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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Disney's Treasure Planet
Disney's Treasure Planet
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // PG // April 29, 2003
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted April 16, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:


"Treasure Planet" is one of Disney's more enjoyable recent in-house animated productions. Directed by "Little Mermaid"'s Ron Clements and John Musker, the film takes from the classic "Treasure Island" tale by Robert Louis Stevenson and updates it in an interesting and unexpected fashion. While this version takes place in the future, the filmmakers have still mixed in old-fashioned aspects to the visuals - primitive-looking guns fire lasers, pirate ships fly, etc. While some may not take well to this mix, I thought it was an inspired choice and it worked wonderfully.

The film revolves around Jim Hawkins (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, from TV's "3rd Rock From the Sun"), a teenage rebel who surfs through the valleys of the area via a futuristic surfboard in one of the film's most spectacular sequences. Early on, Jim recieves a map that points out the location of the legendary "treasure planet", where the "loot of a thousand worlds" is located. With the help of Dr. Doppler (voiced by David Hyde Pierce) and Captain Amelia (brilliantly voiced by Emma Thompson), the band of adventurers set out to find if the planet is real or only a myth. Unfortunately, their crew - including Long John Silver (Brian Doyle-Murray) have other plans in mind.

"Planet" succeeds because of excellent voice work and stellar animation. "Planet" is one of several recent films that mixes CGI and traditional animation; while it doesn't do so quite as well as some recent films such as "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron", there are still many stunning moments. Sound designer Dane Davis ("The Matrix") has also created a phenomenal sound environment for the film, with plenty of surround action apparent in the theater I saw the film in.

There's a few other problems, as well. Although the opening half of the film tells the story in a well-developed and exciting fashion, there were points during the last quarter of the film that felt rushed as it zipped towards the ending. The only negative in terms of the voice acting is Martin Short, who voices a robot that turns up later in the picture. The film's tone up until this point is straightforward and somewhat dramatic and that's interrupted by Short's performance, which has the actor being his most obnoxious and loud. Some may find this a little similar to Disney's animated film "Atlantis", but I thought this film was an improvement over that one.

While not flawless, I certainly still found "Treasure Planet" to be an enjoyable and involving ride of a picture. One of the best compliments I can offer about it is that it's now been over a month since I've seen the film and my memory of it still remains crisp and clear. It's also a film that adults and children can enjoy together, although very young children might find some scenes scary.


The DVD

VIDEO: "Treasure Planet" is presented by Disney in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen; this is a transfer taken directly from the digital source. The presentation does show some minor imperfections here and there, but the transfer usually presents the film's dazzling animation with ease. Sharpness and detail are generally first rate, aside from one or two scenes that appeared slightly less well-defined.

Unfortunately, other faults were visible during a few instances throughout the picture. Several scenes showed some mild edge enhancement, while a handful of others showed some minor compression artifacts. Given the digital source, there are no print flaws to be found. The film's eye-popping color palette looked terrific here, looking beautifully saturated and vivid, with no smearing or other faults. This is generally a fine presentation, but it's unfortunate that the concerns present were seen. It's also too bad that more people didn't see this film on the big screen - the film's visuals noticably lack some of the power and majesty on the small screen that they possessed when I saw the film on an enormous screen theatrically. The presentation is THX-Certified.

SOUND: "Treasure Planet" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 (Spanish & French 2.0 also available). The soundtrack is generally aggressive, with a few major scenes providing to be especially entertaining in terms of sound. James Newton Howard's dramatic and thrilling adventure score sounds marvelous on this presentation, reproduced in dynamic fashion across the front soundstage, with some additional reinforcement from the rear speakers. The surrounds also kick in with occasional ambience and some crisp and clean sound effects, especially during the black hole sequence, or when Jim opens the map to Treasure Planet. There's also the occasional laser blast and ship fly-through for the rear speakers to offer. Audio quality is as fine as one might expect from an expensive production like this one; voices are presented clearly and are easily understood; sound effects are presented with solid impact and Newton Howard's score is rich and powerful. Maybe not demo material, but awfully good.

EXTRAS:

Commentary: The DVD includes an audio commentary from producer Ron Conli, director Ron Clements and director John Musker. They are also joined by famed animator Glen Keane (who worked on the Silver character), animator John Ripa (who worked on Jim Hawkins) and associate art director Ian Gooding. This is a "visual" commentary; occasionally, the film stops to return to the directors/producer, who introduce deleted footage, test animation and other treats. I thought it was a little odd that there was no option to simply listen to the audio commentary without all the breaks, but there's a lot of interesting materials offered in the "visual" areas, so I didn't mind much. The audio commentary is a little dry at times and is geared more towards the adult audience, as there's a fair amount of technical information offered.

There's quite a few other supplements to browse through, as well. "Behind The Scenes" isn't a promotional featurette, but a section that is broken into several sub-sections. Several of these features are seen if one chooses the "visual commentary" option. "Story" offers a story art gallery and the trailer for "Treasure Island"; "Art Design" offers another gallery, a featurette on the Brandywine school of art and one on the film's "70/30" law, which governed the film's mix of futuristic and past appearance; "Characters" offers concept art for all of the film's main characters; "Animation" offers "The Hook Test", where the animators mixed CG and traditional animation in one character; "Doppler", where the supervising animator discusses the character; "Silver Progression", where we see the character progress from simple drawings to final animation and rounding out the section is a "Pencil Animation" featurette and demonstration.

"Release" offers the film's teaser and theatrical trailers, as well as a poster gallery; "Merging 2D and 3D Worlds" offers a couple of featurettes on the challenges the filmmakers faced on trying to blend these two animated styles together in a manner that appears seamless. Finally, there's the "Dimensional Staging" section, which offers information on color keys and lighting, as well as layout demonstrations and a featurette about the final scenes at the planet of the title.

There's still more: 3 deleted scenes are presented, a 3D tour of the ship is offered and there's also a section on pirates, a 15-minute "making of" featurette hosted by Roy Disney and the Johnny Reznik music video.


Final Thoughts: "Treasure Planet" may not be one of Disney's finest efforts in the past several years, but it's a brisk, entertaining feature that offers some stellar visuals and an obnoxious Martin Short character (who thankfully doesn't appear until later). Disney's DVD does offer good audio/video quality, as well as several nice supplements. Recommended.

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