"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.
Note: There are several options on how to view "Treasure Planet". Although there are, of course, the traditional 35mm film prints, this animated film is also being released in large-format IMAX theaters. In addition, some theaters are showing this film with digital (DLP) projection.
Due to the crowded IMAX holiday season schedule ("Star Wars: Episode II" large-format, the upcoming "Lion King" IMAX release), some IMAX theaters may not be playing this film, but the film's remarkable visuals should be stunning on an IMAX screen and a local large-format theater playing this film is worth seeking out.