Meet The Robinsons
R1 - America - Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (8th November 2007).
The Film

Based on the book "A Day with Wilbur Robinson" this Disney animated film takes the foundations laid by the book and in traditional Disney style adapts them for their own purposes and includes a few Disney-esque themes such as family, the orphan theme and the light hearted nature of the film, thankfully there was not al lot of singing. The film has been in production for sometime before its release and when Pixar finally merged with Disney and John Lasseter took over animation (including re-opening Disney's traditional 2-d hand drawn division which was closed under Michael Esiner's final years of control) he suggested further changes which director Stephen J. Anderson took and over the course of 10 months nearly 60 percent of the film was changed including the addition of new story elements. It's possible that the continuous changes applied under the hands of many people over the course of production resulted in the film being a mixed bag. It feels like a mish-mash of cool elements rolled into a picture with a very simple plot as the filmmaker's throw a veritable stock-pile of set pieces to keep you distracted including a time travel plot, a sequence with singing and dancing frogs and an admittedly funny sequence featuring a T-Rex (probably the film's only really funny sequence).
The film tells the story of Lewis, a brilliant kid with a bright future that was orphaned as a child; he's having trouble finding foster parents because his inventions and try-hard attitude always ruin his interviews. What Lewis really wants to do is find out what his mother was like, so he invents a machine that can look into your memories, but before he has a chance to properly test it it's secretly sabotaged by a mysterious villain in a bowler hat who then steals the invention to peddle it of as his own. Lewis is warned out the villain by Wilbur Robinson who claims he is from the future and to prove it he takes Lewis back to the future in his time machine, but while there the machine breaks and Lewis is stuck in the future as the man in the Bowler hat threatens to alter time back in the present day.
The film's computer generate animation is very cartoonish leaning towards the Nickelodeon style of TV CG animation but with more detail, which at least separates it from appearing too similar to other CG Disney films, which I suppose is not a negative. It is however not as solid as Pixar films of the past but then again with 7 screenwriters and numerous changes made along the way it would have been an uphill battle to produce anything halfway decent even considering Lasseter had his hands on it before release. Despite the mish-mash quality of the film it's still rather enjoyable and entertaining, the Bowler hat villain is among my favorite characters his antics make me laugh hours after having seen the film.
The future sequences are also rather impressively realized and has a certain "Jetsons" (1962-1988) feel to it, which current audiences may not appreciate.
"Meet the Robinsons" could have been a better film, the days of Disney creating memorable classics seemed to be over with release after release not able to reach the same heights they once were able to soar to, however the recent management shift has placed the right people in charge and let's hope that this film will be the last of the mediocre Disney animations (Pixar films obviously excluded considering their proven track record).

Video

Presented in a widescreen ratio of 1.78:1 this anamorphic transfer is a solid presentation and has been taken from the film's original digital source so sharpness is consistent throughout the print and detail us nicely rendered. Colors are vibrant and lush. The image is perfectly clean with out a single speck or dirt which is a great benefit of sourcing your transfer from the original digital files. I spotted some very minor moiré effect against some patterned lines but aside from that I cold not spot any flaws such as compression artefacts or edge-enhancement. Overall this is a very pleasing transfer.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included all of which are in Dolby Digital 5.1, they are in English, French and Spanish. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its English soundtrack and found it quite good, matching the quality of the transfer. The soundtrack is wonderfully rich with unique sound effects; the future especially is littered with surround activity which immerses the viewer. The film's music also comes across well and makes good use of the 5.1 space with the occasional use of the bass channel adding some depth. Dialogue is clear and distortion free and ambient sounds sound natural and never out of place.
Optional subtitles are included only in English for the hearing impaired.

Extras

The film includes a feature-length audio commentary by the film's director Stephen J. Anderson. In this track the director talks about being on the film for four and a half years and comments on the original script which was based on the book and what elements from that script made it into the final version released. He talks about how the film appealed to him especially the orphaned Lewis who he could relate to as Anderson was adopted. The takes us through the themes that help control the story and how it evolves, inspirations for various scenes and characters and modeling Lewis on Nikola Tesla and adding some quirky behavior without being too weird. He also comments on his favorite scenes in the film and on reworking the film over the years of development among other things.

The film also features an isolated sound effects track presented in 5.1 surround, this track eliminates the dialogue and music and presents the film with only the sound effects, other than people interested in sound mixing special effects this feature isn't really necessary and could have benefited with commentary from the sound crew.

Next up are 3 deleted scenes, these scenes all have an intro to them by the director telling us about the scene and why it was cut, they can be viewed individually or with a 'play all' option and include:

- "Arriving in the Future" runs for 3 minutes 9 seconds, this is an alternate version of the scene where the time machine doesn't crash.
- "Meeting Carl" runs for 2 minutes 9 seconds, Carl freaks about alerting the time stream after he meets Lewis.
- "Bowler Hat Guy's Redemption" runs for 1 minute 36 seconds, Lewis gives Bowler Hat Guy an opportunity to take control of his destiny and change the course of his future.

Also featured are 2 music videos which include:

- "Little Wonders" performed by Rob Thomas and runs for 3 minutes 58 seconds, this is a standard Disney song that features some clips from the film in the video.
- "Kids of the Future" performed by The Jonas Brothers which runs for 3 minutes 25 seconds and is a live performance of the song.

Following that is "Inventing the Robinsons" a featurette that runs for 17 minutes 56 seconds and takes a general look at the making of the film from the inspiration for the film, a look at the various characters and story elements and drawing from the spirit of the book. The director talks about his involvement in the project and the development of the script, storyboarding the entire film and the uniqueness of the project. The clip also covers the development of the themes and establishing the tone of the film including how the character design, casting the voice talent and the film's music among other things. This is an EPK clip but focuses on the film rather than how great the people working on it are.

Another featurette is next and is entitled "Keep Moving Forward: Inventions that Shaped the World" which runs for 6 minutes 25 seconds and takes a look at the inventions that had an impact on the world such as the wheel, printing press, telescope, television etc. It's an amusing little clip but not really worth repeated viewing.

Also featured on this disc is the "Family Function 5000" interactive game, Use your remote to put Lewis' future family tree in order, this looks like a bit of fun for kids, older viewers will likely get bored after a couple of minutes.

Rounding out the extras are a collection of bonus trailers for:
- "Enchanted" which runs for 2 minutes 32 seconds.
- "Ratatouille" which runs for 2 minutes 30 seconds.
- "The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause" which runs for 2 minutes 17 seconds.
- "Return to Neverland" which runs for 1 minute.
- "The Aristocats" which runs for 1 minute 9 seconds.
- "Cinderella III" 1 minute 1 second.
- "High School Musical 2" which runs for 1 minute 30 seconds.
- "Snow Buddies" which runs for 1 minute 11 seconds.
- "Disney Movie Rewards" spot which runs for 19 seconds.

Overall

The Film: B- Video: A Audio: A Extras: B+ Overall: A-

 


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