Disney's latest animated film launches Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" into outer space, creating an odd yet familiar adventure that tugs at childhood memories from several directions.
"Treasure Planet" hews closely to the framework of Stevenson's book. However, space creatures look suspiciously similar to the droids and intergalactic beings in "Star Wars," and young Jim Hawkins's quest for treasure imparts the spirit of "Indiana Jones."
In the film, Jim is a rebellious teen who loves to solar surf and struggles with his father's abandonment. He desperately yearns to explore a world outside his mother's inn and restaurant, which is filled with eerie aliens. When a stranger hands him a holographic map, he realizes that it's the location of a pirate's fortune stolen from 1,000 worlds.
Jim and a bumbling astrophysicist hire a crew of "spacers" and set off solar sailing on a light-speed schooner to find it. Along the way, they confront black holes, supernova waves, and a hostile crew that has its eye on the treasure chest. Meanwhile, John Silver, a cyborg chef, befriends and then betrays Jim.
Though families will enjoy the classic story with a cosmic twist, the most valuable gem is the beautiful mix of hand-drawn and computer animation. This is the first movie to be released simultaneously in regular theaters and large-format cinemas like IMAX, and to fully enjoy the visual spectacle you might want to view it in the latter.
While parents will chuckle throughout the movie, the humor is aimed at children. At a preview screening, kids roared at John Silver's sidekick who supplants the parrot: a bubble-gum-pink space wad named Morph who mimics other characters at the turn of a gold coin.
Emma Thompson's voice is put to excellent use as the modern, feminine Captain Amelia.
Overall, "Treasure Planet" is a worthy family film that teaches about self-reliance and leaves you longing to set sail. Disney hopes it's the answer to its slowly sinking ship of traditional animated films - but don't expect it to be priceless.