Treasure Planet begins with the young Jim Hawkins who is secretly reading the story of the notorious Captain Flint, the creator of the 'legendary' planet, past his bedtime. Sarah (Jim's mother) bursts in emphazising that she thought he had fallen asleep "an hour ago".
Twelve years later, Jim still believes in the stories of Treasure Planet but has become quite a troublemaker, rebel, and hoodlum (in the eyes of other people) with a hobby for 'solar-surfing,' a combination of sky-surfing and wind-surfing on a rocket powered board with a solar sail, in this case he happened to be surfing in a restricted construction area, where he got caught by robotic cops. He is escorted to the Benbow (an inn run by Jim's mother), much to his mother's disappointment and retires to the inn's roof, where he overhears Sarah venting her frustration with Jim's behaviour to the family's canine friend, Dr. Delbert Doppler.
That night, a spaceship crash-lands on the port outside the inn and an old, injured salamander-like being clambers out. His name is Billy Bones, Jim helps him inside, and the alien hands him a mysterious sphere, warning him to "Beware the cyborg" in his last breaths. Bones soon dies and suddenly, a bunch of marauding pirates ambush the inn, burning it to the ground whilst trying to find the sphere. Jim, his mother and Doppler manage to escape along with the spherical orb which later turns out to be a holographic map, showing the way to the one and only, Treasure Planet.
Jim and Doppler soon set off to Montressor Spaceport where the doctor has commissioned a ship called RLS Legacy complete with a crew to take them on this one heck of a voyage. The ship is captained by the feisty, feminine, feline Captain Amelia along with her First Mate, Mr. Arrow. The crew is an odd-looking, suspicious bunch or as Amelia described them "A ludicrous parcel of driveling galoots" who are secretly led by John Silver, the ship's cook who trains Jim as a cabin boy and owns a cute, cosmic, pink blob named Morph who can take the shape of whatever he chooses. Jim remembers Bones' warning and is reluctant in trusting Silver, a cyborg. Despite first impressions and mistrust, a strong and caring bond develops between the two of them with Jim beginning to see Silver as a father figure, as he remembers his own father's neglect and eventual abandonment of him and his mother.
One member of the crew, the treacherous spider-like alien Scroop, senses a weakness in Silver and, after an encounter with a black hole, Scroop cuts Arrow's lifeline to show his impatience and willingness to attack. Arrow falls to his death in the singularity of the black hole. Jim, who was fastening the lifelines at the time, blames himself for Arrow's death, until Silver comforts him before sending him to bed, while worrying that his crew might think he's gone soft.
The next morning, Morph plays with Jim who manages to playfully chase him down a barrel of purple fruit, suddenly, the crewmembers come in and Jim overhears Silver rallying them, crushing Jim's trust. It isn't long before Silver manages to find Jim out, and the pirates finally sabotage the ship forcing Jim, Doppler and Amelia to abandon deck, accidentally leaving the map on board after Morph plays a trick on them. The trio's longboat is shot down with a plasma cannon and crash land onto Treasure Planet during their escape by one of the mutineers. Amelia is badly injured and is in need of a place to rest.
Whilst exploring the forests of Treasure Planet, Jim meets B.E.N. (Bio-Electrical Navigator), a whimsical robot, driven mad by 100 years of isolation, who claims to have lost much of his memory due to his memory chip being removed. Nevertheless, he provides them with a place to stay where Doppler cares for the wounded captain. However, the maniacal pirates corner the group from outside and Silver attempts to make a deal with Jim for the map, which Jim rejects. Using a secret passage, Jim, Morph and B.E.N. hijack a longboat to fly back to their ship - where Scroop was keeping guard - in attempt to retrieve the map.
Unfortunately, after B.E.N encounters some trouble with the on-board electrics while trying to disable the laser cannons, Scroop becomes aware of the three's presence and instantly attacks. Meanwhile, B.E.N. accidentally disables the artificial gravity system causing them all to go floating upwards into space. Luckily, Jim manages to grab the ship's mast whereas Scroop gets horribly tangled in the pirates' flag. As he tries to free himself, the flag is severed from the mast and Scroop floats away into space to his doom. The map is then found and the group return to their hideout... only to be captured by Silver and his gang who have already tied up Doppler and Amelia.
