The spectacular failure of Treasure Planet can be explained in five words: It’s a friggin’ pirate movie! The skull-and-crossbones genre has spelled box office poison for eons. (Watch out, ”Pirates of the Caribbean”!) Yet Disney’s cartoon division mistakenly believed blasting ”Treasure Island” into outer space would make Robert Louis Stevenson’s tattered yarn seem cool. The studio charted a course down the middle of the mainstream, attempting to appeal to both teenage boys – by turning young adventurer Jim Hawkins (drably voiced by ”3rd Rock From the Sun”’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt) into a lank-haired slacker – and kiddies by rendering figures like astrophysicist Dr. Delbert Doppler (David Hyde Pierce) as Happy Meal-ready anthropomorphized animals. But in the end, the HMS Mickey Mouse crashed on the rocks of a bad concept.
Directors Ron Clements and John Musker (”Aladdin”) also blew it by waiting nearly an hour into the 95-minute movie to introduce its most riveting character, the brainless robot B.E.N. (Bio-Electronic Navigator), hysterically brought to life by Martin Short as a cyber-Jiminy Glick. B.E.N. is ”Planet”’s lone treasure, and it’s quite unfortunate that he’s buried.