Treasure Planet DVD Review

Treasure Planet was an ambitious project for Disney. The cost was astronomical, but it shows through on screen. The odd mix of traditional hand drawn animation and computer generated imagery is hit or miss but it certainly has a look all its own. Sadly, the movie was the biggest flop in the history of the long standing studio making a meager $32 million back from a budget close to $200 million. This is probably the reason the DVD was released only in single-disc form as opposed to this and a separate 2-disc limited edition like most of their new films. Treasure Planet retells the classic Robert Louis Stevenson tale of Treasure Island with a futuristic sci-fi twist. Rebellious teenager Jim Hawkins (voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) stumbles upon a map leading to a planet that is loaded with buried treasure. Along with Doctor Delbert Doppler (David Pierce), he sets off on a ship to find the legendary planet, unaware that some of the crewmembers are not on board just for the flight. The new spin put on this classic is certainly imaginative and the characters are lively, but the entire experience is just dull. It almost seems like the film is just going through the paces without any real effort. Sure the animation is strong (superb even), but all the action just seems contrived and forced. In fact, there is very little here that separates this one from a standard Saturday morning cartoon (only this is 90 minutes). But, as mentioned before, the animation here is just stunning. The mix of CG and classic hand drawn animation works through most of the film. There are a few moments where it doesn't seem quite right, but you might be surprised to learn how some of the CG was used. The budget was certainly put to good use. Sadly, this is just about the only thing the film has going for it. This is a standard cartoon that will likely please some of the younger kids, but as far as a family film goes, this one completely misses the mark. (** out of *****) Treasure Planet is presented in 1.66:1 widescreen. Kudos to Disney for including liner notes as to why this is the best way to watch the film. Of course, they also say to use the zoom feature to eliminate the "black bars," but at least they tried something to show people the superiority of the format. This is a direct digital transfer, something the company has been doing for sometime. This is a miraculous transfer thanks to this process that completely eliminates film grain. Some of the brighter reds and blues exhibit some compression problems, but this is only apparent a few times. It's not quite as sharp as say, A Bug's Life, but this is still one of the best looking animated films on the market today. (****) Immersing you into the film's world is a great 5.1 Dolby Surround mix, assaulting the viewer from every angle. Numerous scenes contain ambient sounds in the rears while the characters move around the front sound field. Action scenes are stunning; a few of them reference quality. The bass is occasionally weaker than it should be, but this is a minor complaint. (*****) The disc isn't the packed extravaganza you would expect from such an expensive film, but a few features are interesting. Oddly, the menus here are just awful, with the same features scattered across different segments of the disc multiple times. The special features menu is split into four sections: Space Adventure, deleted scenes, behind the scenes, and commentary. First up is the unique commentary that not only features a few of the producers and directors talking about the film, but cuts away to various features so you can learn even more. When the clip is done, you'll go right back to the film where you left off. Once you select this, you will have to watch all the features. You can't choose which you want to watch. Three deleted scenes are included and feature not only an alternate ending, but a new opening as well. These three scenes are in various stages of completion and are introduced by the directors. There are 5 different small featurettes that cover various stages of the production, none of them much longer than 5 minutes. Disney's Animation Magic is a 14-minute feature hosted by Roy Disney that looks at the process the studio goes through to create a feature like this. There is some great information here and it is worth a look. Next is a 12-minute look at pirates, from the myths to the facts. Finally is an adventure game that takes place on a tour of the RLS Legacy, the main ship in the film and a music video. (***) This will likely be the final time Disney tries this combination of CG and hand drawn animation so it's a shame the movie wasn't better. It is truly a unique look and as a DVD enthusiast, this one is probably worth a look, but the movie itself is hard to recommend. The special features are hardly up to par either, though worth a look if you rent the disc. Otherwise, this one is for the younger set only.

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