Disney’s new animated film, “Treasure Planet,” based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel, “Treasure Island,” is a journey into outer space, taking place at a time when aliens and creatures from all over the galaxy can travel from planet to planet via the Spaceport, which happens to be on the moon. It is entertaining to see the vast array of creatures and aliens, from an evil and conniving arachnid, Arrow (Roscoe Lee Browne), to Morph (Dane A. Davis), the sidekick who is a pink jelly-like mass who can transform himself into anything with any voice. Aside from this animated creativity, however, the story is told in a dull manner.
The basic storyline is that Jim Hawkins (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a young boy who is fascinated with the story of “Treasure Planet,” where the “Loot of a Thousand Worlds” is mysteriously hidden away. Despite Jim’s delinquent tendencies and lack of a sense of self-worth at home, he wishes to travel into space to find this treasure when he encounters a map from a dying man whose ship crashed near Jim’s home. From here, the audience is drawn into the adventure through space, which includes getting sucked through a black hole and traveling through space storms.
A major problem with “Treasure Planet” is that it does not contain nearly as much humor as Disney’s other animated films. It is almost as if the screenwriters forgot this element when they were wrapped up in adapting “Treasure Island” to a galactic environment. The audience may chuckle a little (maybe once or twice) when the character B.E.N. (Martin Short) is introduced, but other than that, moments of laughter are few and far between. It seems that humor has become a prerequisite in any Disney film, regardless of the content. If Morph is supposed to be the classic Disney sidekick of the film, he has a long way to go before becoming as memorable as the Genie from “Aladdin,” or Timon from “The Lion King.”
Although a lack of humor in general had a significant effect on the enjoyment of the film, “Treasure Planet” should be applauded for its visual creativity. Even when the dialogue turns dry, there is at least usually something interesting too look at. Perhaps the best part of “Treasure Planet” is the relationship between Jim and the cyborg, John Silver (Brian Murray), the cook on the ship with an arm consisting of gadgets, weapons and other useful mechanisms. Disguising his goal to obtain the treasure for himself, John befriends Jim in an attempt to get the map and information on the treasure’s whereabouts. He takes a genuine liking to the boy, however, and by the end of the film, he turns out to be not so evil after all.
“Treasure Planet” teaches a moral, although it is poorly developed and far from powerful. After Jim’s adventure and attempt to get the riches, he learns that this is not what’s really important after all. It’s up to the audience to figure out what Jim means when he proclaims, “I can chart my own course.” With the “moral” of the story arbitrarily assigned, the visual splendor is all to be remembered.