My oldest son asked me to go see Meet the Robinsons, and I was, at best, apathetic. The advertising and marketing I had seen left me cold, and did very little to encourage my low expectations. To me, it looked like another The Wild, or Home on the Range a disappointing toy-commercial intended more as a merchandising tie-in than an actual entertaining movie. I grudgingly agreed to go.
After seeing the movie, I only have one question: What’s the direct number of Disney’s marketing department, so I can call and scream at them for the lousy job they did with this picture?
Meet the Robinsons is on par with the best of Pixar’s films, a wonderful movie that is practically a love letter to Walt Disney life and legacy. You wouldn’t know that from the trailers or TV ads. They practically bury the story, hiding the movie’s plot from its potential audience. That is not just marketing malpractice, it is a disservice to children, because the message the film has at its heart is one that every child in the world should be exposed to.
Yes, that’s pretty strong hyperbole, but I’m quite serious. Unlike other movies targeted for kids that have messages that border on socialism or overt environmentalism (Happy Feet, I’m looking in your direction) MTR is all about hard work, imagination, and invention. It’s about how failure is good, because it means you tried something and in turn learned something. It’s about trying harder, about perseverance. It’s about how one person with a dream and hard work can change the world.
Like I said it’s a love letter to Walt Disney. The moviemakers make that abundantly clear at the end of the film, as a recurrent motto “keep moving forward” is displayed in text on the screen. The motto comes from a quote from yep, Walt.
Finally, and this is what impressed me most, is that the film has a subtext that looks at what happens when you don’t try, when you give up and blame the world for your problems. In order to bring up this, I have to reveal a MAJOR SPOILER so if you don’t want to know it, look away now.
I mean it.
OK, the main character Lewis is an orphan, and the film’s bad guy “Bowler Hat Guy” is eventually revealed to be the future self of Lewis’ roommate, Goob. Goob resents Lewis’ future success and holds him responsible for falling asleep during a critical baseball game (Lewis kept him up every night working on inventions). At one point Lewis asks him (now an adult) why he didn’t just more on and get over it.
Bowler Hat Guy replies: “Move on? Take personal responsibility with my life and actions? Or blame you? I choose blame you!”
How many movies reinforce the importance of personal responsibility and choice these days? I can’t think of many, save Spider-man.
I’ve tried hard not to reveal the plot of the movie, because this is one of the few movies that work better if you come into it completely cold. So, to that end, maybe Disney marketing didn’t fail completely the movies surprises are not revealed in the trailers, so you will not get anything ruined for you but you also won’t see anything that looks the least bit entertaining either, and that’s a shame.
So far Meet The Robinsons is the best movie I’ve seen this year, and will probably be in my top 10 at year’s end. It has the imagination and sense of wonder that is in the best Disney films, and it’s a great step forward for Disney animation.