Jim is forced to use the map in order to lead the pirates to where Flint's treasure is stored. As it transpires, the map is also a key to a vast portal which can lead to any place in the universe, including the center of Treasure Planet, where the loot is. While the pirates occupy themselves in hoarding the treasure, Jim finds B.E.N.'s memory circuit in the hand of the skeletal Captain Flint, and B.E.N. remembers that Flint had rigged the planet to blow up should anyone come for his treasure. Jim tells the robot to help Delbert and the Captain while he hotwires the late Flint's ship . Silver seeing the planet and the treasure weren't far from being blown up, boards the now working, treasure filled ship to leave with some loot but Jim stops him at sword point. Before either can react to the other, both Silver and Jim are thrown off balance by a heavy explosion. Silver manages to grab on to the end of the ship but Jim is left dangling off the edge of a cliff. Forced to choose between his treasure and his surrogate son, Silver abandons the ship and saves Jim just in time. The two race back to Captain Amelia's ship and attempt to leave the exploding planet. However, one of the rocket thrusters is badly damaged and the ship doesn't have enough power to leave the planet's atmosphere. Jim, remembering the portal, convinces the crew to turn towards it so he can shift their course. A reluctant Amelia instructs Dr. Doppler to follow Jim's orders and, making a makeshift solar surfer from scrap metal and a spare rocket thruster with Silver's help, Jim races towards the portal. However, the thruster loses power seconds before he can reach. In a desperate attempt, Jim manages to release the last bit of energy from it and changes the portal's destination to the Montressor Spaceport. As the crew celebrates his success, Jim goes to find Silver who was trying to sneak off the ship to avoid hanging or incarceration for his part in the mutiny. Although Jim has a chance to blow the whistle on the rogue sailor, he instead, allows him safe passage off the ship. In return, Silver gives Jim Morph to look after, with the instruction that Morph keep an eye on Jim for him, and reminds him of his potential for greatness. After a quick embrace, the two part company, but not before Silver throws some of the treasure he salvaged to Jim, so the Benbow can be rebuilt. Jim returns home to his mother and a short time later the Benbow is grandly rebuilt. A party is thrown to celebrate the opening where a lot of customers and family friends join. Doppler and Amelia are now married and proud parents of four children (three girls and one boy), B.E.N. has taken up a job in the kitchen, and Jim has joined the academy following a recommendation by Amelia. Breaking away from the dancing for a moment. Jim looks out the window and remembers Silver, confident that the pirate's words about him were true and seeing an image of him in the clouds.
- Joseph Gordon-Levitt: Jim Hawkins
- Brian Murray: John Silver
- David Hyde Pierce: Dr. Delbert Doppler
- Laurie Metcalf: Sarah Hawkins
- Emma Thompson: Captain Amelia
- Michael Wincott: Scroop
- Martin Short: B.E.N.
- Dane A. Davis: Morph
- Patrick McGoohan: Billy Bones
- Tony Jay: Narrator
- Austin Majors: Young Jim
- Roscoe Lee Browne: Mr. Arrow
- Corey Burton: Onus
- Michael McShane: Hands
- Rodger Bumpass: Turnbuckle, Police Robot 1
- Jack Angel: Grewnge, Police Robot 2
- Mickie McGowan: Bird Brain Mary
- Phil Proctor: Blinko, Pirates
- Paul Eiding: Verne
- Patrick Pinney: Aguanoggin
- John Cygan: Hedley
- Jim Ward: Torrance
- Jane Carr: Mrs. Dunwitty
- Jeremy Suarez: Ethan, Little Alien Kid
- Bob Bergen: Robot on ladder, Mr. Snuff
- Jennifer Darling: Female Alien
- Sherry Lynn: Dogbreath
- Mona Marshall: Alien Mother
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.
Among the lead actors, only Pierce had experience with voice acting prior to the making of Treasure Planet. Conli explained that they were looking for "really the natural voice of the actor", and that sometimes it was better to have an actor with no experience with voice work as he utilizes his natural voice instead of "affecting a voice". The voice sessions were mostly done without any interaction with the other actors, but Gordon-Levitt expressed a desire to interact with Brian Murray because he found it difficult to act out most of the scenes between Jim Hawkins and John Silver alone.
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 the actor's (Martin 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".
The music from the film is largely orchestral in nature, although it includes two moderately successful pop singles ("I'm Still Here" and "Always Know Where You Are") from The Goo Goo Dolls frontman John Rzeznik and British pop-rock group, BBMak. Both songs were written and performed by John Rzeznik in the film, but BBMak recorded "Always Know Where You Are" for the soundtrack. The score was composed by James Newton Howard, who said that the score is "very much in the wonderful tradition of Korngold and Tiomkin and Steiner." The score has been described as a mixture of modern music in the spirit of Star Wars and Celtic music. Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser is credited as the co-composer of the track "Silver Leaves", and is also listed as a soloist in the film's credits. Walt Disney Records released the film's soundtrack album on November 19, 2002.
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 November 17, 2002, though it was also screened in Paris, France on November 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 received generally positive reviews from film critics. It retains a 69% "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 an American box office bomb, grossing only $38 million in the United States and Canada and $110 million worldwide. Consequently, Disney's Buena Vista Distribution arm reduced its fourth-quarter earnings by $47 million within a few days of the film's release.
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. If this would be added to total revenue, Treasure Planet could be considered a moderate success with total revenues just under $174 Million.
Disney released a 10th Anniversary special edition Blu-ray/DVD combo on July 3, 2012.
Awards and nominations
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. It was ranked #9 on Watchmojo.com Top 10 Beautiful Animated Movies on August 15, 2014.
Several Treasure Planet video games were released in 2002. Disney Interactive released the naval strategy game Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon for the PC in October, while Sony Computer Entertainment America released a Treasure Planet action video game for the PlayStation and PlayStation 2 in November. A series of games collectively called Disney's Treasure Planet: Training Academy was also released in 2002. It was composed of three games (Broadside Blast, Treasure Racer, and Etherium Rescue), and players with all three games could unlock a fourth game (Ship Shape). Another game called Treasure Planet was released for the Game Boy Advance in December.
- A plush version of Stitch can be seen in Jim's room.
- B.E.N can be heard singing "Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)" on board the ship.
- The letters in the name of the ship, the RLS Legacy, means Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of the original Treasure Island story.
- Doppler at one point references Star Trek's Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy with an utterance of "Dang it, Jim, I'm an astronomer, not a doctor!"