Directed by Stephen Anderson
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 95 minutes
Audio: PCM 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Spanish, French
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
Release Date: October 23, 2007
Review Date: October 20, 2007
The transition to computer animation (apart from the Pixar releases) has been problematic and erratic for the Walt Disney Company. Though Chicken Little made money, the film itself was weak. The Wild was an outright bomb with audiences (oddly, I much preferred it to Chicken Little). With Meet the Robinsons, it seems the studio is finally heading in the right direction. Outstanding, elaborate animation tied to a story with heart and surprising complexity marks the latest effort from Disney’s non-Pixar branch (though Pixar’s John Lasseter was one of the film’s executive producers). To be honest, it took me two viewings to plug into the film’s vibe. I initially found it harried and somewhat scattered, but a second viewing illuminated how well the pieces fit together and also accustomed me to the film‘s really frenzied pace.
Orphan Lewis (Jordan Fry) can’t seem to find a family who wants to adopt him, so he pours his soul into making inventions that tap his inner geek genius. At his school’s science fair, he meets up with Wilbur Robinson (Wesley Singerman) who claims to have used his dad’s time machine to come to the past to save Lewis from an evil bowler wearing villain (Stephen John Anderson aka the director of the movie) who seems intent on harming Lewis. Their battle with this shady character and his seemingly alive bowler (named Doris) take the boys back to the future where Lewis meets the wildly eccentric Robinson family, a clan that makes the loony Sycamores from You Can’t Take It With You seem tame in comparison.
The story is loaded with fierce battles and spirited encounters of every kind, beautifully directed by Stephen Anderson and splashed with the bright, bold Technicolor look of most of today’s animated features. It‘s definitely a visual feast that‘s pleasing eye candy for young and old alike. And the film does offer substance for both children and adults which puts it on the firm ground of all of Pixar‘s wildly successful features. The film’s message of looking to the future for one’s happiness rather than dwelling inertly in the past is one that all ages can take in and appreciate.
The movie seems a bit weak in wit, though. There’s plenty of action, and the characters are all so unusual that they’ll hold your interest with no difficulty (though the members of the Robinson family might have been given a shade more development). But I found the use of slapstick a bit much, enough so that I wouldn’t have minded if the film had wrapped up about ten minutes sooner. There’s a subplot with singing frogs, for example, that certainly has a payoff, and they’re entertaining enough in and of themselves, but their songs add length to the movie.
And speaking of the music, the Danny Elfman score is delightful, and one song in particular, Rob Thomas’ extremely well written and well sung ballad “Little Wonders,” is among the best songs to come out of a Disney film in years. The movie is not a musical, but the songs by Rufus Wainwright, Elfman, and Thomas that serve as background commentary to the on-screen action do establish the necessary emotions for the scenes they accompany.
The film’s 1.78:1 aspect ratio is presented in 1080p (AVC codec), and it couldn‘t be more deliriously glorious. The amount of detail is staggering from the nap on the blanket covering Lewis‘ invention to the textures of concrete, brick, wood, and grass (which contains flecks of blue totally unnoticed in the standard definition version of the film). The colors are bold and beautiful but never so intense as to bleed. Blacks are lush, and not a speck mars the pristine image presented here. Selected engagements of this film were shown in theaters in 3-D, and while this transfer isn’t in 3-D, it’s as close to 3-D as it‘s possible to get. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
The transfer’s PCM uncompressed 5.1 soundtrack (48kHz/24 bit, 6.9Mbps) offers a wide ranging soundfield that makes constant use of all available channels. The T-Rex sequence and a later climactic trip to a bowler hat future are spirited and stunning in their creative use of sound. The Dolby Digital 5.1 alternative soundtrack offered on the disc sounds a bit veiled and just can‘t compete with the marvelous uncompressed track with its clear, bold sound. (In addition, there’s an option to pick a Dolby Digital 5.1 sound effects channel from the set up menu so you can hear how active all the channels are if you‘re curious about such things.)
An audio commentary by director Stephen Anderson allows him to show how proud he is of this movie. Along with providing some personal information about himself and his identification with the main character Lewis, Anderson also describes the painstaking process of bringing an animated movie to the screen and goes into detail about original ideas that didn’t make it to the final film. The track also includes a funny running in-joke that I greatly enjoyed.
“Inventing the Robinsons” is a 17½-minute HD (AVC codec) featurette in which the original author, the film’s director, the production designer, the voice actors, the composer, and the songwriters all comment on their contributions to the movie.
“Inventions That Shaped the World” is a slight 6-minute rundown of some of the important inventions of the past few centuries that have shaped the world we know now. It’s presented in 4:3 and nonanamorphic letterbox in 480i.
There are six deleted scenes (three more than on the standard definition disc) presented in HD (AVC codec) with director Stephen Anderson introducing each of the segments explaining why they didn’t make it into the finished film. Included among these is an alternate ending which is much weaker than the one in the finished film. The scenes are a mixture of finished footage, in betweens, and storyboard sketches.
There are two music videos, each running about 3 minutes and each presented in nonanamorphic, standard definition (480i) letterbox. Rob Thomas performs the wonderful “Little Wonders” while the Jonas Brothers perform the lesser “Kids of the Future.” Each music video mixes newly shot footage with clips from the movie.
“Family Function 5000 Game” is an entertaining trivia game based on facts from the movie which little ones may need their parents’ help with.
“Bowler Hat Barrage Game,” a Blu-ray extra not found on the standard definition DVD, requires the player to maneuver and blast away at evil bowler hats to save the day.
As usual on Disney Blu-ray releases, a movie showcase feature chooses three scenes that the executives consider reference quality scenes.
Trailers presented in 1080p for other upcoming theatrical and DVD Buena Vista releases include Ratatouille, Enchanted, and Wall-E. The trailer for Meet the Robinsons is not included here but is available on other Buena Vista releases.
Meet the Robinsons might not have the patented wit and smarts of the Pixar films, but it shows that the “other” Disney animation unit is at long last on the right track for continued success. It’s an enjoyable and even emotionally satisfying animated feature, and the Blu-ray release joins Corpse Bride as the two best looking Blu-ray animated titles currently available.