Treasure Planet was released back in 2002 and I remember snuggling up on my big couch with my brothers and watching it when it came out on VHS. And I was completely blown away. Now, re-watching it as an adult, I realized that Treasure Planet is notoriously underrated! As such, I composed a quick list as to why Treasure Planet deserves to be re-watched.
1. CGI animation mixed with hand-drawn traditional animation
The skillful use of mixed animation should have given Treasure Planet an Oscar when it was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film in 2003 (it lost to Spirited Away).
While a majority of the film was traditional animation, several components and characters where CGI. The treasure map, for instance, was CGI and acted fluidly in its 2D environment. Meanwhile John Silver was hand-drawn except his cyborg limbs (leg, arm, eye) were entirely CGI. Honestly, it was so well created that I wouldn’t have noticed the mixed animation if I hadn’t been looking for it.
2. R.L.S. Legacy
In my humble opinion, Treasure Planet was the best adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” made by Disney (#2 live-action in 1950, #3 the Muppets version in 1996).
Now the ship in Treasure Planet is named the R.L.S. Legacy as homage to… you guessed it! – Robert Louis Stevenson. I thought that was a clever little bit of knowledge. The inner geek in me freaked out when I realized it.
3. Jim Hawkins (and family) is the only human in the movie
I can’t believe I didn’t realize this as a kid, but Jim Hawkins and his mother are the only humans in Treasure Planet. There are certainly humanoid aliens (like Captain Amelia) or cyborgs (like John Silver) but no other humans.
4. Use of deep canvas effect
Basically the animators created virtual 3D sets and environments for the 2D characters to interact with in Treasure Planet. This gives the viewer the illusion of deep space throughout the movie. It’s fantastic!
This effect had only previously been used in Tarzan during his vine-surfing scene.
5. Dr. Delbert Doppler’s name
Another geek moment for me was when I realized that Dr. Doppler was named after the Austrian physicist Christian Doppler who proposed the Doppler Effect in 1842. Awesome, right?
6. Jim Hawkins’ hairstyle
Forget the weird little pony-tail that Jim sports, but that boy has seriously nice hair. Who knew that Jim Hawkins’ hairstyle would become so popular 15 years later?
7. Joseph Gordon LOVE-IT
Joseph Gordon-Levitt voiced the titular Jim Hawkins back in 2002 at the age of 21! This was before he became a huge Hollywood star for movies like 500 Hundred Days of Summer and The Dark Knight Rises. Don’t believe me, go watch the movie.
8. Martin Short voices B.E.N.
Beside having the most adorable sidekick in the Disney universe — the lava-lamp looking, shapeshifting Morph — the movie has a lovable robot character, B.E.N.
B.E.N. (Bio Electronic Navigator) is hilarious! Though this is mostly in part to comedian Martin Short’s voice-acting. With his nasally laugh, rambling sentences, and riotous forgetfulness, B.E.N. is a welcome comedic relief right when the movie takes a slightly darker turn.
9. Fluid Timeline
Another thing I love about Treasure Planet is the fact you don’t really know when it takes place. Animators used a 70/30 ratio to guide their artwork.
70% of the movie is based in the past (colonial style clothes, sail ships, technology) while approximately 30% takes place in the future (solar surfing, cyborgs/robots, blasters). This establishes the movie in a unknown time and place. And despite having a healthy dose of science fiction elements it doesn’t have clunky space-suits, chrome ships and cold space that you see in most sci-fi films. Treasure Planet brings a sense of romanticism back to the story, much like the original novel did in 1883.
10. This line
“Dang it Jim! I’m an astronomer, not a doctor! I mean, I am a doctor, but I’m not that kind of doctor. I have a doctorate, it’s not the same thing. You can’t help people with a doctorate, you just sit there, and you’re useless!” ―Dr. Delbert Doppler
I literally burst out laughing when I heard this line. They saw the chance, and they took it!
Honestly, I can’t believe Disney considers this movie their biggest (most recent) box-office flop. Treasure Planet is a work or art and it broke down a lot of animation barriers. So yeah, while it didn’t make back its production value, it seriously paved the way for future Disney movies like The Emperor’s New Groove and Brother Bear.
Re-watching this movie as an adult has been a delight and it has definitely made its way back onto my Top 10 Disney films list.
Let me know in the comments below if I forgot any other reasons why everyone should watch and appreciate Treasure Planet!