Pirates? In Space? Shiver my Timbers!
Originally Released: 2002
I suppose it was inevitable that Treasure Island would receive the Disney animation treatment at some point. After all, this book has gone through many iterations throughout the years on film, including Disney’s very first live-action film released in 1950 and another Disney version involving the Muppets. Captain Long John Silver has been played multiple times by many great actors, including Wallace Beery, Charlton Heston, Tim Curry, and Robert Newton. In fact, as I understand it, Newton is the man we can thank for the pirate stereotype in all pirate movies post 1950 (at least until Jack Sparrow, anyway).
So big kudos to Disney for attempting to take this well-told tale in a different direction. I boggles my mind how this film didn’t make more money, because the idea of merging classic swashbuckling adventure and science fiction is amazing. I bet the team that worked on the film wondered the same thing, because this is a solid adaptation of the story. It features a talented cast of voice actors, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emma Thompson, and Niles Crane. The soundtrack by James Newton Howard supplements the film well and includes music from the Goo-Goo Dolls lead singer at the height of his career. And, in my opinion, Treasure Planet is even today a visual tour-de-force, using the best merging of 2D art and 3D animation that I can remember.
Is it the best film adaptation of the source material? I’m not sure, but probably not (I only remember seeing the Muppet version and this movie). There have been so many different versions, I’m sure each person will have a different opinion as far as which is his or her favorite.
Does it have the best John Silver? I applaud supervising animator Glen Keane’s work on the character and his decision to not completely copy past versions. The swiss army arm is a great touch as well. But no doubt people will still remember previous Long John Silvers of movie past before they think of this animated version.
Does it hold up to the original novel by Robert Louis Stephenson? No, it doesn’t come even close, because I believe Treasure Island is one of the greatest pieces of classic literature ever written, and I doubt any film will fully capture the essence of that book (it was definitely the highlight of my 3000-page summer literature marathon a few years back – but that’s another story altogether). In fact, this latest viewing of Treasure Planet made me really want to find the book and read it again.
Despite not being able to call itself the “best” version of Treasure Island out there, I feel like the movie differentiates itself enough from the standard pirate fare and makes enough smart decisions to stand on its own and qualify for membership among other upper-tier Disney entertainment. I am not sure what Treasure Planet‘s status is among the masses, but if it has become a forgotten entry, shiver my soul, you’s best be recommended ta find it and make it unforgotten, because perhaps there be hidden treasure ta find in it.
Oh, and yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum. Just because.