1 hr. 36 min.
written by: Jon Bernstein & Michelle Spritz (source material: William Joyce's novel "A Day With Wilbur Robinson"
produced by: Dorothy McKim
directed by: Steven J. Anderson
A coupla days after Christmas my sister-in-law came up to visit with her husband and three kids. The got a deal on a hotel downtown for their first night visiting and left the kids with my wife and I. Their children range in age from 4 years-old to 8 years-old (with the boy; the oldest turning eight during their stay with us). I was fortunate enough to have taken the entire week of Christmas off work. I was thinking it'd be nice to just chill out but I soon found all my availability booked. Ah well, I always enjoy hanging out with these three kids though, it's a good form of birth control. So, to prepare for their stay with us, I figured making a mad dash to the video store (are they really videos anymore?) would be a wise idea. I loaded up on three animated movies (Ratatouille, Surf's Up & Meet the Robinsons) knowing full well that they may have already seen these. Of course, I was right but at least I didn't mind seeing these movies anyway.
After the dust settled from them fighting over which DVD to watch, they finally decided on this Disney film. Released back in March, this lively computer animated film follows the adventures of Lewis (voiced by Jordan Fry and Daniel Hansen) an orphaned whiz kid who spends most of his time trying to invent functional creations. He doesn't have much luck though. You really feel for the lil guy, it helps that he kinda looks like the animated version of Jonathan Lipnicki (you know....the cute lil kid from "Jerry Maguire?"). Although he's quite optimistic, most of his inventions just don't seem to work and then there's the fact that he's getting older and hasn't been adopted by a family yet. Needless to say, Lewis is gettin' discouraged, so he decides to reunite with his birth mother by creating a memory scanner that will give him insight into his past.
Lewis is confident that his birth mother abandoned him against her will and keeps his roommate, Mike "Goob" Yagoobian (voice of Matthew Josten), up every night working, which causes Goob’s Little League baseball team’s performance to suffer. He enters his contraption into his school science fair where Invent Co. representative Dr. Krunkelhorn (voice of Laurie Metcalf) is judging the event. Lewis is approached by a thirteen-year-old boy named Wilbur Robinson (voice of Wesley Singerman), who claims that he is a "time cop" from the future, and that a man wearing a bowler hat stole a time machine, that he has to retrieve. The sinister Bowler Hat Guy (voice of director Steve J. Anderson), appears at the fair and for sends his robotic helper Doris (voice of Ethan Sandler), searching for Wilbur and orders it to sabotage Lewis’s machine. As Lewis begins demonstrating his machine for the judges, it explodes, throwing the science fair into chaos. Distraught, Lewis runs out and leaves his machine, which Bowler Hat Guy steals.
Back at the orphanage, Lewis is up on the roof sulking, crushed by his "failure", when Wilbur appears again and tells him he has to go back to the science fair and fix the machine. Lewis sees no reason to listen to Wilbur but tells him that if he can prove he's from the future, he'll do it. Wilbur then pushes Lewis over the roof, onto a flying time machine (parked with a cloaking device of course), and uses it to take them to the year 2037, thirty years in the future. Lewis is beside himself with amazement as he is whizzed through the air, swerving around giant skyscrapers in this futuristic city.
Wilbur introduces Lewis to his grandfather, Bud (voice again by Steve J. Anderson), who asks Lewis to help him find his dentures as he takes him on a tour of their gigantic house. Lewis meets the rest of the strange and fun-loving Robinson family, including Wilbur’s friendly mother, Franny (voice of Nicole Sullivan), conducting her frog jazz band. Assured that no one Lewis met knows that he’s from the past, a relieved Wilbur explains that his father, Cornelius, the only member of the Robinson family that Lewis did not meet, invented practically everything Lewis has witnessed, coining the motto "Keep moving forward".
With the help of the large and multi-talented Robinson family, Wilbur and Lewis have to overcome the menace to the future posed by the time-machine-stealing Bowler Hat Guy and maliciously malfunctioned Doris in order to ensure that the utopic future of that the Robinsons live in will come to pass instead of another more sinister future.
The unusual and eccentric Robinson family teach Lewis quite a bit about what it means to be a family, being comfortable with who you are, and about living for the future instead of wallowing in a time that has already passed. Throughout the story, Lewis has to come to terms with his own destiny and deal with the time that he belongs in. Through some difficult decisions, he learns that you can only realize your own potential when you overcome your past and "Keep Moving Forward".
The film ends with a quote from Walt Disney...."Around here, However, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors, and doing new things, because we're curious... and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
Despite watching this while a squirmy 7 year-old girl laying on me, I found this film an enjoyable viewing experience. I'm sure I woulda enjoyed it more in 3-D (the way it was released int he theatres) still it was refreshing to see an animated film that didn't revolve around penguins or cutesy, talking animals. It was also refreshing to not even see the major twist coming at the end but then once it's revealed I found myself going, "Oh yeah, of course. Cool!" The character design here was really creative (except maybe for that Bowler Hat Guy who looked like Snidely Whiplash) and wacky, often invoking a Jay Ward or Looney Toons style. . At times, it was actually difficult to follow but I didn't mind at all. I was pleasantly surprised by that aspect. While it's not up to anything that Pixar puts out, it still has just as much heart and soars high above any non-Pixar, Disney release.
The film is watchable for all ages but re-watchable for sure for the lil ones, especially the frustrated T-Rex. The only scary part for my niece was toward the end when Doris had taken over most of the Robinson family's minds and used them to do her will. She called this part of the film "the zombies" but I assured her that they weren't eating any one so they weren't zombies and that they were just being controlled.
