Treasure Planet is a 2002 American animated science fiction film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios, and released by Walt Disney Pictures on December 22, 2002. It is the 43rd animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. The film is a science fiction adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's adventure novel Treasure Island and was the first film to be released simultaneously in regular and IMAX theaters. The film employs a novel technique of hand-drawn 2D traditional animation set atop 3D computer animation.
The film was co-written, co-produced and directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, who had pitched the concept for the film at the same time that they pitched The Little Mermaid. Treasure Planet features the voices of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brian Murray, David Hyde Pierce, Martin Short, Roscoe Lee Browne, Emma Thompson, Laurie Metcalf, and Patrick McGoohan (in his final film role). The musical score was composed by James Newton Howard, while the songs were written and performed by John Rzeznik.
The film performed sucessfully at the box office, grossing $149 million in North America and $379 million worldwide. The film also earned positive critical reception. It was nominated for the 2002 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. This was also one of the last successful Disney animated films before the traditional Disney slump in 2004.
The film's prologue depicts Jim Hawkins as a five-year-old (voiced by Austin Majors) reading a storybook in bed. Jim is enchanted by stories of the legendary pirate Captain Flint and his ability to appear from nowhere, raid passing ships, and disappear in order to hide the loot on the mysterious "Treasure Planet". Twelve years later, Jim (now voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has grown into an aloof and alienated teenager. He is shown begrudgingly helping his mother Sarah (Laurie Metcalf) run an inn and deriving amusement from "solar surfing" (a hybrid of skysurfing and windsurfing atop a board attached to a solar-powered rocket), a pastime that frequently gets him in trouble.
One day, a spaceship crashes near the inn. The dying pilot, Billy Bones (Patrick McGoohan), gives Jim a sphere and tells him to "beware the cyborg". Shortly thereafter, a gang of pirates raid and burn the inn. Jim, his mother, and their dog-like friend Dr. Delbert Doppler (David Hyde Pierce) barely escape. The sphere turns out to be a holographic projector, showing a map that Jim realizes leads to Treasure Planet.
Doppler commissions a ship called RLS Legacy, on a mission to find Treasure Planet. The ship is commanded by the cat-like, sharp-witted Captain Amelia (Emma Thompson) along with her stony-skinned and disciplined First Mate, Mr. Arrow (Roscoe Lee Browne). The crew is a motley bunch, secretly led by cook John Silver (Brian Murray), whom Jim suspects is the cyborg of whom he was warned. Jim is sent down to work in the galley, where he is supervised by Silver and his shape-shifting pet, Morph (Dane A. Davis). Despite Jim's mistrust of Silver, they soon form a tenuous father-son relationship (a montage featuring the song "I'm Still Here" shows Jim and the cyborg bonding over various sailing chores, interspersed with flashbacks from Jim's childhood, during which his father appears indifferent to him and finally leaves without warning when Jim is a pre-teen). During an encounter with a supernova, Silver falls overboard but is saved by Jim. The supernova then devolves into a black hole, where Arrow drifts overboard and is lost, for which Jim blames himself for failing to secure the lifelines, while in fact Arrow's line was cut by a ruthless insectoid crew member named Scroop (Michael Wincott).
As the ship reaches Treasure Planet, mutiny erupts, led by Silver. Jim, Doppler, Amelia, and Morph abandon the ship, accidentally leaving the map behind. Silver, who believes that Jim has the map, has a chance to kill Jim, but refuses to do so because of his attachment to the boy. The fugitives are shot down by a mutineer during their escape, causing injury to Amelia.
While exploring Treasure Planet's forests, the fugitives meet B.E.N. (Martin Short), an abandoned, whimsical robot who claims to have lost most of his memory and invites them to his house to care for the wounded Amelia. The pirates corner the group here; using a back-door, Jim, B.E.N., and Morph return to the ship in an attempt to recover the map. Scroop, aboard the ship as lookout, stalks and fights Jim. B.E.N., working to sabotage the ship's artillery, accidentally turns off the artificial gravity, whereupon Jim and Scroop threaten to float off into space. Jim grabs the mast while Scroop becomes entangled in the flag and cuts himself free while Scroop floats away, presumably to his death. Jim and B.E.N. obtain the map. Upon their return, they are captured by Silver, who has already captured, bound, and gagged Doppler and Amelia.
