Disney hasn’t been shy about releasing their in-house CGI animation projects on Blu-ray Disc over the past year, as the quick arrival of Dinosaurs and Chicken Little have proven. Both of these titles beat traditional hand-animated classics and Pixar films to disc, and now a third, Meet The Robinsons, is poised to do the same.
Meet the Robinsons has been in Disney’s pipeline for many years now, first primed as a live-action feature before eventually being shifted to animation. Based on the novel A Day with Wilbur Robinson, it recants the tale of Lewis, a young orphan inventor who, in search of a family willing to accept his quirky ways, finds himself transported to the future where he meets an overly eccentric family willing to take him in. Here he also discovers it’s OK not to give up, a message paralleling the career of Walt Disney himself.
In Dinosaurs and Chicken Little, Disney has found some success but not a timeless classic, ala Aladdin, The Lion King, and countless others. Meet the Robinsons continues this trend of moderately enjoyable but not necessarily memorable family films. Yes, there’s the requisite strong moral message to “keep moving forward” and select well-acted characters, such as Lewis” intelligence-challenged nemesis from the future. But the intangible “charm” Disney and Pixar are capable of capturing is once again missing save for one brief line of dialogue from a dinosaur which dominated the theatrical advertisements. One comedic dino does not entice repeat viewings year after year.
The main culprit is the Robinsons themselves: there are simply too many of them eating up far too much screen time. Keeping the extended family straight becomes an in-joke and even appears as a mini-game in the extras. After 20 or so minutes of Lewis bumbling his way through the family’s home and encountering the Robinson troupe one after another, a return trip to the past cannot arrive soon enough.
Meet the Robinsons is worth a single viewing, though; if not for a relatively enjoyable tale, than for another stellar audio/video presentation from the Mouse House. Presented in AVC MPEG-4, Meet the Robinsons is sharp and vibrant; everything to be expected from a straight digital transfer in 1080p. Even the “current day” scenes at the orphanage blanked in drab, muted colors are spot-on accurate. After the first half-hour of this, jumping to the colorful future is like having your cake and eating it too.
Hardcore videophiles may find fault in deliberately soft or hazy backgrounds, clearly the director’s intent. This artistic decision does detract some from the 3-D effect some viewers demand from their Blu-ray Discs, especially those of the CGI-animated variety. Even so, Meet the Robinsons is a home run transfer with a brief Kung-Fu inspired scene of intentional grain to unintentionally remind viewers of how crystal clean it really is. Sticklers for perfectly sharp video in the foreground and background per the director’s intent will need to look elsewhere.
The 48khz, 24-bit lossless audio track feeds off the transfer, as should be expected. The aforementioned dinosaur sequence is an obvious Movie Showcase selection, as are a number of time travel scenes that will awaken the weakest subwoofer from hibernation. Effects are well pronounced and take advantage of the entire soundstage. These effects are even isolated in a Dolby Digital 5.1 Feature-Length Effects-Only Track, though the real treat is hearing them in all their lossless glory during the feature presentation.
Additional supplemental features lead off with a Feature-Length Audio Commentary with director Stephen Anderson. The relatively young director is a fairly dry listen in dire need of a partner to bounce lines off of. To his credit, he does dig deep into the storytelling process, analyzing and justifying his work along the way. It’s a good listen for those intrigued by the decision making process director’s are constantly battling.
Additional insight into the story behind Meet the Robinsons can be found in Inventing the Robinsons (17:59, HD). This featurette looks at the inspiration for the family created by author William Joyce, in addition to the film’s voice and music talent, headlined by composer Danny Elfman and the “no way” voice actor for the film’s villain. Keep Moving Forward: Inventions That Shaped the World (6:25, standard definition) offers a short snazzy history lesson of mankind’s major inventions in a kid-friendly manner. The most intriguing footage comes from 6 Deleted Scenes with director introductions, including an alternate ending substantially different from the final cut. Other inconsequential extras include Family Function 5000: Family Tree Game, a simple memory test; and two Music Videos. Oddly absent is any sign of a theatrical trailer.
Exclusive to the Blu-ray Disc version of Meet the Robinsons is the Bowler Hat Barrage! Game authored in BD-J. This simplistic side-scrolling shooter puts players in control of the Robinsons pizza delivery ship where they must shoot down incoming hats while avoiding citizens in bubbles. The game offers one or two player support and two difficulty levels, but in the end is no better than countless free time killing games on the Internet. Surely there are more creative applications for BD-J.
Meet the Robinsons will enjoy a couple weeks atop Blu-ray’s animated feature slate until a trio of Pixar titles roll into stores. When that happens, it will unfortunately slip into home video obscurity. Don’t blame the moral message, high-def audio/video presentation, supplemental features, or even Lewis. Blame the Robinsons.
– Dan Bradley