I know it's been hard for Disney to find success in animation (be it 2D or computerized) outside of Pixar but this was a good indication that they still can deliver. Maybe it was cuz it was executive-produced by John Lassater or it could be that Anderson (who also directed another non-Pixar film, the hilarious "The Emperor's New Groove") knows how to bring classic hilarity a step ":forward" with a modernized approach. The film is a warm reminder of those days long ago when you went to animated movies just to have some fun, yuk it up and maybe get a little misty-eyed at the end. Nothing wrong with that although I coulda had a whole movie with those singing frogs! Those dudes were cool! Though it is primarily about the future, the film will take you right back to that childhood past with flying colors.
The typical Disney extras are here for this DVD and I didn't watch any of them. I was too busy with four kids running around. So, after doing a lil research, here's what the are....
Kicking things off are three Deleted Scenes. One scene shows an extended version of Lewis arriving in the future. Another shows Harland Williams improvising a little as the robot Carl. The final deleted scene shows Bowler Hat Guy going back in time and changing his past for the better.
The featurette "Keep Moving Forward: Inventions That Shaped the World" is a little documentary on real world famous inventors. "Inventing The Robinson" is your usual 'making of' offering and it features interviews with the cast as well as writer William Joyce talking about his real world inspirations for the film. You'll also find an Audio Commentary with Director Stephen Anderson as well as the "Family Function 5000" Family Tree Game. Among the two music videos is most notably "Little Wonders" by Rob Thomas.
- The film is based on the 1990 book called "A Day With Wilbur Robinson" written by William Joyce.
- The voice cast also includes Jordan Fry, Harland Williams, Tom Kenny, Adam West, Tom Selleck, and Angela Bassett.
- Characters from the film (Frankie the frog and his band playing "I Heard it Through the Grapevine") were used in an anti-cell-phone commercial to encourage movie audiences to turn their cell phones off and behave appropriately.
- After a test screening for John Lasseter, chief creative officer of animation at Disney, he suggested a lot of changes to director Stephen J. Anderson. In the next 10 months prior to the release, nearly 60 percent of the movie was re-shot (or re-rendered), adding new story elements and action scenes as well as a diabolic sidekick.
- The film played theatrically on over 600 REAL D digital 3D screens.
- When Wilbur is revealing his family, he says his dad (who is not pictured) looks like Tom Selleck. Selleck indeed provides the voice for Wilbur's Dad.
- Walt Disney Feature Animation wanted to assert themselves as being separate from Pixar, renaming themselves "Walt Disney Animation Studios." This is the first film to show the new Walt Disney Animation Studios animated logo, which incorporates several seconds from Steamboat Willie (1928), the first Mickey Mouse cartoon to feature sound.
- In a scene, we find the camera cutting to zoomed-up images of the Robinson family portraits, which appear to be hand-painted. In many of those shots the signature 'Ruppel 2005' can be found, referring to Robh Ruppel, who was the Art Director of the film and was part of the Art Department in past Disney films.
- The Brain Scanner on the "Brain Scanners from Mars" poster on the building next to the orphanage looks almost exactly like Doris the Hat.
- Jim Carrey had a choice of voicing the Bowler Hat Guy or play Walter Sparrow in the 2007 film The Number 23, he chose the latter.
- In the science fair scene near the beginning of the movie, there is a presentation on 3-D in movies, "Fad or Favorite". The movie itself was shown in 3-D in select theaters.
- In the background, as Goob is playing baseball, two faded advertisements on the outfield's fence can be seen. One is for 1967's The Jungle Book and another is for 1999's Toy Story 2.
- Doris' name is taken from DOR-15, which is the number of the chamber that she is placed into in the rejected inventions room at Robinson Industries.
- The "Todayland" park is a tribute to the original "Tomorrowland", the futuristic section of the Disney theme parks. Immediately visible are Space Mountain and the original Rocket Jets, which are no longer in service.
- Prior to the film, theaters showing the film in Disney Digital 3-D (RealD) show the Chip and Dale 1953 short Working for Peanuts (which is also projected in 3-D), while theaters showing the standard version show the Mickey Mouse 1938 short Boat Builders.
- Space Mountain, the Rocket Jets, and the classic People Mover attractions from Disneyland all make cameos in the film. Space Mountain is the large cone-shaped structure that looks like a futuristic or otherworldly non-organic mountain. The Rocket Jets are next to Space Mountain as the classic version of the spinning rocket attraction. Both Space Mountain and the Rocket Jets appear in a place called "Todayland". The People Mover is the series of inter-connected bubble transport vehicles on a monorail that appear in the city.
- A picture of Walt Disney is seen in the orphanage.
- This was the first Disney motion picture in decades to include a classic character animated short before the start of the film. This was once standard practice for the Walt Disney Studios in theatrical exhibition.
- The character of Lewis was voiced by both Daniel Hansen and Jordan Fry. Daniel Hansen voiced Lewis at the beginning of the film's production, and when Lewis needed things changed, they had Jordan Fry re-dub some segments. It is only noticeable in some parts of the movie.
- One of the pictures on Lewis' wall in his room in the orphanage is of Nikola Tesla.
- The science fair that Wilbur attends is held at Joyce Williams Elementary school. This is a nod to the author of the original story, William Joyce.
- Doris' first test subject is modeled after Stan Laurel of the Laurel and Hardy comedy duo, whose distinctive attire included bowler hats.
- Hidden Mickey: There is a hidden Mickey on the music stand when Lewis meets Franny. It is on her sheet music.