Treasure Planet the Forgotten Disney Gem
On 27th November 2002, Treasure Planet was released by Walt Disney 20 years ago. It went on to become one of the weakest Box Office returns in the studio’s history.
The question is what went wrong with Treasure Planet’s release?
Treasure Planet was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker. The pair had previously worked together on Disney successes, The Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Hercules. Being a major part of the Disney boom in the 1990s. with these two at the helm, everything seemed like it was going to be promising. They also went on to director The Princess and the Frog and Moana. So, the studio still saw them as go-to directors in the animated world.
Treasure Planet has a strong cast, picking up at the time sitcom stars, Joseph Gordon-Levitt who has just finished 3rd Rock from the Sun. Frasier’s David Hyde Pierce and the voice of Andy’s Mom in Toy Story Laurie Metcalf. The movie also cast two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson as the ship’s Captain. Here, we get to see we had a strong cast for an animated movie, taking a couple of big names and mixing them with talented voice-over artists.
Treasure Planet brings a fresh spin to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Taking the adventure into space where space pirates are searching for a planet filled with treasure. Over the years, Treasure Island has become one of the most popular books to adapt to the screen and we even saw the Muppets bring out their own version of the story. However, Treasure Planet is one that is the most original spin on the story.
The story does keep the main core importance of the story together. A rebellious teenager joins a sketchy crew that the captain knows nothing about. He becomes friends with John Silver, a cook on board but the man who plans to host a mutiny against the captain in search of the treasure. However, the bond the two create leaves Silver torn between the treasure and helping the teenager learn more about life and not everything goes to plan.
Treasure Planet was released on Thanksgiving weekend only entering the charts are number three. This is due to being released two weeks after Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and one week after Die Another Day. Going up against two franchises was never going to help. Even if this was the first of the Harry Potter movie.
Treasure Planet made $91.8 Million at the Worldwide Box Office, which is less than its $100 Million budget. It was the 50th best on the 2002 box office chart being the 5th best-animated movie. Behind, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Peter Pan: Return to Neverland, Lilo and Stitch and Ice Age.
When it came to the critics, Rotten Tomatoes has a score of 69% current on the fresh rating. This has a range of reviews that consider it in the middle ground, nobody seems too offensive, while nobody is singing the praises from a root top. On Metacritic, 30 reviews give a score of 60, with 20 being positive, 7 mixed and 3 negative.
This proves that it wasn’t a criticism slamming that caused any problems with the film’s release.
Treasure Planet did get an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature. It went up against Lilo & Stitch, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, Ice Age and the Winner Spirited Away. An Oscar nod is always a good achievement, but this was the year for Studio Ghibli.
The Rise of other Animated Studios
By the year 2002 other studios had started challenging Disney in the animated world. DreamWorks released The Prince of Egypt and Shrek before Spirit this year. They would go on to make bigger franchises including Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon.
Blue Sky Studios debuted Ice Age in 2002, which would later become their backbone for success. Studio Ghibli has always been competition in the background, but at the time hadn’t made a massive impact outside of Japan. Spirited Away picking up the Best Feature win changed that, drawing more eyes to their previous work.
Pixar was one of the biggest game-changers in the animation world. having made a major impact in the late 1990s with Toy Story 1 and 2 and in 2001 Monsters Inc. They had found a formula that brought computer-generated animation to the forefront. So much so, that Disney would eventually buy them in 2006.
My Personal Love for this Movie
Treasure Planet is one of the animated movies I truly love. It comes from the sense of adventure, an excellent quote that I have even used in everyday life. ‘Now you listen to me, James Hawkins. You got the makings of greatness in you, but you got to take the helm and chart your own course. Stick to it, no matter the squalls! And when the time comes you get the chance to really test the cut of your sails, and show what you’re made of… well, I hope I’m there, catching some of the light coming off you that day.’
As well as the song ‘I’m Still Here.’ One of my favourite songs from any Disney film. That includes growing up on The Lion King and Jungle Book.
The changing landscape of animation seems to be one of the major factors as to why Treasure Planet didn’t succeed as many others had before it. Before the year 2000, Disney barely ever had constant pressure in the animated world. There would be the odd low-budget movie, but no studio seemed to challenge on their level.
Away from the new animation battle, it must look at the release plan. While nobody could predict how successful the Harry Potter movies would go on to be. The book’s success should have been an earlier indicator. It has also been Disney’s main target to get a late-in-the-year animation movie, because in the weeks following this release, they didn’t have much competition until another fantasy book adaption The Lord of the Rings The Two Towers.
What are your feelings about Treasure Planet?