Ranking Disney: #47 – Meet the Robinsons (2007)
Meet the Robinsons is — I want to call it an honorable misfire, but it isn’t. The film is a mess, and, like almost all of Disney’s CG features, doesn’t seem to have a point. If you look at Disney’s films, post-1999, specifically the ones told via CG, you’ll see that very few of them seem to have a point. They don’t tell a story worth telling. I’d say, of the 13 animated Disney films released from 2000 to the present, I’d say four have a story worth telling. And then I can be convinced about two more, with another half thrown in. Maybe they’re batting .500, which would be fine if the other half didn’t contain such gigantic messes.
This film is just a misfire from top to bottom. And the reason this isn’t lower is because it does have some heart to it (brought in after-the-fact by John Lasseter, apparently. But even he wasn’t enough to save this movie). But what is this film? What are we getting out of it? Why does this story need to be told? Anyone? Does anyone remember anything about this movie except for one or two jokes (which were in the trailer, so you don’t even need to have seen the movie for that)?
Honestly, I probably should have ranked this lower than Brother Bear, but for some reason, I felt this was the right place for it. I’m probably wrong, since hand-drawn should be ranked above CG any day. I guess it’s those small moments of humanity that are built into this unholy mess that do it for me. Either way, #47 or #48, I think we can all agree that this belongs among the worst five movies Disney has ever made.
The film begins with a baby being left on the steps of an orphanage. We then cut to 12 years later as the kid, Lewis, is now a young inventor. Though his inventions are kind of freaky to all the parents that come by, looking for a kid, so he never gets adopted. This is the 124th failed adoption interview he’s had, and he doesn’t think he has a future and that no one wants him. Not even his own mother wanted him.
Mildred, the lady who runs the orphanage, tries to lift his spirits by suggesting that his mother did want him and that maybe she left him at the orphanage because she had no other choice. So Lewis decides that’s the truth and says his mother was really the only person who ever loved him, and decides to go find her.
He decides to build a memory scanner that will help him remember what his mother looks like, even though he only saw her when he was an infant. He builds the scanner and brings it to a science fair. There, he meets Wilbur, a boy claiming to be from the future whose time machine was stolen by a tall man in a bowler hat, and that the tall man is after Lewis.
As it happens, the tall man in the bowler hat is at the fair. He has a robotic hat that sabotages Lewis’s project. The project explodes and causes mayhem in the gym. After everyone is gone, the tall man in the bowler hat absconds with the machine.
Lewis, upon returning to the orphanage, angrily rips all of his notes for the machine out of his notebook. Wilbur arrives and proves that he’s from the future. He shows Lewis an invisible hovercraft he has that takes him through time. He brings him to the year 2037.
Lewis realizes he can use the time machine to go back and see his mother. Wilbur says the answer isn’t the time machine, it’s his memory scanner. He wants to take Lewis back so he can fix it. They get into an argument and crash.
Wilbur is upset, since there are only two time machines in existence, and the other one is in the possession of the bowler hat guy. Lewis agrees to fix the time machine if Wilbur takes him back to meet his mother before she gives him up for adoption.
Wilbur takes Lewis to his garage to fix the machine, telling him to stay put. Pretty soon, Lewis has wandered off and goes to Wilbur’s house. He ends up meeting the rest of Wilbur’s family – the Robinsons. They’re a pretty eccentric bunch. They take him in pretty quickly and he feels like part of the family.
Back in the present, the bowler hat guy looks for Lewis. He comes to the orphanage and finds Lewis’s roommate, Goob, who fell asleep during an important little league game (because Lewis had kept him away for days on end as he built his memory scanner) and is upset at Lewis. He tells him not to let that anger go and returns to the future to chase Lewis.
Bowler hat guy arrives at the Robinsons house and takes control of one of Wilbur’s mother’s singing frogs (don’t ask) to try to get him to bring Lewis to him. That doesn’t work, so he goes back in time to steal a dinosaur to capture Lewis.
The family defends Lewis against the dinosaur, and the dinosaur is unable to capture Lewis because it “has a big head and little arms.”
The family then asks Lewis to stay and be a Robinson. Just as he’s going to accept, Wilbur reveals that Lewis is from the past. The family then gets weird and says he has to go back. He thinks it’s because they don’t want him. We’ll find out later that’s not true.
Bowler hat guy arrives and offers Lewis the chance to go back and see his mother if he fixes his memory scanner. Lewis agrees and goes with him. Though he eventually kidnaps Lewis and reveals himself to be an older Goob, and that Lewis is actually Wilbur’s father, who invented all the great inventions that the Robinsons have (including the time machines). He plans on sabotaging him because he’s still bitter about that little league game. This (the little league part) would have been a great reveal for a dumb comedy. For a Disney movie – not so much.