When Jim is forced to use the map, the group finds their way to a portal that can be opened to any place in the universe; this being the means by which Flint conducted his raids. The treasure is at the center of the planet, accessible only via the portal. Treasure Planet is revealed to be a large space station built by unknown architects and commandeered by Flint. In the stash of treasure, Jim comes across the skeletal remains of Flint himself, holding a missing part of B.E.N's cognitive computer. Jim replaces this piece, causing B.E.N. to remember that the planet is set to explode upon the treasure's discovery. In the ensuing catastrophe, in which two of the pirates fall down into the lava and the others escape Silver finds himself torn between holding onto a literal boat-load of gold and saving Jim, who hangs from a precipice after a fall. Silver saves Jim, and the group escapes to the Legacy, which is damaged and lacks the motive power required to leave the planet in time to escape. Jim attaches a rocket to a narrow plate of metal and rides it toward the portal to open it to a new location while Doppler pilots the ship behind him. Jim manages to open the portal to his home world's spaceport, through which all escape the destruction of Treasure Planet.
After the escape, Amelia has the surviving pirates imprisoned aboard the ship and offers to recommend Jim to the Interstellar Academy for his heroic actions. Silver sneaks below deck, where Jim finds him preparing his escape. Jim lets him go, and Silver asks Jim to keep Morph. Silver predicts that Jim will "rattle the stars", then tosses him a handful of jewels and gold he had taken from Treasure Planet to pay for rebuilding the inn. The film ends with a party at the rebuilt inn, showing Doppler and Amelia now married with children, and Jim a military cadet. He looks to the skies and sees an image of Silver in the clouds.
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jim Hawkins, a teenage adolescent pining for adventure.
- Austin Majors as young Jim Hawkins
- David Hyde Pierce as Delbert Doppler, an alien doctor who slightly resembles a dog.
- Emma Thompson as Captain Amelia, the captain of the RLS Legacy; Amelia slightly resembles a cat.
- Martin Short as B.E.N., a robot who literally "lost his mind"; abandoned on Treasure Planet by Captain Flint.
- Brian Murray as John Silver, a cyborg who leads the mutiny on the RLS Legacy.
- Roscoe Lee Browne as Mr. Arrow, Captain Amelia's first mate.
- Laurie Metcalf as Sarah Hawkins, Jim Hawkins' mother who runs the Benbow Inn.
- Dane Davis as Morph, a small creature that can morph into any form.
- Michael Wincott as Scroop, a vicious spider-/crab-like crewman on the RLS Legacy.
- Patrick McGoohan as Billy Bones, a sailor who owned the map to Treasure Planet.
- Tony Jay as the Narrator.
Treasure Planet took roughly four and a half years to create, but the concept for Treasure Planet (which was called "Treasure Island in Space" at the time) was originally pitched by Ron Clements in 1985 during the meeting wherein he and John Musker also pitched The Little Mermaid. Clements stated that Jeffrey Katzenberg, who was the chief of Walt Disney Studios at the time, "just wasn't interested" in the idea. Since Musker and Clements wanted to be able to move "the camera around a lot like Steven Spielberg or James Cameron," the delay in production was beneficial since "the technology had time to develop in terms of really moving the camera." Principal animation for the film began in 2000 with roughly 350 crew members working on it. In 2002, Roy Conli estimated that there were around 1,027 crew members listed in the screen credits with "about four hundred artists and computer artists, about a hundred and fifty musicians and another two hundred technologists".
According to Conli, Clements wanted to create a space world that was "warm and had more life to it than you would normally think of in a science fiction film", as opposed to the "stainless steel, blue, smoke coming from the bowels of heavily pipe laden" treatment of science fiction. In order to make the film "fun" by creating more exciting action sequences and because they believed that having the characters wear space suits and helmets "would take all the romance out of it", the crew created the concept of the "Etherium," an "outer space filled with atmosphere".
Several changes were made late in the production to the film. The prologue of the film originally featured an adult Jim Hawkins narrating the story of Captain Flint in first person, but the crew considered this to be too "dark" and felt that it lacked character involvement. The crew also intended for the film to include a sequence showing Jim working on his solar surfer and interacting with an alien child, which was intended to show Jim's more sensitive side and as homage to The Catcher in the Rye. Because of the intention to begin the film with a scene of Jim solar surfing, the sequence had to be cut.
Writer Rob Edwards stated that "it was extremely challenging" to take a classic novel and set it in outer space, and that they did away with some of the science fiction elements ("things like the metal space ships and the coldness") early on. Edwards goes on to say that they "did a lot of things to make the film more modern" and that the idea behind setting the film in outer space was to "make the story as exciting for kids now as the book was for kids then".
