The Planet of Treasure, the story of a Disney failure

The Planet of Treasure, the story of a Disney failure
During the so-called Disney experimental era, or post-rebirth era, which began with that cinematic pearl that went down in history with the name of The Emperor's Follies, we also find a project born only two years later from the mind of Ron Clemens and John Musker, the authors of Aladdin and Moana. Let's talk about The Treasure Planet, one of the films still present today on the Disney Plus platform and of which we are going to tell you the story of its development.

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An unsettled start from Star Trek

At the basis of the idea that in 2002 saw the blossoming of the story of Jim Hawkins and his pursuit of Captain Nathaniel Flint's treasure, a first pitch was produced by Clements in 1985, presented during the same meeting session with the producers in which he also showed a first idea for The Little Mermaid. Michael Eisner, however, rejected the idea of ​​Clements, knowing that Paramount Pictures was busy developing a sequel to Star Trek, trying to imitate Treasure Island, the novel by Robert Louis Stevenson published in 1883.

The angle designed for Star Trek would not have been particularly innovative, because the novel by the English author in 1987 underwent an Italian revival in a modern and sci-fi key, with a five-part miniseries produced by Rai and directed by Antonio Margheriti, with Itaco Nardulli as Gimmi Hawkins and Anthony Quinn to give life to Long John Silver. Eisner therefore wanted to avoid making a cartoon that was not able to tell something new.

Do not worry, the attempts did not stop here: Clemens and Musker tried again in 1989, after the release of The Little Mermaid, but the studios were also refractory in this case. The idea, however, was really valid and liked: also driven by the success of Aladdin, they also returned to the office with Jeffrey Katzenberg. The result did not change this time either: The Planet of the Treasury did not like the other minds in the industry. We must await the intervention of Roy Disney to bring the wind behind the production of the animated adaptation.

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The technological dream

Roy Disney forced the production lines to take consider the proposal of Musker and Clements once Hercules is finished, after 1995, when Katzenberg himself left this great industry. What happened in the following years was the responsibility of Musker and Clements, who wished to be able to shoot cutting-edge technology, a bit like James Cameron would have done in Avatar in 2009. So it was expected that the technology would allow more processing. technique of that offered in the mid-nineties, opening the dance in 2000, when about 350 people were commissioned for this production.

Clements wanted to make a fun, dynamic film, able to offer action sequences, but without completely canceling the romanticism they wanted to give to the whole story. The film's prologue was originally supposed to show Jim Hawkins grown up and intent on telling the story of Captain Flint. The entire production team tried to get Musker and Clements to change their minds, explaining to them that it would be overly dark as a story when told as a big flashback.

So they proposed to insert a sequence that should have shown Jim working on his solar surf, interacting with an alien child. This, in addition to giving greater sensitivity to the character, would also have been a reference to The Young Holden by J. D. Salinger, but the scene was then cut, despite having been produced, to start the film as we know it now.

Trials and errors

The greatest challenge for Il Pianeta del Tesoro was to have to adapt a nineteenth-century novel to such a futuristic reality, which did not even belong to the era of the productions of that time. The task fell to Rob Edwards, who arrived at his first screenplay after working as a producer on WaSanGo, a film directed by Gae-gyun Kim.

Unlike the Jim told by Stevenson, intelligent and very enterprising, Clements proposed to create a character much closer to the viewer, thus allowing the audience to empathize with the boy's needs. Thus was born a Jim not without problems, including a great uncertainty about his nature and his future. Unlike Cavalier mentors John Trelawney and Doctor David Livesey, Musker decided to include Dr. Doppler, a character who was to represent the comic line of the film.

Finally the relationship between Jim and John Silver was greatly emphasized, trying to tell an atypical father-son relationship. The writing was entrusted to Terry Rossio, who with Musker and Clements had worked on Aladdin and who, after The Treasure Planet, found himself also signing the script of the five films in the franchise starring the most famous of the Caribbean pirates, Jack Sparrow.

Trials and errors

At the end of the work and looking back, the choice to tell a teenage Jim was not a good one. The novel was about a boy who has to confront a crew of unscrupulous pirates, making all the scenes much more dramatic and pushing that little boy to become a full-fledged man. One aspect that in The Treasure Planet has been completely bypassed. The overall realization of the characters and works was entrusted to Glen Keane, who admitted that he did not want to refer to any cultural reference, in order to be able to free himself from any potential stereotype.

John Ripa, who instead led the works dedicated to Jim, admitted instead that he had used James Dean as the main reference for posture and attitude. Finally, all the animators had the opportunity to work with Deep Canvas, a technology initially developed for Tarzan and which allowed Clements and Musker to have a 360-degree view of the scene, combining both traditional drawing and the use of CGI. In order to test John Silver's movements, the staff filmed Captain Hook's animations in Peter Pan and went to replace his hook with Silver's cyborg arm.

Ron Clements also decided to make the film 70% in traditional technique and 30% in sci-fi, thanks to the CGI technique. Sixteen animators dealt with Jim Hawkins and twelve dealt with John Silver. This law was also applied to sound. Dane Davis claimed that he went looking for antiques in old shops in order to reproduce the sound of scrap metal and old objects, so that he could reproduce the effect of John Silver's movement.

The entire soundtrack was written by James Newton Howard, who tried to combine a mix of classic modern style with the spirit of Star Wars. The piece I'm Still Here (interpreted in Italian by Max Pezzali when it was still joined to 883) differed from the main style of the compositions. The song was the only pop proposal within a very orchestral soundtrack, thus making it even more memorable, as a unique piece and separate from the general leitmotif.

The release on the big screen and the flop

The Planet of the Treasure hit theaters on November 17, 2002, anticipated by its release on French screens on November 6. The film was the first major product to be released in both traditional and IMAX theaters simultaneously. In its debut, the film grossed 12 million, ranking fourth in the rankings after Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Death Can Wait and What Happened to Santa Claus 2.

The final international box office was $ 109 million, a far cry from the $ 140 million budget, which is why in 2014 the Los Angeles Time listed it in a special ranking of the most expensive failures of the entire history of cinema. The characterization of the scenario, the strong desire to adapt the classic story to a sci-fi context, condemned Il Pianeta del Tesoro. The script itself turned out to be cheesy, approximate but, despite these criticisms, the very high production cost of the film, which went far beyond the previous ones, weighed on the final flop.

Lilo & Stitch had cost almost half and had managed to collect almost three times, just as The Emperor's Madness had cost 100 million and had grossed 170. Despite these problems, the film was nevertheless nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Animated Film, but lost the comparison with Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away.

The poor result at the box office finally pushed the then president of animated productions, Thomas Schumacher, to cancel the production of a sequel that the team was already evaluating, as well as a television series that should have expanded the 'universe. A product born under a dim star therefore, as Musker and Clements, already tried by the failure of Hercules in 1997, retired from the scene for about 7 years, and then returned to work on The Princess and the Frogs or, a film successful, but never quite like Frozen 2, Toy Story 3 and other Disney blockbusters.

To see the film as often as you like at home, buy the DVD or Bluray of Treasure Planet!

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