'Treasure Planet' is a 2002 Disney adaptation of Robert Lewis Stevenson's 'Treasure Island', where 18th century pirate imagery is transplanted into an ethereal version of infinite space. Ron Clements and John Musker ('The Little Mermaid' and 'Aladdin') direct a script they wrote with Rob Edwards. Terry Rossio and Ted Elliot ('Shrek', 'Pirates of the Caribbean') help with story of a young fatherless boy, Jim Hawkins, who discovers a legendary treasure map and sets out across the universe in search of fortune and fame. Little does he know, a dreaded pirate crew, lead by cutthroat John Silver, is aboard Jim's ship with plans to mutiny and take the treasure for themselves.
'Treasure Planet' is, sadly, best known for its failure at the box office. Ten years ago, Pixar was the rising star under the Disney distribution umbrella (this was before Disney purchased Pixar), and this 2D hand drawn / 3D CG hybrid didn't connect with a wide audience. Critics at the time said Pixar and Dreamworks Animations CGI blockbusters heralded the ended of 2D animated features. Others said 'Treasure Planet' was made for teenage boys who thought of themselves as too old to see "Disney cartoons." Maybe people didn't like the idea of literal pirate ships in space. Who can really say? Being a Disney animation fan and a pirate geek, I couldn't wait to see the film in theatres and was surprised by the negative press.
'Treasure Planet' is an exciting adaptation. The story isn't anything new, and there are an odd number of silly fart jokes, but I really connect with the fatherless Jim finding a surrogate dad in Silver, the man who secretly plots a betryal. It's a Disney movie, so I'm sure you know how the relationship will build, but Silver's dilemma (treasure of his dreams vs. his surrogate son) makes for a detailed villain character. Further, the space setting is breathtaking, with beautifully rendered realms ready made for thrilling action set pieces. Each time I view this film, I try not to get wrapped up, but I always feel the urge to clap and cheer at certain, heroic moments. I think a lot of this comes from James Newton Howard's music, which really captures emotion and adventurous tone.
Putting on my best impression of a critical hat, I think I understand why some have a hard time settling into this world. Apart from a familiar story told in a more traditional medium, 'Treasure Planet' requires audiences to forget everything they know, or think they know, about space travel. Set in a universe where characters don't worry about gravity (or the lack thereof), temperatures, breathable air, why there would be day or night in deep space, or how a star could go from super nova to black hole within 5 minutes, I'm sure physicists and cosmologists have a hundred logic questions. But that's the contract you make with this film. It's probably closest to Steampunk -- we know it's impossible, but who cares, this is a fantasy. Well, that's my thought at least. If wooden pirate ships flying through the cosmos seems lame or dumb to you, then it's probably best to find something else to watch.
Overall, it was fun to go back to 'Treasure Planet'. It's a hidden Disney gem that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Thankfully, the Blu-ray is pristine so those of us who enjoy it will be able to for years to come. It certainly not for everyone; it's a simply story that perhaps skews a little young. However, for a guy who grew up watching classic Disney films and reading adventure stories, 'Treasure Planet' does a fantastic job of capturing the genre's wide-eyed wonder and excitement.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Treasure Planet' debuts on Blu-ray as part of a two-disc 10th Anniversary Edition. One BD-50 -- good for Regions A, B, and C -- houses the film and all the special features. Disc Two is a DVD copy of the film (I believe it's a direct copy of the 2003 DVD). It's worth noting 'Treasure Planet' appears to be only available via online retailers and the online versions of big box stores. Also, this the first Blu-ray I have owned that doesn't allow access to menu controls while the movie plays.
Framed in its original aspect ratio of 1.66:1, 'Treasure Planet' looks absolutely brilliant on Blu-ray.
Given the combination of hand drawn and computer generated imagery, visiting 'Treasure Planet' on Blu-ray is like the opening moments of the film itself, where young Jim Hawkins watches a holograph-popup book about pirates. It feels 3D and like falling into a painting. Colors are resplendent, with highlights across the color spectrum, from deep blacks to muddy browns to bright glowing hues of space explosions. There's so much detail in every frame -- space whales and ships are particularly impressive. It feels both classic and boldly new (well, for 2002).
Despite a few minor hints of aliasing and banding, Walt Disney Studios has released another fine catalog title. Easily surpassing the DVD in terms of resolution, clarity, and color reproduction, the 'Treasure Planet' Blu-ray is the best the film has looked since its original theatrical release and is just shy of reference. If I could rate it a 4.9, I would.
'Treasure Planet' soars onto Blu-ray with an engaging 5.1 English DTS-HD MA soundtrack.
'Treasure Planet' was always excellent on DVD. It had hefty LFE, an engaging use of surrounds, an exciting James Newton Howard musical score, and crystal clear voice work. All of that is still here, but I'm finding this portion of the Blu-ray to be less of an upgrade than the video, relatively speaking. The voices are still perfect but, as a surround experience, it's not quite as detailed or discrete as some of today's boldest tracks. It seems a little restrained in comparison.
Make no mistake, everything sounds wonderful. Most everyone's going to be thrilled with it, and I can't find any mistakes, per se. But, for the adventure / animation genre, the music never really envelops. The dynamic range never really pushed my systems to the limit. And, while LFE has a few epic and visceral moments, especially in the film's explosive climax, it slightly underwhelms in moments such as the opening canon shots and even portions of the super nova / black hole sequence. Similarly, surround and panning activity do fill the room for time to time, but placement doesn't always seem as precise as newer tracks (voices that could be in rear channels showing up in the front, for example). Too bad there wasn't a budget for a "home theatre", or 7.1, remix.
Overall, 'Treasure Planet' on Blu-ray sounds fantastic. But what was once a state-of-the-art surround presentation is now showing its age when compared to more modern surround sound experiences. We'll call this very good, but not great.
Save for one, all the special features from the 2003 DVD release have been ported over, in standard definition video and Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, for this Blu-ray. While it's a shame to have nothing new (or at least high definition trailers), 'Treasure Planet' already had a nice collection of featurettes. Here, they are presented in a much more traditional and streamlined version than the original DVD.
Walt Disney's 'Treasure Planet' is a rip-roaring adventure with an impossible and fantastical setting. Designed for families and the young at heart, it is equal parts heart, action, character, thrills, and juvenile humor. Despite being dumped onto Blu-ray with no marketing or in-store presence, this direct-to-digital transfer features pristine video and audio -- the video alone is a spectacular upgrade over the DVD in terms of resolution and color. The special features are all ported over from the original DVD, save for the Visual Commentary, and though they are neither new nor in high definition, the package remains surprisingly in-depth given the film's box office performance. Surprisingly, this is one of the most awkward-to-navigate Blu-rays I've ever experienced (no menus as the movie plays; doesn't launch the movie when you select a language), but by no means is it too difficult.
I would recommend this Blu-ray to anyone who loves classic Disney films, adventure films, family films, and, of course, anyone who is already a 'Treasure Planet' fan. Many people have missed out on 'Treasure Planet', which is a shame, but there's no excuse -- other than finding a comfortable price point -- now that we have this sparkling Blu-ray. Recommended.