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The greatest compliment I can give the new Disney film Meet the Robinsons is that I never left the story wondering whose voice was lent to each character. Usually the big names come through and you start trying to figure out who is who, leaving the words and the story behind. With this film, besides the fact that I could only recognize the great self-parody from Adam West, we are given a cast of no-names, (not to disrespect Angela Bassett or Laurie Metcalf, but they had five minute roles). I really think more animated films should go this route because it leaves all preconceptions at the door and allows the viewer to just experience the movie. I also know that the story itself is a big part in getting an audience absorbed into a film, and surprisingly, for a Disney film of late, this one delivers. I don’t even remember the last time I had this much fun at one of their films, Pixar productions excluded.

What was wonderful about the story was that it is a straightforward narrative about the importance of family and that love exists in places you may not see at first. Once our hero builds a machine to see into his past and find the identity of the mother that left him on the steps of an orphanage, he starts into motion a series of events that bring the world of the future into his own. Credit the writers, and I’m sure the author whose book this is based on, for visually showing little clues at the beginning that help us to decipher what goes on later in the Todayland of the future, (a nice little commentary on Disneyworld’s own Tomorrowland theme park section in the present). What could have been used as a reveal-type device that the whole film hinges on, the aspect of what the Robinsons’ connection to Lewis is, becomes an afterthought and simple plot point that enhances the story rather than define it. I found it easy to pick up on due to the clues hinted—think frogs—and when the truth is finally spoken aloud by the Bowler Hat Guy, he plays it up with a “Don’t you see yet?” that is as much to the audience as it is to Lewis. The filmmakers never pander to the audience and always stay one-step ahead as they continue the story of how one lonely boy can have the best family in the world if he can just let go of a past that he never had. If we always look to the future, we can make our own destiny.

In what is probably the craziest comedy I’ve seen in a while, the laughs deliver at all times. There are so many moments where you have to think to yourself, “what the heck just happened,” and, “where did that come from?” The absurdity of it all, though, brings fantastic humor along with it and never takes away from the overall story progression. I don’t know how much of the kookiness was Disney and how much was the source material, but either way it worked. As for the visuals that went along with it, I must say I was impressed. The reflections on all metallic and glass surfaces are amazing and the depth of field well done. How much of this is due to me seeing it in 3D, I don’t know, but I will say that if you go to check it out, definitely see the full experience. Besides experiencing the surface work and looking through rainy glass, I admit that I totally flinched during the meatball fight.

The fact that really interests me, because of the intelligence and embrace of the surreal, is how much John Lasseter and Pixar changed once Disney bought them. This film was supposed to be released last year, but Lasseter decided to push it back in order to solve some problems he saw with it. It is weird because this film is very much an amalgum of Disney looks and story with the character and sensibility of Pixar. If Lasseter did change a lot, I just have to say that I am even more anxious to see what’s next, knowing that he has decided to reopen the 2D animation department and bring the glory days back. Disney seems to be in good hands for the future, and hopefully will continue to keep moving forward themselves.

Meet the Robinsons 8/10

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photography:
[1] Lewis and Wilbur Robinson in MEET THE ROBINSONS
[2] Bowler Hat Guy in MEET THE ROBINSONS

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