With regard to adapting the characters from the book to film, Ron Clements mentioned that the Jim Hawkins in the book is a "a very smart, very capable kid", but they wanted to make Jim start out as "a little troubled kid" who "doesn't really know who he is" while retaining the aforementioned characteristics from the original character. The "mentor figures" for Jim Hawkins in the novel were Squire Trelawney and Dr. Livesey, whom John Musker described as "one is more comic and the other's very straight"; these two characters were fused into Dr. Doppler. Clements also mentions that though the father-son relationship between Jim Hawkins and John Silver was present "to some degree" in the book, they wanted to emphasize it more in the film.
Casting director Ruth Lambert held a series of casting auditions for the film in New York, Los Angeles and London, but the crew already had some actors in mind for two of the major characters. The character of Dr. Doppler was written with David Hyde Pierce in mind, and Pierce was given a copy of the Treasure Planet script along with preliminary sketches of the character and the film's scenic elements while he was working on A Bug's Life. He stated that "the script was fantastic, the look was so compelling" that he accepted the role. Likewise, the character of Captain Amelia was developed with the idea that Emma Thompson would be providing her voice. "We offered it to her and she was really excited," Clements said. Musker said, "This is the first action adventure character that Emma has ever played and she was pregnant during several of the sessions. She was happy that she could do all this action and not have to train for the part". There were no actors initially in mind for the characters of John Silver and Jim Hawkins; Brian Murray (John Silver) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Jim Hawkins) were signed after months of auditions. Gordon-Levitt stated that he was attracted to the role because "it's a Disney animated movie and Disney animated movies are in a class by themselves," and that "to be part of that tradition is unbelievable to me". Musker mentioned that Gordon-Levitt "combined enough vulnerability and intelligence and a combination of youthfulness but incompleteness" and that they liked his approach.
Design and animation
While designing for Treasure Planet, the crew operated on rule they call the "70/30 Law" (an idea that art director Andy Gaskill has credited to Ron Clements), which meant that the overall look of the film's artwork should be 70% traditional and 30% sci-fi. The overall look of Treasure Planet was based on the art style promoted by illustrators associated with the Brandywine School of Illustration (such as Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth), whose illustrations have been described by the film's crew as being the "classic storybook illustration," having a painterly feel to it, and being composed of a warm color palette. The animators took Deep Canvas, a technology which they had initially developed for Tarzan, and came up with a process they called "Virtual Sets," wherein they created entire 360 degree sets before they began staging the scenes. They combined this process with traditionally-drawn characters in order to achieve a "painted image with depth perception" and enabled the crew to place the camera anywhere in the set and maneuver it as they would maneuver a camera for a live-action film. In order to test how a computer-generated body part (specifically John Silver's cyborg arm) would mesh with a traditionally animated character, the crew took a clip of Captain Hook from Peter Pan and replaced his arm with the cyborg arm.
There were around forty animators on the crew, and were further divided into teams; for example, sixteen animators were assigned to Jim Hawkins because he appeared on the screen the most, and twelve were assigned to John Silver. To ensure "solidity" in illustration and personality, each major character in the film had a team of animators led by one supervisor. Conli mentioned that the personalities of the supervisors affect the final character, citing Glen Keane (the supervisor for John Silver) as well as John Ripa (the supervisor for Jim Hawkins) as examples. The physical appearance, movements, and facial expressions of the voice actors were infused into the characters as well.
When asked if they drew inspiration from the previous film adaptations of Treasure Island for the character designs, Glen Keane stated that he disliked looking at previous portrayals of the character in order to "clear his mind of stereotypes", but that he drew some inspiration for the manner by which Silver spoke from actor Wallace Beery, whom he "loved because of the way he talked out of the side of his mouth." For the characterization and design for Jim Hawkins, John Ripa cited James Dean as an important reference because "there was a whole attitude, a posture" wherein "you felt the pain and the youthful innocence", and he also cited the film Braveheart because "there are a lot of close-ups on characters...who are going through thought processes, just using their eyes."
Animators also used maquettes, small statues of the characters in the film, as references throughout the animation process. Character sculptor Kent Melton mentioned that the first Disney film to use maquettes was Pinocchio, and that this paved the way to the formation of an entire department devoted to character sculpting. Keane noted that maquettes are not just supposed to be "like a mannequin in a store", but rather has to be "something that tells you [the character's] personality" and that maquettes also helped inspire the way actors would portray their roles.
This "70/30 Law" was not only applied to the visual designs for the film, but also for the sound effects and music. Sound designer Dane Davis mentioned that he and his team "scoured hobby shops and junk stores for antique windup toys and old spinning mechanisms" in order to create the sound effects for John Silver to "avoid sounding slick or sci-fi". The team did some experimentation with the sound used in dialogues, especially with the robot B.E.N., but opted to keep Short's natural voice because everything they tried "affected his comedy", and "the last thing you want to do in a story like this is affect performances".
