been the case for Disney's two forays into "boys' adventure," last year's Atlantis: The Lost Empire and now Treasure Planet.

    It's a shame, too, because directors Ron Clements and John Musker created a rousing, if somewhat uneven, adventure based on Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.

    For a lot of reasons, it was a bold move. The Disney Studios had already filmed the definitive adaptation, also being released on DVD today. And though comic books have been doing it for years, movie audiences have not gotten used to melding science fiction with history. Though not quite steampunk, Treasure Planet takes a lot of risks with its "70/30" ratio of 19th Century appearances and space age technology.

    So in order for the film to work, you have to give over to the idea that great galleons soar through open space, with crewmembers scuttling about their solar sails. Cyborgs exist in a society based on Georgian England. And pirates fly a six-eyed skull and crossbones.

    While many of us don't have a problem with that sort of thing, Treasure Planet still made little impact at the box office. Had it been live-action, it might have fared better. But with its release on DVD, you have the opportunity to take a closer look at a gorgeous achievement in animated adventure.

    Admittedly, it doesn't always work, occasionally completely ignoring some rules of science while paying close attention to the details of others. (A space-dinghy trip through a comet's tail leaves Long John Silver and hero Jim Hawkins frosted, as might actually happen, except for that pesky no explanation for how they survive the vacuum of space.)

    By the time it reaches its third act, however, such problems are easily put aside as it thunders toward its finish. The film is a finely crafted labor of love, and Disney's DVD treatment reflects its artistic worth.

    As has become de rigeur for the studios' high profile releases, Treasure Planet gets the THX-Certification treatment. The 5.1 Dolby audio is, of course, sharp. And the print transfer loses nothing in the subtle hues that Musker and Clements used in their palette.

    That color is a key element, as both the directors and head of animation Roy Disney point out. As Atlantis worked mightily to ape the work of its main designer, Mike Mignola, Treasure Planet owes a heavy debt to The Brandywine School, a turn of the 19th century style of illustration. One of its most famous examples would be N.C. Wyeth's illustrations for Treasure Island, and in a small gallery sampling those works, you can see how well the filmmakers captured the feel of that art.

    All the background information is top-notch, without being overwhelming. This is not an exhaustive look behind-the-scenes, but just enough to give an appreciation of the work involved.

    Disney allows you to sort through the information in three different methods. My favorite is "visual commentary," in which you get audio commentary that branches out to the various features referenced. Just in case you don't want to stop the film dead to watch John Rzeznik's music video (surprisingly good, though), you can just sort through the extras on your own.

    However, with the deleted scenes, it helps to be able to do a direct comparison. And such an extra is a rarity. Though not fully animated, the "lost" sequences are more complete than usual, and provide an interesting lesson in how a seemingly small decision can change the whole tone of a film. The original prologue, though utilizing much of the same footage as ended up in the finished film, has a much darker tone that the filmmakers were afraid to allow. Though intended for a slightly older audience, it's still a Disney film.

    Roy Disney carries that message through his section of the extras. Serving as the last voice of historical authority in the studio, Walt's nephew can be a little dry in his narration, but is always informational.

    But it's not just about the animation. Making a welcome return to Disney DVD, the studio revives the Disneypedia, a section for kids that provides historical background to piracy. Lightly animated and narrated by a friendly child, it may seem a little bit like a "check your local library" piece, but you know, there's nothing wrong with that. We encourage reading books here, after you've read Fanboy Planet.

    Also for the kids: the set-top game. Sensing the raised bar by Warner Brothers on their Chamber of Secrets DVD, Disney has pushed the capabilities of the set-top game to the limits, with one of their most complex sets ever. It's also more than a simple trivia game, placed in the midst of an exploration of the RLS Legacy, the ship from the film. Kids might not even realize they're actually learning something about history while playing. Clever, Disney, clever.

    The game can be hard to get out of, however. And that's not because it's so absorbing, but because the controls don't allow it. Each feature of the disc tends to be a one-way street. Once you're on a path, you have to follow it through, which can lead to frustration. You may find yourself stopping and restarting the disc more than you intended. Or just plan your journey ahead.

    Treasure Planet

    Treasure Island

    Derek McCaw


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