Meet The Robinsons follows the story of young orphan Lewis. He’s quite the young inventor but ends up with more failures and near misses than anything successful. His tendency to blow things up doesn’t help his adoption chances too much either. One day his life is changed when a kid from the future arrives to give him a boost of confidence. Back in the future Lewis is temporarily trapped, and the guest of the manic family Robinson. Each family member is a zany character unto themselves. Uncle Art, cleverly voiced by Adam West, is an intergalactic pizza delivery guy, and mom has trained frogs to become big band singers. Before long Lewis finds he has more in common with family patriarch Cornelius than he suspected. The villain is the mysterious Bowler Hat Man, bent on getting his revenge on Lewis and taking credit for his inventions. Armed with a catchy slogan culled from one of Walt’s own statements, Keep Moving Forward, and a new found confidence, Lewis sets out to create the future of his dreams.
I just can’t help it. When I think of science fiction and Robinsons, I come up with Lost In Space. Consider me a product of my generation. So it took me a little extra time to adjust to this more Jetson like Disney animation movie. The film is based on a children’s book, or at least its characters, created by William Joyce. Meet The Robinsons also comes on the heels of two major changes at the Walt Disney Studios. The most exciting thing to happen at Mickey’s House was the final acquisition of Pixar. While Disney had great success as the distribution network for the unique company, some serious tensions between the two erupted after Finding Nemo. Pixar was suddenly shopping for a new partner, and Disney was threatening to release Pixar sequels as was their contractual right to do. After a lot of grandstanding from both sides, a sudden deal for Disney to actually buy Pixar took the entertainment world unawares. The second event was far more controversial as Disney, for all intents and purposes, disbanded its hand drawn animation department. We all suspected Walt was spinning away in his cryochamber. Now that both events have converged to produce Meet The Robinsons, we can begin to evaluate these past two years by what they produced. It’s true that Pixar head John Lassiter was an executive producer on this film; it’s still safe to consider this a straightforward Disney Animation project. And the results are mixed.
Meet The Robinsons is not a bad film, with plenty of good kiddie moments. There are a couple of catchy songs, mostly by Rob Thomas. The animation isn’t quite as slick as Pixar productions, but there is some rather nice detail in things like reflections and rainfall. The human renderings aren’t very aesthetic to me at all. Adults often have long slender heads and large chins that look like Dick Van Dyke caricatures. Polished metal surfaces have a sweet sheen to them. Movements are fluid, if a little too manic at times. The plot relies far too much on slapstick and sight gags that can be fatiguing after a time. This one will wear you out if it becomes your child’s next twice a day habit film. Overall, the film ends with the heartwarming sweetness that is traditionally Disney and can be forgiven its too cozy ending.
Meet The Robinsons is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1. This is a very nice visual presentation. The film is loaded with wonderfully colorful images that are reproduced with awesome clarity and brilliance. I talked about how good reflective surfaces looked. That’s easily a detail that might have been lost on a sub par presentation. Black levels are excellent, although there really aren’t many dark scenes in this film. The bit rate seldom falls below 6 mbps, so you won’t be dealing with unseemly compression artifact here. You get a near HD looking image for the price of SD.
Deleted Scenes: Film director Stephen Anderson guides you through a couple cut scenes. He does a good job of explaining how the scene was originally conceived to work and why it was ultimately removed. Because the footage did not make the final cut, it is incomplete and in various stages of development from storyboards to black and white to near finished quality.
The other extras can be found in a sub menu entitled Disney Backstage Pass:
Inventing The Robinsons: This 18 minute look at the making of Meet The Robinsons crams a good amount of information into a short running time. Original book writer William Joyce talks about where the ideas came from, and along with Anderson we get to see what changes were made and why. You’ll see the voice actors at work and some early concept design for the film’s many elements.
Keep Moving Forward: Inventions that Shaped the World: This is a uniquely Disney look at some of the milestone inventions and their inventors from the wheel to the computer and how they influenced our society. You get clips from almost every Disney film ever made along the way.
Music Videos: A couple of the actual musicians playing the two songs from the film. The best of these is Rob Thomas and his “Little Wonders”, which is a pretty nice tune.
I’m usually a sucker for all things Disney or Pixar. I wasn’t as big on this film as I expected, but still rather enjoyed it. Part of me would like to see the Disney Animation Studios sticking to what made them great over 50 years ago. With Pixar in the house there seems to now be overkill in the CG Animation side of things, and no matter how good Meet The Robinsons might be, it’s not Pixar. Why compete with yourself in the same venue? This will be the kind of DVD your kids will want to see often enough that renting really isn’t an option here. Best to just pick up a copy and “keep moving forward”.