Treasure Planet has not been greeted with negative reception, by any means. But compared to other Disney films, the response has been lukewarm at best, and Treasure Planet was a major box office flop. But here's the catch: It's really good. Like, really, really good.
Treasure Planet is inspired by the Robert Louis Stevenson's classic, Treasure Island. Having not read the book myself, I cannot judge how closely the movie follows the book (my guess is not much due to the fact that this is an outer space adventure), but it provides a wonderfully entertaining yarn anyway.
Jim is something of a rebel, but it's mostly his Dad's fault for leaving him and his mother at such a young age. Jim is constantly in trouble with the law, and his mother doesn't know what to do with her nearly-adult son. But when Jim gets a map from a deranged sea captain, Jim hopes to redeem himself and bring back the gold of Treasure Planet. A canine friend named Doppler tag along, as the two sail on a ship with a questionable crew, a cyborg cook named Mr. Silver, the captain named Amelia, and a host of others.
The characters are instantly memorable. Yes, we have the stereotype "cute" character in the form of a shapeshifting alien named Morph. Yes, we have the stereotype villain in the form of a sneaky spider named Scroop. And yes, we have the stereotype "humor" character in the form of a robot named B.E.N. (who I didn't find all that funny at all). But there's a slew of original characters elsewhere.
The protagonist, for example, Jim is a slightly different glove than the kind Disney usually likes to wear. Far from perfect with a messed up moral compass, Jim is rebellious, and doesn't like to take orders, but we see him change throughout the movie into a much more respectable chap.
Likewise, Mr. Silver, who is the film's primary villain, never really knows if he wants to help Jim, or deploy his villainous plot to take the booty of Treasure Planet for himself. He's an interesting villain, far more interesting than almost any other villain that Disney has brought us so far.
The visuals are incredible. Stunning. Really some of Disney's best. The same technology used in Disney's, also gorgeous, Tarzan film has been employed here with even better results. CGI backgrounds and often props mix with traditionally animated characters creating a visually superb film.
And of course, Treasure Planet is hilarious. While B.E.N. is more than a tad annoying, he has some redeeming lines, and there are lots of other humorous characters as well. Captain Amelia gets a lot of great lines, and Doctor Doppler is equally funny.
The score was unexpectedly wonderful. This is really some of Disney's best work in the music department. Composed by James Newton Howard (a composer I've had mixed feelings about), the score balances emotion and playfulness skillfully, applying enough strong, triumphant tunes as well for some of the more grand scenes.
Unfortunately for Treasure Planet, there is a montage that occurs just before the halfway point, that was just screaming for the score to kick in and deliver the musical masterpiece to get it nominated for Best Original Score. Alas, Treasure Planet has decided to insert an incredibly irritating lyrical song instead. The song has an extremely loud and annoying sounding drum section, and an ill-fitting electric guitar. What could've been the centerpiece of the film, turns out to be the worst part, and this really is a shame.
Treasure Planet shocked me by delivering one of Disney's best films so far. There's an abundance of memorable characters that you really care about, beautiful animation, and it's naturally hilarious.
And while these are all important traits for a film, Treasure Planet also has something even more important: A heart. Treasure Planet doesn't settle for artificial sentimental stuff that so many other films have adopted and use only to attract a broader audience. Treasure Planet brings us a genuinely emotional film that I will not soon forget.