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|Kevin Krock, editor|
As I have stated before, Walt Disney created one of the best live-action adaptations of Robert Lewis Stevenson's classic adventure story, Treasure Island, over 50 years ago, then last year, finally returned to the classic story in the form of an animated feature. After about 17 years of development, postponement, re-writes, and so on, the directors of Aladdin and The Little Mermaid John Musker and Ron Clements completed their journey to put a futuristic, yet classic, twist on this grand adventure.
While the movie was not a huge box office smash, it is a visually impressive adaptation that mixes the best of modern computeraided animation with Disney's top-notch traditional animation. One of the unique design aspects of this movie, which has caused a lot of viewer debate, is the use of a 70/30 rule what the animators called the use of 70% traditional 18th Century designs for ships, structures, and costumes and 30% science fiction updating. It makes for an interesting hybrid that I found to be striking, different, and a fun change of pace but it is a style that appears to have somewhat limited the movie's audience.
The overall plot of Treasure Planet remains faithful to Stevenson's original story, but the setting and time have been changed to a futuristic universe with space ports, far-out aliens, and holographic treasure maps. Rather than searching for a lost island on Earth, Jim Hawkins, the cyborg John Silver, and the crew of the solar-powered sailing spaceship, RLS Legacy, set off across the galaxy to find a planet filled with the loot of a thousand worlds.
All the character interrelationships, tension, personal growth, mutinous plans, and revealing discoveries of the original story are essentially present, and I found it to be done better than I expected. I will say, though, that while not quite as visually violent as Treasure Island, the occasional animated violence and character peril may not be appropriate for young children, so keep the PG-rating in mind if you have not seen the movie and are only familiar with Disney's typical cutesy advertising. At its heart, this is still an adventure movie about pirates and everything that goes along with them.
As outlined in the sidebar, there is actually quite a bit of bonus material packed onto this single disc. It is clear that in an effort to find an acceptable business balance between special two-disc collector's edition and standard single disc edition DVDs, Disney seems to have made an effort to address many of the behind-the-scenes and presentation concerns of collectors, fans, and general consumers.
There is enough background material to give fans a good idea of how the movie moved from concept to screen, but for more serious collectors, the length of the featurettes and interviews are a bit on the short side. With such limited space, you essentially get a shallow but sweeping perspective of the production process, and while this disc may not meet everyone's expectations or wants, it is better than nothing at all.
As has become Disney's standard on recent discs, there are a couple of ways that you can experience the bonus material. First, you can manually sift through the in-depth still art and character galleries, the production featurettes, deleted scenes, pencil tests, and others. This is probably the most thorough way to experience the bonus material, and the route I usually take first.
The alternative way to view the material is to watch the visual commentary. This is like a normal audio commentary, but at several points during the movie, the movie stops and the individual featurettes are played within the context of the movie. While an interesting concept, the only problem is that it makes for a disjointed movie watching experience, and I would have liked to have the ability to just listen to the commentary rather than having it broken up by featurettes. Additionally, if you manually explore the bonus material before watching the commentary, most, if not all, of the featurettes get replayed during the visual commentary, and things get redundant.
As for some of the other items of interest, the video DisneyPedia about pirates and the Animation Magic featurette are similar to those on the Lilo and Stitch DVD. The DisneyPedia covers some interesting facts about pirates, but it is nothing earth-shattering. The Animation Magic featurette is simply a lightweight examination of the movie-making process used in making Treasure Planet, hosted by Roy Disney.
There are also a couple of 3-D RLS Legacy tours that are somewhat interesting and worth watching, and the associated ship exploration game is of marginal interest. They are generally nice additions, but collectors will be more interested in the commentary and the behind-the-scenes material.
All that said, I must briefly digress to say that I would still love to see the return of Disney's acclaimed two-disc collector's edition DVDs for their recent major theatrical releases. So much effort goes into the production of an animated feature like this that the wonderfully produced collector's editions were really the best way to fully appreciate the unsung work of the hundreds of people involved. Given the depth, scope, and detail of productions like Treasure Planet and Lilo and Stitch, I hope that someday we will get to see all of their art, design, and development treasures on DVD.
The Video, Audio and Interface
Not much needs to be said here besides the video, audio, and interface are all right on target. The THX certified direct digital anamorphic widescreen video transfer simply looks flawless, and the colors and detail are beautiful throughout the entire movie. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is dynamic and enveloping, with plenty of surround and ambient effects. Finally, the interface is fully animated with ample audio accompaniment, and it does a great job of getting you into the mood and feeling of the movie, even before it starts.
The Final Evaluation
I guess if I am going to have to settle for Disney's current trend of single-disc DVD editions for most of their recent theatrical releases, then this would probably be the model for it. The virtually perfect direct-to-digital anamorphic widescreen video transfer and spacious Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack make this visually and aurally striking movie shine. The interface is well themed to the movie and enhances the home video experience. Finally, the bonus material and the various viewing options help make learning about the making of this film enjoyable and flexible.
The only minor constructive criticism I have about this release is that the video commentary is interesting but tends to be a bit distracting, and it would have been nice to be able to just listen to the commentary as well as select the visual commentary option. Besides that minor issue, if you enjoyed the movie during its theatrical run, this disc is well worth looking at.
It may not be an eternal Disney animated classic, but Treasure Planet is an enjoyable updated retelling of a grand treasure hunting adventure, and the DVD does a very good job at presenting it at home.
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