Meet the Robinsons
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Meet the Robinsons

The art of cinematic animation has certainly come a long way. Now feature length animation produced by a team of artists and computer programmers. While this may seem like an unlikely union, the results have been incredible. There is one other partnership that may be a bit more expected; the premier computer graphic house, Pixar, and the ones who started feature animation in the first place, Disney. One of the latest endeavors is ‘Meet the Robinsons,' a futuristic romp through a world of fantasy. Based on the children’s book by William Joyce, ‘A Day in the Life of Wilbur Robinson’ this film will not be listed among the greatest Disney films ever, but it does have its moments. The story lines are strong but might come off as just a bit too complicated for the targeted audience of grade school age kids. From the perspective of parents and other adults watching, the story line is highly reminiscent of so many other animated and live action films. With that said the overall feeling that comes out of this movie is positive and will entertain the whole family. After all, the younger kids are not going to be bothered but similarities to other flicks. They are not even going to worry about the plot unraveling every so often; they just want to see the action anyway. For the adults at least it doesn’t require animals that talk, sing and dance around. Well, there are a couple of genetically altered exceptions, but they are fun to watch. While admittedly not the best for either Pixar or Disney it is something that will be some laughs to all.

The film opens with an unfortunate event. A woman is seen holding a baby. She kisses him and places him on the steps of an orphanage. Mildred (voiced by Angela Bassett) hears someone at the door opens it and picks up the infant. The years go by, and the baby, Lewis (voiced by Daniel Hansen and Jordan Fry) grows into a genius of a boy. Lewis can teach the other orphans while taking college level classes. He is also an avid inventor although not all of his gizmos work out. In fact, many of them have the nasty habit of exploding. His roommate Goob (voice of Matthew Josten) is tired of sharing his room with Lewis and his clunky inventions. All Goob wants to do is play baseball, and the constant nocturnal distractions are adversely affecting his standing in the Little League. These inventions are also interfering with Lewis’ life. When a couple is interested in adopting him, he shows off a gadget that would make the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They have second thoughts when the contraption blows up. The despondent Lewis tells Mildred that no one, even his mother, wants him. He intends to invent the machine that will let him relive the meager memories of his real mom.

Lewis displays the new invention at the science fair in front of the judge, Dr. Krunklehorn (voiced by Laurie Metcalf) and their school science teacher, Mr. Willerstein (voiced by Tom Kenny). Just then Lewis is approached by a teenage boy who introduces himself as Wilbur Robinson (voiced by Wesley Singerman). He tells the young Lewis that he is a temporal police officer who came back in time. He has to prevent a man in a bowler hat (voiced by Stephen J. Anderson) from stealing a time machine. In the shadows, the bowler hat man is lurking. Once again Lewis watches has his invention explodes. Once again he seeks the solitude of the rooftop only to be joined by Wilbur. Lewis demands proof that the older boy is from the future. Wilbur pushes the Lewis off the roof into an invisible time machine. Lewis looks around to see a futuristic world of flying cars and robots. He also sees the potential of the situation. He wants Wilbur to take him back to the day he was left at the orphanage so he can talk his mother out of it. Wilbur refuses, but Lewis crashes the time machine. Wilbur explains that his father built only two-time machines and the man in the bowler hat has the other. The two strike up a deal. If Lewis can fix the machine, Wilbur will take him where and when he wants to go. In the past Bowler Hat, man and his talking hat Doris (voiced by Ethan Sandler) plan to steal the memory device and claim it as their own. After all, it’s on his written check list. This sets the remainder of the film up for a romp through time with adventure and a lot of excitement.

While the movie admittedly has its flaws, there is one thing that more than makes up for it, the animation. I just reviewed some cartoons from the silent film era. The animation here is as far beyond that as they were above cave drawings. The characters are expressive; the backgrounds are rich in every little detail. It is amazing how each year such drastic changes are made in the art of computer animation. It does far more than just allow the producer to create complex characters and settings. These techniques permit the imagination to soar. Anything that is imaginable can be put on the screen now. While this concept is great in the venue of children’s films; it allows the screen to reflect the boundless imagination of a child. In Lewis, the message to all is it is okay to be different. Feelings of isolation are an entirely normal part of life, and you can overcome them. For a film to be both entertaining and present a morally strong message is rare, but this film manages it well. The script may be too involved for the younger set, but it is funny. The humor is gentle and presented in a way that it never overwhelms things. Ever since Walt Disney created Future World as part of his theme park his company has devoted itself to bringing a bright, optimistic view of the years ahead. This film continues that direction and maintains the legacy of Mr. Disney.

Disney certainly knows how to release a film like this to DVD. Even the extras are something that the children can enjoy. The video is presented in anamorphic 1.78:1, somewhat rare with the kids' titles. You might as well train the children right from the start to appreciate the original aspect ratio of a film. The Dolby 5.1 is amazing. The richness of the sound field and balance of the channels is better than most live action movies. This disc is as enjoyable to listen to as it is to watch. There are three deleted scenes offered in the extras section. Animators explain what goes into a scene by using some shots that did not make the final cut. There are two music videos provided; one by Rob Thomas, the other by the Disney hit, The Jonas Brothers. Just for good measure, there is also a game for the children to enjoy. This is a great family popcorn flick. On a rainy day when everyone is in the house take this movie out and ensure a good time for all.

Consistent with Disney’s new initiative to revisit previously released movies to keep up with current technology this film was initiated into the growing ranks of films in the new Blu-ray 3D format. As with any grouping of movies that span a significant amount of time the results of the re-mixing necessary to embrace the added dimension the results typically cover a gamut of success. In this case, the original theatrical release was produced in 3D. This translates to a solid base line for the technical staff to work throughout the project. The one issue is the original was released in 2007. While in the grand scheme of things a mere four years may sound minuscule but in the timeline of burgeoning technology, especially one with the profit potential if 3D movies, this period can represent several generations. The current 3D was just getting off the ground with filmmakers just beginning to break away from those old school blue/red cellophane glasses. This film was crafted in a technology referred to as ‘Disney Digital 3-D’, a form of what is now called ‘Real 3D’. This methodology utilizes the mode substantial glasses employing optical polarization.

When you combined the essential three-dimensional elements with the cutting edge animation of Pixar, you get a genuinely fascinating experience. The 3D effects are naturally infused into the video. They expertly use the added dimension as an organic means to tell the story not just to show off by always thrusting objects at the audience. This is a significant step to elevating 3D films from just another choice of presentation instead of a gimmick. This is supported nicely by a sound field that is full, rich and realistic. This is one of the better presentations of 3D animation available today.

Posted 10/30/11            07/16/2017

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