This is the start of a new series of articles, in which I’ll take a look at book-based Disney movies. I will discuss how the movie relates to the original pinagmulan text (or not), what the merits and the weaknesses of the movie are.
I will not do this in chronological order, but simply pick what strikes me fancy (I’m open for requests, though). Don’t expect me to do the Lion King, though. For one, the connection to Hamlet is feeble at best, it’s madami a case of being inspired sa pamamagitan ng it than a true adaptation, and two, technically Hamlet is a play, not a book. I also will not do the Disney Princess movies, because I already discussed them at length in various artikulo for the Disney Princess Spot.
Otherwise, I guess I’ll start with the classics. And what better classic to start with than Treasure Island? 1. The world of Treasure Planet
Treasure Island was my favourite book growing up. So I was really looking pasulong to the Disney take on it, though also a little bit worried. And not because they decided to set it in space.
To get this one out of the way first: Unlike a lot of other reviewers I think the changed setting was the best decision they made for the movie. For three reasons:
1. Treasure Island is one of the most adapted books of all time. I have seen around 30 different pelikula and TV Shows based on it, including one movie made sa pamamagitan ng Disney in the 1950s. Did we really need another one in a traditional setting? If you want to tackle this, you better find a new angle (though there already was an Italian/German production which also put the story into puwang called “Der Schatz im All” – one of the better adaptions, too).
2. It allowed Disney to cut down the number of characters they put on the ship – though I personally think they didn’t go far enough with this. I would have preferred even less but in exchange madami fleshed out side characters.
3. Above all, it allowed for some really creative imaginary. It would have been great if they had gone even crazier than just reusing the flying whales from Fantasia 2000, but pagpaparangal for the final climax. The action scene is really a sight to see, especially on the big screen.
A lot of people are bothered sa pamamagitan ng the mix of traditional clothes with strange devices, other argue that this is simply steampunk. Neither are completely correct in my opinion. For one, it is not really steampunk. The idea behind steampunk is to imagine future technology or styles how someone from the Victorian age might have seen it (thus the use of steam instead of madami modern technology). What Treasure Planet does is madami the other way around, taking a very modern idea of technology, but instead of going for the madami sterile style seen in other puwang shows and movies, like bituin Trek, bituin Wars, Babylon 5 and so on, it tries to insert a romantic element sa pamamagitan ng seeking inspiration from the time the original book was published. In some aspects, it works brilliantly. I pag-ibig the holographic books, the uniforms with a slight futuristic edge to it, the glider. In other aspects it’s confusing. Jim for example is a perfect blend between a Victorian and a madami futuristic boy, his mother on the other hand misses the madami modern edge in her design. I pag-ibig the disensyo of the ship (and the DVD proofs that the animators actually thought about how it works, with way madami details than necessary for the movie), but if lack of air is not an issue, what’s the point of the puwang uniform Dr. Doppler originally wears? The disensyo is very creative, but a little bit uneven in places. Though my solution wouldn’t have been not to do it, but to do it right, to make sure that every piece fits properly together. Thus said, I don’t think that the pieces which don’t fit are really that much of a distraction, unless you have a problem with the idea of setting it in some strange puwang future from the get go. 2. The Characters
My real worry concerning Treasure Planet was that they would get Long John Silver wrong. The main reason I pag-ibig the original book so much is this one character. Unapologetic evil, egoistical, but nevertheless so suave that you somehow want him to win, even though you know that he deserves to rot in hell. So would Disney be able to tackle this character without giving him redeeming qualities? Naturally not. Thus said, the result is not as bad as I feared it would be and at least the disensyo of Long John Silver is really creative. Making him a cyborg with all the fascinating gadget he has in his fake limps is just fun to watch, and in the scenes in which he is supposed to look threatening, his vibe is dangerous enough. It is, all in all, an okay take on the character, and at least the changes they did are understandable in the context of the story they are trying to tell. Part of me doesn't want Jim getting betrayed again in the end.
But where Disney really did an outstanding job was with some of the other characters. As much as I like the original book: Jim Hawkins is one of the most boring protagonists ever, madami a stand-in for the reader than a character in its own right. And all the other characters are madami stereotypes than layered personalities. The strict captain, the foolish squire, the gentleman doctor and the trust-worthy servants on the one side, the irresponsible, drunken pirates on the other side. Disney took those templates and turned most of them (the pirates are the exception) in layered characters.
Jim is no longer the good boy, he is now the rebellious teenager. Disney is walking a very fine line with this character. It is easy to make the rebel too bratty and ungrateful to be still sympathetic. But Disney manages to portray him as someone who doesn’t really want to be bad or hurt his mother, he is just confused, unsure of himself, and unable to deal with the hurt and anger her feels because his father left him.
And this is something unusual in itself: Jim’s father didn’t die, he just didn’t care enough to stick around. How often do we see something like that in a Disney movie? How often do we see a mother trying to reach out to her child and not being able to help, even though she doesn’t really do anything wrong? Tackling this issue is the biggest strength of the movie and the main reason I’m able to excuse the disneyfied version of Long John Silver.
Captain Amelia is a terrifying take on Captain Smollett. A little bit of a bragger, but competent enough to back it up, pangkalahatang a really strong female character. Even with a shoulder wound she never comes off as damsel in distress. Dr. Doppler is naturally a mix of Squire Trelawney and Dr. Livesey. For a somewhat cowardly character he is surprisingly likable, mostly because he acts when he really has to, and he actually has picked up some useful knowledge along the way, but not so much that he becomes some sort of walking solution for every problem the group encounters.
The pirates are still disappointingly bland, so bland, that I can’t even remember the name of the alakdan guy who takes over the role of Israel Hands. And then there is B.E.N. To say it upfront: Never enjoyed the character of Ben Gun in ANY adaptation, and only a few manage to make him not annoying. Therefore it’s hard to blame Disney for this one. I like the idea of a robot without a memory chip, but they really should have toned it down a little bit. The screaming just ruins the suspense in some of the best scenes. 3. The Plot
If you read a book again and again, there comes a point at which keep skipping to the best parts of the story. For me that was always the battle at the island, the suppressive atmosphere of two groups trapped in an unfriendly place and the strategy involved in them outmanoeuvring each other.
Sadly, Treasure Planet focusses mostly on the travel and not on the planet. It manages though, to make the travel much madami interesting than it was in the original story. Arrow’s death is even changed in a way that it result in real consequences instead of just being a side-note.
If someone asked me what the best scene of this movie is, my answer would be the “I’m still here” scene. For one, the song is beautiful and has really deep lyrics. But above all, it’s a really well done delve into Jim’s psychology. Seeing little Jim running after his father….that’s right up with some of the most heart-wrenching Disney scenes for me.
As impressive as some of the action scenes are, those madami quiet moments are the true strength of the movie. All in all I would have wanted madami of them and madami of Jim and Silver facing off, and a little bit less of the chase scenes through the ship. 4. The Conclusion
Treasure Planet is not the adaption I expected, but it is a really good and above all fresh take on an overdone story. If you allow yourself to get sucked into the world the animators created instead of segundo guessing everything you see, the imagination put into this is really enjoyable. It’s a little bit a movie for the big screen though, to appreciate the animation and the scale the put into the action scenes. It has its weaknesses, some clunky elements which throw the mood a little bit off-kilter, but none of them are distracting enough to ruin the movie. In the Disney canon, it’s one of the hidden gems, and definitely worth at least one watch.