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Walt Disney Home Video presents
Meet the Robinsons (2007)

CEO: So, what is it you hope to accomplish with this invention?
Bowler Hat Guy:Oh, nothing of consequence, EXCEPT TO CRUSH THE DREAMS OF A YOUNG ORPHAN BOY! After that it's kind of hazy.
CEO: So, you haven't thought this through?

- Ethan Sandler, Stephen J. Anderson

Review By: Joel Cunningham   
Published: December 14, 2007

Stars: Daniel Hansen, Stephen J. Anderson, Wesley Singerman
Other Stars: Ethan Sandler, Harlan Williams, Angela Bassett, Matthew Josten, Laurie Metcalf
Director: Stephen J. Anderson

MPAA Rating: G for (angry but ineffectual dinosaur action)
Run Time: 01h:34m:27s
Release Date: October 23, 2007
UPC: 786936718317
Genre: animation


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ BAA B-

DVD Review

If the movies have taught us anything, it's that messing around with time travel is generally not a good idea. Whether it's killing your grandfather or irrevocably altering your future in a horrific fashion, something is sure to go wrong. Disney's computer-generated feature Meet the Robinsons offers the most compelling evidence of this time-tested fact that comes to mind—who knew that a visit to the future could result in a world enslaved by giant mechanical bowler hats running around on spidery legs?

Of course, it all starts innocently enough. Young inventor Lewis has grown up in an orphanage after being abandoned by his mother as an infant. Despite the best efforts of the counselors, he can't quite seem to get adopted, probably because he manages to scare off any potential parents with his enthusiasm for unnecessary inventions, like a hat designed to make the perfect PB&J (it doesn't work quite so perfectly, which is bad for the wannabe dad who is allergic to peanuts). Despondent, and reaching his dreaded 13th birthday (nobody wants to parent a teenager, not even the parents of teenagers), he decides to invent a memory-scanning device as a science fair project, wagering that, somewhere in his brain, the identity of his real mother is locked away.

Lewis' invention works, at least until it is sabotaged by a strange, wiry man in a bowler hat (Bowler Hat Guy, who looks like a silent movie villain and whose identity and purpose in the plot are obvious but nevertheless one of the most satisfying parts of the movie). It turns out that Bowler Hat Guy is from the future, and is trying to steal the memory scanner so he can use it to alter time. Or so Lewis is told by the young Wilbur Robinson, who has jumped back in time as well, not so much because he cares about the time stream as it's his fault Bowler Hat Guy stole one of the two time machines Wilbur's dad built (that will teach you to lock the garage).

Meet the Robinsons is very plot-heavy for a children's film, and the sci-fi trappings and time travel paradoxes play out in unusual and amusing ways. Unfortunately, once Wilbur drags Lewis to the future, things go off track as we actually meet the Robinsons, a grating family of eccentrics, like the "aunt" who is actually just a puppet manipulated by the "uncle," the superhero, the crazy old man, the twins who live in flower pots for some reason... There's even a gold robot that ranks a few notches above C-3PO on the annoying meter. About a dozen of these caricatures are introduced so quickly it's impossible to keep them straight (despite Lewis' lengthy recitation of the family tree), and they have nothing really to do with the plot. Useless padding? Disney's attempts to expand merchandising? Actually, the wacky family is the only part of the movie that is really based on the film's ostensible source material, William Joyce's book A Day with Wilbur Robinson. But the manic energy of the family sequences makes it nearly impossible to appreciate the clever future world, which looks like it was plucked straight from the cover of a 1950s sci-fi magazine (the flying cars have big fins, transportation is largely bubble-based, and the clipped green grass and blue sky are as perfect as a Windows start-up screen).

Now that Pixar is a part of Disney proper, it's hard to say what the future holds; Meet the Robinsons, which was reportedly retooled extensively by Pixar head John Lasseter after the companies merged, is almost certainly the last non-Pixar CG feature we'll see. But it's a pretty good one, once you get past the wheel-spinning in the second act. Writer/director Stephen J. Anderson was adopted himself, and the movie manages to keep Lewis' wish for a family (cliché, but heartfelt) in mind amid a lot of weird adornments (my favorite bit: frogs and dinosaurs that prove to be less than ideal mind control subjects).

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.78:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Computer-animated films make for very pretty DVDs. This one really pops, particularly the scenes in the future, where the color scheme makes a candy store look subdued. There's not a hint of edge enhancement or aliasing to be seen.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
English, French, Spanish, Sound Effectsyes


Audio Transfer Review: This is as lively a 5.1 mix as you'd expect from such a zany movie—surround use is near constant, but the directional effects from the front and rear channels never detract from the strong, natural-sounding speech. If you really want to focus on all the work that goes into manufacturing a mix like this, you can check out the nifty sound effects-only 5.1 track.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
3 Deleted Scenes
1 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Stephen J. Anderson, Bowler Hat Guy
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extra Extras:
  1. Two music videos
  2. Interactive game
Extras Review: The bonus features offer a mix of features aimed at younger and older audiences. While the wee ones play an interactive game that requires you to answer trivia questions about the Robinsons that actually require you to keep a dozen or so family members straight, the older crowd can relax with a low-key commentary from director/co-writer Stephen J. Anderson. He starts by explaining his personal connection to the story—he decided to make the movie because he himself was adopted, and he really related to the questions Lewis is struggling with throughout. He provides a lot of good detail about the film's development over the years, and is frank about the fact that the story went through a lot of revisions along the way—oddly, one of the most satisfying and unexpected story twists was added at the last minute following a notes session with Pixar mastermind John Lasseter. Every once in a while, Anderson's chat is interrupted by the villain, Bowler Hat Guy, but he never manages to say too much before his "transmission" is cut off.

Inventing the Robinsons is a making of featurette that actually manages to cover a lot of ground in 18 minutes. It profiles William Joyce, who wrote the story upon which the film is based, provides a little background on Anderson's youth and how he connected to the script, provides a look at some storyboards, introduces us to the voice actors, stops to check in on composer Danny Elfman, and tells us more than anyone needs to know about the creation of all the annoying pop songs on the soundtrack. It moves pretty fast, but it's not bad as these things go.

Another featurette (06m:22s) humorously highlights some great inventions throughout history, like the wheel. The DVD player is not mentioned, for some reason. Three brief deleted scenes (07m:09s) include intros from the director, who explains why they were cut; the snipped footage is in various stages of completion. There are music videos from Rob Thomas and Disney factory kids the Jonas Brothers, for those of you who like awful music (I didn't think I could dislike Kids in America any more until I heard it covered by those tween rockers), and a whole bunch of trailers, for those of you who like being marketed at.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Meet the Robinsons is good for a laugh. Sometimes, it's also good for a migraine. But while the frantic pace and constant attempts to redefine the word "zany" might make this one a tough sit at times, there's also a lot of heart and offbeat humor, and you'd have to be a real Snidely Whiplash to write if off completely.

 


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