In 2002, Walt Disney Pictures released Treasure Planet, which I personally consider to be one of the most underrated animated movies of all time. It’s an animated science-fiction adventure film loosely based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic novel Treasure Island (See Also: The Best Pirate Books That AREN’T Treasure Island).
By all accounts leading up to the movie’s release, Treasure Planet should have kicked ass at the box office. It had a stacked voice cast that included Joseph Gordon-Levitt, David Hyde Pierce, Emma Thompson, Martin Short, and Michael Wincott.
Despite having a talented team of animators and voice actors, the film was a commercial and critical failure, grossing only $38 million domestically against a budget of $140 million. Here’s why Treasure Planet failed to resonate with audiences and critics alike.
The Harry Potter Effect: A Crowded Release Schedule
Treasure Planet was released in November during a very crowded holiday season, which meant that it was competing with other big-name films for attention and box office dollars. In particular, it was released the same week as Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Die Another Day – two highly anticipated films that overshadowed Treasure Planet in the eyes of audiences.
A Lack of Marketing
Despite being a big-budget film from a major studio like Disney, Treasure Planet received surprisingly little marketing support, save for a few movie trailers tacked to the beginning of other theater releases. This lack of promotion likely contributed to the film’s poor box office performance, as many moviegoers were simply not aware of its existence or had very little information about the plot or characters.
There should have been a lot more done to showcase that the animated film was like Treasure Island but with futuristic vibes.
An Unclear Target Audience
Treasure Planet was marketed as a family-friendly film, but its science-fiction setting and complex plot may have been too complicated for young children. On the other hand, the film’s light-hearted tone and cartoonish character designs may have been too simplistic for older audiences who were looking for more mature themes and storytelling.
In other words, Treasure Planet wasn’t cool enough to grab the older crowd.
A Departure from Traditional Disney Style
Like Atlantis which came out a year earlier, Treasure Planet was a departure from the traditional Disney style, which may have alienated some fans of the studio’s classic animated films. The film’s use of CGI animation and a science-fiction setting was a significant departure from the more traditional hand-drawn animation and fairytale-inspired stories that Disney was known for.
A Lack of Emotional Connection
Despite its impressive visuals and action-packed plot, Treasure Planet failed to create a strong emotional connection with audiences. The film’s characters were not as well-developed as they could have been, and their motivations and backstories were not fully explored. This lack of emotional depth may have made it difficult for audiences to fully invest in the film’s story and characters.
Finally, Treasure Planet received mixed reviews from critics, which had a negative impact on its box office performance. While some reviewers praised the film’s visuals and action sequences, others criticized its pacing, lack of emotional depth, and departure from traditional Disney storytelling.
Treasure Planet failed to resonate with audiences and critics for a variety of reasons, but it was mostly due to the crowded movie release schedule, lack of marketing, unclear target audience, the departure from the traditional Disney style, a lack of emotional connection, and negative reviews all likely contributed to its poor box-office performance.
While the film may have its fans, it ultimately failed to capture the hearts and minds of a wider audience and remains a footnote in the history of Disney animation.
Where to Stream Treasure Planet
If you want to stream Treasure Planet online right now, you can do so with a Disney+ subscription, which you can sign-up for here.