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Treasure Planet

Walt Disney Animation has such a track record of success and critical acclaim that when the studio does have a movie that really and truly flops, it's the sort of thing people remember. Such was the case with Treasure Planet, Disney's 2002 science-fiction take on Treasure Island. The movie is remembered above and beyond all else for being the film that Disney washed its hands of a mere two weeks after it had been released. Glen Keane was one of the animators on Treasure Planet and the film flopping still hits him hard, as he says he put his "heart and soul" into the film, and still thinks it's beautiful.

Glen Keane, who recently made his directorial debut with Netflix's Over the Moon, was the main character animator for Long John Silver in Treasure Planet, and he recently told Vulture that the fact that the film was seen by so few people still hurts, because he thinks the movie is actually incredible looking, and he believes the character of Silver was the culmination of his career to that point. According to Keane...

I put my heart and soul into creating that guy. And also just the connection of CG and hand-drawn blended into one character; I just felt like this is defining everything of who I am as an animator — the heart, the passion, the humor, the weight. Everything about him. And then to see it sacrificed in a political battle that went on between Michael and Roy at that time, where [the film] was written off as a loss after, I think, almost two weeks. No one went to see it. I have to say, it’s one of the most beautifully animated films. There was this authenticity to Silver that I thought was really remarkable.

The Michael and Roy in question are then Disney CEO Michael Eisner and then head of Walt Disney Animation Studios Roy Disney. While Eisner owed Roy for helping to make him CEO in the mid-1980s, by the early 2000s the relationship had soured. Treasure Planet itself was a passion project for The Little Mermaid directors Ron Clements and John Musker but it was a project that it seems higher-ups at Disney were never really into. It also was quite an expensive movie at the time, making the film's financial success all the more important.

As Glen Keane says, the movie was written off as a loss by Disney after only a couple of weeks, which was basically the company admitting that it thought the movie was bad. Treasure Planet didn't have the greatest opening ever, but after Disney itself gave up, so did the audience. The film is still the biggest financial flop in Disney Animation history.

For what it's worth, Glen Keane is right. Treasure Planet is a visually stunning film that has some amazing animation. The movie as a whole is good, certainly not the failure the box office numbers imply. If you've got the time, throw it on Disney+ and see for yourself.

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