Before we get into this movie, let’s talk about Pixar for a moment. Pixar was first founded in 1979 as the Graphics Group, part of Lucasfilm’s computer division. It separated to become its own company in 1986 with funding from Steve Jobs, who became the majority shareholder. For years they distributed most of their movies through Disney, whether it was their many earlier short films or their features, starting with 1995’s Toy Story. John Lasseter directed most of their earlier features and short films, and would move on to be the studio’s CEO.
In the early 2000’s, the relationship between Pixar and Disney became strained due to distribution disagreements that started after the release of Toy Story 2. Disney originally wanted Toy Story 2 to be straight to video, but Pixar had nothing of it. Considering how profitable Toy Story 2 was, Pixar was definitely in the right here. Their attempts at an agreement fell through in 2004, and for a while it looked like the two companies would permanently separate by mid-2006, their last partnership being Cars 2. Finally in early 2006, Disney and Pixar came to an agreement. Disney completely bought Pixar, and Lasseter would become head of Disney’s entire animation department.
So why am I talking about Pixar? Because Meet The Robinsons was the first Disney Animation Studios movie released after the purchase. To be fair, the movie released in early 2007, so Lasseter didn’t have much involvement with the movie’s production, but he would have had some sort of say in the final product. And I’m sure he’s a big part of why this is where Disney’s animated movies started to improve again. I would almost argue that John Lasseter is like Walt Disney 2.0.
Meet The Robinsons stars Lewis, a 12-year-old genius inventor living at an orphanage. He’s approaching 13 years of age and struggles to find adoptive parents. Part of the problem is he’s a touch socially awkward, and he can’t connect to most potential parents on common interests. It doesn’t help that most of his inventions don’t work quite as well as he hopes, plus they’re a bit strange. But when a tall man in a bowler hat tries to sabotage his first working invention, he’s taken to the future by a strange teenager into a science fiction adventure. He’s a likeable enough main character. You understand his struggles, you empathize with him and it’s kind of fun seeing his brain at work.
The concept behind this movie is neat. This young, troubled inventor visits a future paradise that over the course of the movie, he learns that he had a big part in creating. The central message is perseverance, and that particular theme is something Meet The Robinsons does very well. It’s developed through Lewis’s frustrations, both with his failures in the past and his trouble with fixing a time machine that the other teenager broke upon their arrival in the future.
With all that said, this movie is a bit of a mess. It suffers the same problems as Chicken Little in that there are way too many jokes thrown in the viewer’s faces in rapid succession. Only a couple jokes here and there are funny. There are too many characters that in the end, don’t contribute to the movie at all. There’s an overreliance on comedy, even if this time it doesn’t rely on references. There are some aspects about the Robinsons future that’s really weird, like people using bubbles as elevators for example. The animation feels cheap a lot of the time. It’s not really worth getting into detail since I’d just be repeating some of the same things I said about Chicken Little.
But this movie is nowhere nearly as annoying as Chicken Little or Home On The Range (I hate that movie). The comedy is usually just forgettable. There are a couple plot twists that may surprise little kids, but even older kids will see them coming a mile away. One particular twist at the end leaves a lot of disturbing implications if you think about how it’s often handled in other time travel movies. It involves Lewis’s future family and I’ll leave it at that. But this is a kid’s movie so I’ll let it pass here.
The villain in the movie is kind of fun. He’s actually kind of an idiot, but he’s determined to take credit for Lewis’s inventions. I shouldn’t say much else about him without risking spoiling a couple plot twists, just in case you do decide to watch the movie.
I’m not really sure what else to say about this one. Meet The Robinsons is perhaps too ambitious for its own good. There’s always something happening on screen, and a lot of it is either weird or lame. The visuals aren’t all that special either with their style or their technical quality. At the same time, you can see what the movie is going for. The ending does feel kind of nice, and its message of perseverance is told much better than a lot of movies that attempt to tell it. Meet The Robinsons is far from perfect, but it’s a decent and harmless kid’s movie. I would go so far as to call it underrated. I’ll let you decide whether it’s worth checking out or not.
All this begs the question – why is this the movie that bombed while Chicken Little made a profit? It should have been the other way around. Not that either of these movies are good, but at least Meet The Robinsons made an effort. It earned mixed to positive reviews whereas Chicken Little was generally panned. At least you can find some meaning in Meet The Robinsons.
Next up is Bolt, which is often credited as the starting point for the Disney Recovery. After that, it’s Princess and the Frog, the last of a string of seven movies I’ve never seen before. And then we get to Disney Animation Studio’s 50th feature, Tangled. And yes, there will be a Tangled vs. Frozen post when we get to Frozen. We’ve got 9 movies to go in this blog series, and I’m looking forward to almost every movie that remains.
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