The terms “Disney” and “computer-animated” generally inspire thoughts of Pixar, and rightfully so. But before Toy Story, there was Beauty and the Beast, and before Finding Nemo, there was Aladdin. In other words, Disney on its own isn’t a stranger to computer-animated films, and the company’s latest in that respect, Meet the Robinsons, shows that Disney can still hold its own on the first-party front when it comes to CG storytelling.
Meet the Robinsons tells the story of a young boy named Lewis who’s a lot like the Nutty Professor in terms of genius and bad luck. As (bad) luck would have it, Lewis, an orphan, finds himself at the center of a plot by which a bumbling buffoon from the future hopes to undo an otherwise-glorious hereafter by dashing Lewis’ Science Fair success. Predictably, things go horribly wrong both for the Future Idiot and for Lewis, which sets the stage for some comedic scenes as well as some Back to the Future-like space/time continuum conundrums.
The animation is top-notch in Meet the Robinsons, almost to the point that it’s easy to mistake the film for a Pixar production. Perhaps more impressive, though, is the level of storytelling in the film, complete with subtle commentary about perseverance and unconditional love. In fact, the combined quality of the animation and storytelling is so high that Meet the Robinsons is by far the most impressive animated film — from any studio — since Finding Nemo.
As an animated (read: digitally produced) film, Meet the Robinsons makes an impressive transition to DVD, with vivid colors and smooth action, particularly on a high-definition set. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track also makes a nice (albeit expected) transition to DVD, but the bonus features are really where the rubber hits the road with this DVD.
Whereas many DVDs include a somewhat-uninspired making-of feature, Meet the Robinsons on DVD includes a few elements that indicate the producers really thought this one through. The two most pedestrian of these are the requisite Feature-Length Audio Commentary with director Stephen Anderson (who does an admirable job digging into the storytelling yet really could have benefited from a commentary cohort) and the 18-minute making-of feature called Inventing the Robinsons, which includes the usual making-of suspects.
Family Function 5000: Family Tree Game is a movie-appropriate memory test, but it’s Keep Moving Forward: Inventions That Shaped the World that really shows that producers, when they really evaluate their movie’s plot, can come up with some incredible features. At 6:25 in length, Keep Moving Forward is arguably a bit too short in its history of major inventions, yet its very presence shows that the producers understood how to take the high-level concept of the film (using inventions to solve life’s mysteries or problems) and mesh the concept with educational material to create an oh-so-appropriate featurette. Perhaps because of its short length, however, this featurette is overshadowed by six Deleted Scenes, which are introduced by the director and include a dramatically different alternate ending from the one that capped the original film.
Meet the Robinsons may have some awkward and cliched moments, but to be honest, so do most animated pictures. Heck, the Shrek franchise was built on them, although in a deliberate tongue-in-cheek way. And like the Shrek films, Meet the Robinsons has a perfectly serviceable story, great animation and nice messages — if the viewer is willing to relax for 90 minutes and just let the kid-friendly tale unfold. Meet the Robinsons isn’t rocket science, and boy-genius Lewis wouldn’t have it any other way.
- Score: 8
— Jonas Allen