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Case Number 02811

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Treasure Planet Read Along

Disney // 2003 // 90 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Chief Counsel Rob Lineberger (Retired) // April 18th, 2003

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All Rise...

The Charge

Treasure Planet without animation or voice talent!

Opening Statement

By the time this DVD was through with me, I was a tremulous, twitching shell of a man. Perhaps I'm no match for today's children.

Facts of the Case

Treasure Planet Read Along is a multimedia supplement to the movie Treasure Planet. In the main program, a stripped-down version of Treasure Planet is narrated with read-along subtitles. This concept is repeated with songs and vocabulary words. The basic idea is for kids to follow the story by reading it with the narrator.

The Evidence

His honor will take a moment to note a flaw in the proceedings: this DVD would best be judged by watching how kids interact with it. Since I haven't witnessed children witnessing the DVD, the following comments represent an uninformed opinion.

Treasure Planet Read Along is a scandalous misappropriation of multimedia. Kids are supposed to pop in this DVD to learn how to read. What kind of message does that send? It seems to me that reading would be much more engaging by having your child sit in your lap and read a book along with you.

Lest you think I'm politicizing on how to raise children, hear my case. There are two main vocabulary-building segments. The first, fittingly enough, is called "vocabulary." This segment flashes a picture of a chest along with the word "chest" while the narrator says "chest…chest." This level of vocabulary is targeted towards kids who are probably too young to navigate the DVD on their own. After all, the very words on the menu are more advanced than these vocabulary words. Presumably, someone who knows how to read is getting the tots to this point. Wouldn't it be easier to spend a few minutes reading a book together? The kids could ask questions or point and make funny gurgling sounds. I understand the need for an occasional babysitting DVD, but this one seems to defeat the purpose.

It makes less sense because the second vocab segment is the story itself. The words here are pretty big, and they move fast. If the DVD is targeted towards tikes, they will be frustrated by trying to read along with Treasure Planet. If it is for bigger kiddies, why the elementary vocab section?

I'm obviously missing the whole concept, but let's trudge on. The animation is really annoying. Images from Treasure Planet fade in and out like a slideshow on crack. I'm a fairly competent reader, but I was continually distracted by discombobulated pseudo-animation. Some scenes faded into one another so fast that it looked like slo-mo anime. This is Disney, you'd think they know how to animate smoothly. Throw in the periodic, elementary-level Photoshop filters and the whole thing smacks of "rushed out the door to make a quick buck."

The stills are clean enough if you catch them quick. Just as you are taking in the image, it morphs into some other scene. Think fast! The colors are well saturated and the image is very clean, like most animated efforts. The computer generated animations seem tacked on, and some of the effects seem amateurish.

The sound is passable, given that it is basically a guy talking.

The heart of this DVD is the story read-along. It feels sketchy. Why might that be? Well, Treasure Planet Read Along is an abridged version of Treasure Planet, which is an abridged version of the novel Treasure Island. Mystery solved.

The standard "Disney self-promotion disguised as an extra" is in here, along with read-along songs. Here, the fading picture shtick works better. It seems like an animated music video, which appeals to my MTV gen-X side.

The biggest frustration was the "game." I admire them for trying to make a game out of the fairly static DVD medium, but it took me a good half hour to get through. Most of the segments were ridiculously easy, until the part where the robot is strewn about in pieces. You have to make like Chewbacca and get that droid's head out of his own central processing unit. Well and good. They show you a 3D rendering of the correct part, then you randomly click about the screen until you hit on the right part. If you happen to select the wrong part, which is virtually inevitable, you are treated to a futuristically melancholy "sorry, pal!" animation. That was okay at first, but after sitting through that wretched animation two dozen times, I was ready to kick that droid in the jimmy. Eventually, I made it through droid purgatory and completed the game. What do I get for my hour of toil? A brief animation of a ship sailing away and then PLUNK! I'm dropped back to the menu. Come on! The Disney logo with the castle and fireworks is more rewarding!

The Rebuttal Witnesses

When the animation is actually rendered, it looks good. There were a few brief moments where the Treasure Planet vibe shone through.

The "Music Videos" segment is a mixed bag. First of all, there is only one video. It looks great and sounds great, a refreshing change of pace from the rest of the DVD. Unfortunately, the DVD fails to mention the name of the song or who sings it. Bon Jovi? Rage Against the Machine? My money is on the Goo Goo Dolls, but give me something to work with, people!

The strongest aspect of the DVD is its multicultural nature. Sprechen sie Italiano en tù mama's chateau! Hearing the story in so many languages was hypnotically soothing. Well, except for the German reading of course.

Closing Statement

I'm not a kid, nor am I a parent with kids of reading age. However, I doubt the chaotic "animation," cryptic games, or stripped-down story in Treasure Planet Read Along would be appealing to kids or their parents. Some kid's programs are well-crafted and engaging, but Read Along Treasure Planet lacks the solid feel of better efforts. Treasure Planet Read Along smacks of nothing more than commercial exploitation, and 15 bucks that could have been better spent on a book and a couple ice-cream cones.

The Verdict

The animators are to be held pending bail of not less that $2.5 million, which is the cost of the neurological surgery that will be necessary to repair his honor's visual functioning. That damnable robot is remanded to Cloud City. With any luck, he will wander into a den of stormtroopers and wind up in pieces on a conveyor belt while shrimpy guys play monkey-in-the-middle with his hard drive.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 80
Audio: 70
Extras: 90
Acting: 45
Story: 30
Judgment: 45

Perp Profile

Studio: Disney
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (German)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Italian)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (Spanish)
• English
• French
• German
• Italian
• Spanish
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated G
• All Ages
• Bad
• Disney

Distinguishing Marks

• Songs
• Music Video
• Vocabulary
• Game


• Official Site

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