Prior to and during its theatrical run, Treasure Planet had promotional support from McDonald's, Pepsi-Cola, Dreyer's, and Kellogg Company. McDonald's included promotional items such as action figures and puzzles in their Happy Meals and Mighty Meals, Pepsi-Cola placed promotional film graphics onto the packaging of a number of their soft drinks (Mountain Dew, Code Red Sierra Mist, Mug Root Beer, Orange Slice and Lipton Brisk), Dreyer's used their delivery truck panels to promote ice cream flavors inspired by the film (such as "Galactic Chocolate" and "Vanilla Treasure"), and Kellog included film-branded spoons in their cereal boxes. Hasbro also released a line-up of Treasure Planet action figures and toys.
Treasure Planet held its world premiere at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood on December 17, 2002, though it was also screened in Paris, France on December 6, 2002. The film is "the first major studio feature" to be released in regular and IMAX theaters simultaneously; this was done in the light of the success of Disney films that were re-released in IMAX format, such as Fantasia 2000 and Beauty and the Beast. Dick Cook, chairman of Walt Disney Studio Entertainment, also mentioned that the simultaneous release was a good way to distinguish themselves during the competitive holiday season.
Treasure Planet opened in theaters on December 20, 2002, to number one at the box office with $39 million on it's first week of release, despite being released during the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. It beat out the competition with Paramount/Nickelodeon's The Wild Thornberry Movie. The film officially grossed $149 million domestically and $230 million internationally for a worldwide total of $379 million.
Treasure Planet received generally positive reviews from film critics and (as of August 31, 2014) retains a 68% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post, who gave it 4 out of 5 stars, stated that the film "boasts the purest of Disney raptures: It unites the generations, rather than driving them apart". Leah Rozen of People stated that the film "has imagination, humor aplenty and moves briskly", and that "the animation, combining traditional and digital techniques, is ravishing." Claudia Puig of USA Today said that the film's most noteworthy feature is "the artful way it combines the futuristic and the retro", and went on to say that the film doesn't have the "charm of Lilo & Stitch" nor the "dazzling artistry of Spirited Away", but concluded that Treasure Planet is "a capable and diverting holiday season adventure for a family audience." Kim Hollis of Box Office Prophets stated that "there's plenty to recommend the film – the spectacular visuals alone make Treasure Planet a worthwhile watch," though expressing disappointment because she felt that the characters were "not all that creatively rendered".
There were also many who criticized the film. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it 2.5 stars out of 4. While not completely writing off the film, he felt that a more traditional take on the story would have been "more exciting" and "less gimmicky". Andy Klein of Daily Variety Gotham complained about the script, describing it as "listless" and remarked, "If only its script were as amusing as its visuals." A. O. Scott of The New York Times described the film as "less an act of homage than a clumsy and cynical bit of piracy", and went on to say that it is "not much of a movie at all" and a "brainless, mechanical picture". Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly described the film as "all cutesy updated fripperies and zero momentum."
The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, but lost to Spirited Away. It was also nominated for a number of Annie Awards.
Treasure Planet was released in DVD and VHS format in the United States and Canada on April 29, 2003. The DVD includes behind-the-scenes featurettes, a visual commentary, deleted scenes, teaser and theatrical trailers, the music video for the song "I'm Still Here" by John Rzeznik, and a virtual tour of the RLS Legacy. The DVD retained the number one spot in Billboard's top sales for two weeks and the VHS was number one in sales for three weeks. From April to July 2003, Treasure Planet brought in $64 Million in DVD sales.
Disney released a 10th Anniversary special edition Blu-ray/DVD combo on July 3, 2012.
Before Treasure Planet was shown in cinemas, Thomas Schumacher, then president of Walt Disney Feature Animation, mentioned the possibilities of having direct-to-video releases for Treasure Planet as well as a television series. He stated that they already had "a story and some storyboards and concepts up and a script for what a sequel to [Treasure Planet] could be," and that they also had a "notion" of what the series would be.
Director Jun Falkenstein and screenwriter Evan Spiliotopoulos began early development on Treasure Planet 2. In the sequel, Jim Hawkins and Kate, his love interest and classmate at the Royal Interstellar Academy, must team with Long John Silver to stop the villainous Ironbeard from freeing the inmates of Botany Bay Prison Asteroid. Willem Dafoe was set to voice Ironbeard. The sequel was canceled when Disney acquired Pixar in 2006.