A trove in Treasure Planet

Nov. 29, 2002, midnight | By Annie Peirce | 18 years, 1 month ago

Written more for the rebellious fifteen year-olds trying to find their identity and purpose in the world than the normal Disney audience of wide-eyed post-toddlers, Treasure Planet is entertaining and fun on enough levels to appeal to everyone.

The plot follows the recognizable plot of every other Stevenson Treasure Island remake: rebellious youth Jim Hawkings (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is sick of doing dishes and dreams of a future living the adventuresome life of a sailor/space pilot. When he has just about lost his hope of living a life away from dish-pan hands, his big break comes when the old Billy Bones, here a large turtle-like creature, dies on his doorstep, leaving Jim and his mother an inheritance of a map and a group of murderous pirates to burn down their inn. With nothing else to lose, Jim seeks the financial help of a family friend, the lovable but clumsy canine Dr. Doppler (David Hyde Pierce), to go look for the treasure. Jim sets out on, in simplest terms, a voyage of self discovery.

His mentor for this voyage is none other than the most likable Longjohn Silver (Brian Murray) ever devised. The guy has heart. He is also a cyborg with more mechanical appendages than Inspector Gadget. Not only does Disney's Silver have a mechanical leg, he is also equipped with a mechanical eye, with built in laser, and a mechanical arm with enough gadgets and armored possibilities to make James Bond armory look like an erector set. Being a cyborg doesn't seem so bad if you can change your arm into a fire cannon at will.

Treasure Planet is nothing if not large. As is becoming the norm for Disney animation, the movie's basis is spectacle. In an early action sequence, Jim speeds around looming machinery on a rocket-powered skate board; subsequent action scenes are based around the assumption that the bigger the explosion, the bigger the excitement.

More spectacles include a grand luminous holographic treasure map that charts the way along awesome galaxy landscapes taken directly from the Hubbell telescope's most beautiful photographs. The use of space as a substitute for water is developed further by the addition of space-flying/swimming whales that look like a strange coupling of Jabba the Hut and humpback whales. Air is conveniently forgotten as the character's hair is blown about in nonexistent wind and they breathe nonexistent oxygen. But then, it's Disney, and no one complained that the Little Mermaid didn't get the bends.

Disney knows its audiences well, and the success of the Pixar creations, Toy Story and Monster's Inc, is teaching Disney an even more important marketing lesson: if parents like it, then more kids will see it. The evidence: explosions and mature sassy romantic banter replacing the traditional actionless adventure and sappy mush of Disney's earlier classics. I'm not saying that I don't miss the great songs from "Beauty and the Beast," "Little Mermaid," and "The Lion King," but the switch to alternative rock playing subtly in the background is only another example of how Disney is bumping up the ages of its targeted audiences.

The Disney stamp and PG rating may make many high schoolers discount the movie as they traverse in hordes toward 007 and The Ring, but Treasure Planet is targeted more for them than their younger siblings. Mature, funny, and exciting, Treasure Planet is entertainment on different levels. For the nine-and-under crowd is a morphing purple glob whose comic mimicry kept the six year-old behind me in a constant state of giggling hysteria. For the more mature audience is the banter between the canine Dr. Doppler and feline Captain Amelia (wonderfully voiced by British legend Emma Thompson), whose conversation contains sometimes rather shocking sexual innuendo hidden from the young by muttering and a level of advanced vocabulary that would make any SAT designer proud.

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Annie Peirce. Annie Peirce is a senior in the Communications Arts Program and the public relations manager for Silver Chips. She is also an opinions editor for Silver Chips Online. She was born on October 25, 1984, in a hospital somewhere in Prince George's County; but doesn't … More »

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