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Given their love of low-quality straight-to-video cash-ins, finding a Disney movie with no existing sequels proved to be quite a challenge. Fortunately, we happen to know one of the foremost authorities on all things Mickey Mouse related, friend of the show Dr James Mason, who recently completed a PHD that quite literally qualifies him as ‘Doctor Disney’.
James joins us this week to discuss Treasure Planet, a rare misfire from Disney’s animated wing. A long-gestating passion project for directors Ron Clements and John Musker, the movie takes the classic Robert Louis Stevenson adventure Treasure Island and re-imagines it in a futuristic universe populated by a colourful cast of aliens and robots. Combining traditional hand-drawn animation with sophisticated CGI techniques, the movie cost $140 to make, a budget that it failed to recoup when it landed with a resounding thud at the box office – taking just $38.1 million in the USA and a little over $100 million internationally.
As failures go, that’s pretty spectacular by any standards, but for a Disney animated movie to perform so poorly was almost unheard of. Numerous theories abound, from an indifferent marketing campaign to the movie’s diversions from the standard Disney template – it’s a moodier and more thoughtful piece than most children’s cartoons, and there’s a notable lack of big musical numbers, or any kind of romantic sub-plot. Even the obligatory comedic sidekicks generally take a backseat to the central storyline about the complicated surrogate father-son relationship between Jim Hawkins (voiced by Joseph Gordon Levitt) and the morally compromised cyborg Long John Silver (Brian Murray).
Dr Mason joins us on this week’s episode to share his thoughts on why the movie struggled to find an audience, Disney’s many failed attempts to crack the teenage boy market and Martin Short’s Jar Jar Binks-esque supporting turn as a lobotomised robot. As usual, we also craft some drinking games – strictly for adult viewers, of course – and invite James to share us in pitching some fantasy sequel ideas…
If you like this episode, please hit subscribe on your preferred podcasting app, and consider leaving us a nice review – it really helps us to attract new listeners. You can also become a VIP listener on our Patreon page, where we host a variety of incentives for as little as $2 per month – including our bonus review show Beyond BTBS and the opportunity to select a movie for us to cover on a future episode…
Next week, we’ll be looking at a breakthrough moment from one of America’s most celebrated auteur directors. Until then, happy listening and beware the one-armed cyborg!