Treasure Planet

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  • Directed By: Ron Clements, John Musker
  • Written By: Ron Clements, John Musker, Rob Edwards
  • Release Date: November 27, 2002
  • Domestic Distributor: Disney
  • Cast: Emma Thompson, David Hyde Pierce, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Box Office Info:
Budget: $140 millionFinanced by: Disney
Domestic Box Office: $38,176,783Overseas Box Office: $71,401,332


Back in 1985, director Ron Clements pitched the idea of “Treasure Island in Space” but it was not met with enthusiasm and instead Disney went with his other story pitch The Little Mermaid (1989).  After Clements completed The Little Mermaid with his co-director John Musker, the duo tried to get the mouse house interested in Treasure Planet, but that was again pushed aside for them to helm Aladdin.  After the massive success of Aladdin, they tried again, but studio chief Jeffrey Katzenberg hated the idea and refused to make Treasure Planet and instead the two directors became attached to Hercules (1997).  Before inking their Hercules deal, Clements and Musker  bypassed Katzenberg and went to Roy Disney to pitch Treasure Planet and he agreed to make the project and told Disney CEO Michael Eisner — who also decided to back the project.  In 1994 Katzenberg was fired and he went on to be one of the founders of DreamWorks.  Clements and Musker had it added to their contracts, that after completing Hercules, they were guaranteed to direct Treasure Planet.

The budget for Treasure Planet cost Disney $140 million in production expenses, plus tens of millions more to market and it ended as one of the biggest financial wrecks on record — and a $74 million write down for Disney.

In addition to the expensive ad campaign, the mouse house partnered with McDonald’s Pepsi-Cola, Dreyer’s and Kellogg’s for promotional tie-ins.  Disney opened the pic over the Thanksgiving frame, to a market saturated with family fare and they were locked into the date under an agreement with promotional partner McDonald’s.

Treasure Planet was booked very wide into 3,227 theaters and opened against the animated Eight Crazy Nights, Solaris, Wes Craven Presents: They and Extreme Ops.  It received mixed reviews and pulled in a disastrous $12,083,248 — placing #4 for the weekend behind Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets and even behind Disney’s The Santa Clause 2 in its 5th week in release.  Showing terrible legs at the box office, Treasure Planet sank 54.1% the following weekend to $5,547,431 and declined 44.1% in its third frame to $3,102,173.  The domestic run closed with $38,176,783.

The overseas rollout was also a disappointment, with numbers from France being the only respectable ones at $16.8 million.  The overseas cume was $71.4 million.

Disney had been in the process of gutting its Feature Animation studio in Burbank, slashing animators salaries and laying off dozens, as the mouse house wanted to focus on computer animated fare.  At the end of 2002, Disney closed down the Burbank studio after animators completed what would be the box office flop Home On The Range.  The remaining traditional animated fare was moved to Florida for cheaper costs.

3 Comments

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  1. It’s really a bummer to see that this film became a box office disappointment, as Treasure Planet is a really great Disney animated film and is one of my favorite Disney animated films. I think that if only the film was released during a less crowded holiday market that would avoid serious competition with other family films released at the time like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the film would not have performed this badly.

    I guess the only silver lining of its failure to make back its budget theatrically is that it has picked up a strong cult following once the film was released on home video and it sold very well compared to its theatrical release.

    • I agree with you, one of the best movies that Disney has made, to date. It saddens me to see them not make a squeal to it or to show it more love, because I honestly believe It would make for a great movie in today day and age.

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