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Walt Disney Home Video presents
Muppet Treasure Island: Anniversary Edition (1996)

Billy Bones: Beware! Beware!
Jim Hawkins: What, the one-legged man?
Billy Bones: Aye, but also, beware of running with scissors, or any other pointy objects.

- Billy Connolly, Kevin Bishop

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: February 01, 2006

Stars: Tim Curry, Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson, Kevin Clash, Frank Oz
Other Stars: Kevin Bishop, Billy Connolly, Jennifer Saunders
Director: Brian Henson

MPAA Rating: G for (felt-covered fun)
Run Time: 01h:39m:34s
Release Date: November 29, 2005
UPC: 786936286519
Genre: adventure


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-A-B D

DVD Review

It's been far too long since we've had a good, original Muppet movie. Jim Henson's enduring creations had some box-office success in the late '70s and early '80s with zany stories that extended the random, sketch-based qualities of The Muppet Show, but aside from the uneven 1999 entry Muppets from Space, all of the features in the last decade have been adaptations, plugging Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo and Fozzie into classic molds (The Muppets Christmas Carol, The Muppets Wizard of Oz, and the It's a Wonderful Life-flavored It's A Very Muppet Christmas Movie). As part of that mix, 1996's Muppet Treasure Island is an enjoyable enough adventure, but these not-quite-mop, not-quite-puppet creations have certainly lost a bit of their zany charm, and shoe-horning them into yet another adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic doesn't help matters. It was made after Henson was purchased by Disney (for the first time), and fits the company's formula for animated features to a T.

You know this story. A villainous pirate leaves buried gold on an island and promptly dies. Young orphan Jim Hawkins (Kevin Bishop) inherits the only treasure map from one of the captain's surviving crewmembers, and sets sail to find it (along with his companions Gonzo and Rizzo). Kermit captains the vessel, and various Muppets serve as the crew. Tim Curry plays Long John Silver, a one-legged traitor who wants the booty for himself, while Ben Gunn, the character the pirate left on the island to guard the gold, is now Benjamina Gunn, and played by Miss Piggy, who leads a Lord of the Flies-style band of island warthogs.

Like most Muppet films, this is a musical, and Hans Zimmer's songs are bouncy and catchy and not all that memorable, but they add some energy to the proceedings whenever the plot threatens to bog things down. As is usually the case, the portions that prominently feature humans aren't nearly as much fun, and Muppet Treasure Island happens to include quite a lot of them. Tim Curry hams it up as Long John Silver, young Kevin Bishop makes an agreeable (if slightly stiff) Jim Hawkins, and Jennifer Saunders (of Absolutely Fabulous) appears briefly as a barmaid, but the Muppets are the real draw.

As an adaptation, Muppet Treasure Island is about as faithful as can be expected, considering the fact that half of the characters are now played by puppets, but it doesn't have the wit or heart of The Muppets Christmas Carol, which did a better job freshening up an oft-told tale. Casual Muppet fans and kids will probably enjoy it, but I would like to see something new.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 OneTwo
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyesno
Anamorphicyesno


Image Transfer Review: Finally available in widescreen in Region 1, Muppet Treasure Island looks great. Colors are rich, blacks are solid, and overall detail is very good. There is a minimal amount of shimmer and little to no visible filtering or edge enhancement. A tightly cropped full frame transfer can be found here as well, and it matches the widescreen in terms of visual quality, if not artistic merit.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The 5.1 English mix is about what you'd expect. The front soundstage handles most of the material, with speech anchored in the center and the score and sound effects spreading to the front mains. Surround use is limited to busier sequences, though the rear channels to support the score a bit throughout.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 26 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Muppets Wizard of Oz, The Muppet Show: Season One, Lady and the Tramp
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The sole extra on this 50th Anniversary Edition (Kermit's, not the film's) is a six-minute Pepe the Prawn profile of Fozzie Bear. It's kind of funny, but pretty brief and unrelated to the film. What happened to the Brian Henson commentary included on the earlier, full-frame-only edition? Who knows?

The menus from the previous disc, features the antics of Gonzo and Rizzo, who taunt you if you fail to select a special feature, have been ported over, however.

Extras Grade: D

 

Final Comments

Though I'd rather see an original story, Muppet Treasure Island is a fair use of the Henson license, with charm and humor to spare. This new DVD loses the commentary track from the previous release but adds a beautiful widescreen transfer—an essential upgrade.

 


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