Insightful Nuggets Revealed at Treasure Planet Screening

ASIFA’s screening of Disney’s Treasure Planet at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in Hollywood last week offered a special treat for animation fans. On hand for a Q&A session were producer Roy Conli, writer/director Ron Clements, producer John Musker, supervising animator Glen Keane and lead character animator John Ripa.

Musker noted that he pitched the idea of Treasure Island in space 17 years ago, at the same time he brought The Little Mermaid to the table. Pre-production started after Aladin, but script problems led to it being shelved again in favor of Hercules.

The highlight of the evening was a live demonstration of how Keane and Ripa animated John Silver and Jim Hawkins on the same piece of paper. This was reportedly the first time this method of animating had been employed on a Disney film.

Whereas conventional practice involves each animator going off to his own corner to work, Keane and Ripa felt that it was important to interact with one another in portraying the relationship between the characters. They even acted out sequences as they sketched.

Clements also pointed out an interesting correlation between the animators and their respective characters. Keane, the salty… er… seasoned pro, served as both collaborator and mentor to the young Ripa, who was just getting his sea legs in feature animation.

The result of the pitch-perfect pairing is an engaging human element in a film laden with cool visuals and harrowing action sequences. The relationship between Silver and Hawkins is a highlight of the film, providing the emotional arc of the story and making it more than a smorgasbord of eye candy.

Much of the credit also goes to voice actors Joseph Gordon Levitt of Third Rock From The Sun fame (Hawkins) and Brian Murray (Silver). Again, that relationship involved a young TV star learning the ropes of voice acting from a veteran of the craft.

Treasure Planet, featuring the voices of David Hyde Pierce, Emma Thompson and Martin Short, opens nationwide today.