In telling bowler hat guy to forget the past and let go of it, he realizes he must do the same. Then bowler hat guy goes back into the past with Lewis’s memory scanner, and in selling it, changes the future and makes Wilbur cease to exist. The future then turns into a dystopian nightmare. The robotic hat has killed bowler hat guy and taken over, with an army of machines.
Wilbur then hurries and fixes the broken time machine and flies back to the past in order to stop it. He tells bowler hat guy this, and then the hat goes crazy and tries to kill him. Lewis gets rid of it by saying he’s never going to invent it. Lewis then takes bowler hat guy into the future, and bowler hat guy goes off to figure out what he’s going to do next, no longer a villain.
Lewis then meets his future self, and is shown all the great stuff he’ll invent in the future. Including the memory scanner, which was the one that started it all. Lewis realizes this can be his future, but before going back to the past and his science fair, he goes to the moment his mother abandoned him. He thinks about stopping her, but decides not to, since he already has a family.
He even goes back to wake Goob up as he falls asleep during the game.
Then he returns to the science fair and demonstrates his memory scanner to Lucille, a scientist from the corporation (who actually ends up being his adopted mother, who he meets in the future). She ends up adopting him and setting the future in motion. He also meets the younger version of his wife at the science fair.
The film ends with a nice quote from Walt Disney, which was also a running line throughout the film:
“Keep moving forward” is adult Lewis’s motto.
Also, nice Tom Selleck joke of having him be the voice of older Lewis. I enjoyed the throwaway line and then the visual gag of showing Selleck’s face, but the tag up on it later one was a really great touch.
My big gripe with this film, aside from the fact that the story doesn’t need to be told at all, is that it’s CG, and that really takes away any personality it might have. I was invested (as much as you can be with this film) in the story of Lewis and looking for his mother. But once we met the Robinsons, it became chaos. And the guy in the bowler hat was way overdone. The “twist” or whatever was all right, but his stuff early on was just way too — no. Honestly, aside from those small moments of humanity, the only real moment anyone is gonna take out of this is the T-Rex going, “I have a big head and little arms!” And we’ll remember the image of a singing frog, which has nothing to do with anything in this movie.
It definitely belongs here. There’s literally nothing of value here except a few jokes that wouldn’t even be enough to fill a Silly Symphony, and that Disney quote at the end.
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Official Disney Number: #47
Run Time: 95 minutes
Release Date: March 30, 2007
Budget: Well, Bolt and Chicken Little, the films on either side of this, cost $150 million, so let’s just assume this did as well.
Box Office: $97.8 million domestically and $169.3 million worldwide
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As far as I know, the songs I’m about to list were written for the soundtrack. I don’t remember (or care, really), if they were used in the film, since it’s one of those bullshit Disney films where they write pop records for the soundtrack and call them songs from the film, even though the bands are only just writing and releasing them on this soundtrack first. That bullshit.
- “Another Believer,” by Rufus Wainwright
- “Little Wonders,” by Rob Thomas
- “The Future Has Arrived,” by The All-American Rejects
- “Where Is Your Head At?” by Jamie Cullum
- “The Motion Waltz (Emotional Connection),” by Rufus Wainwright
- “Give Me the Simple Life,” by Jamie Cullum
- “Kids of the Future,” by the Jonas Brothers
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- Disney bought Pixar during the production of this film, and because of the merging of the two companies, John Lasseter became Disney’s chief creative officer. And he saw an early cut of this film and said, “Nuh uh… that’s not good,” and they redid over 60% of the film over the next ten months. They made the bowler hat guy scarier, gave him the hat sidekick, and added the dinosaur chase. Which isn’t exactly much of an improvement, as the finished film will show. They also changed the ending, which I will actually say, sight unseen, was for the better.
- This is actually based on a book, “A Day with Wilbur Robinson.” Without even knowing what the book is about, I’ll say it’s probably better than the film, and if remade, would become a better film than this is.
- This was the first film to use that new Walt Disney Animation Studios logo that we see now.
- Apparently Jim Carrey was going to voice bowler hat guy and instead chose to star in The Number 23. Either way, I’d say he made a bad choice, but this one probably wouldn’t have been as bad.
- This movie was shown in 3-D in some places. Oh boy.
- There’s a park in the film called “Todayland,” which is a joke on the “Tomorrowland” section of Disney parks.
- Apparently there’s a picture of Walt in the orphanage. Didn’t even notice.
- Apparently they hid Mickey Mouse faces in the film too. I also didn’t notice this. There’s one on the music stand sheets when Lewis meets Franny, and on the cover of Gaston’s stopwatch, upside-down.
- On the DVD, you can choose to watch the film with only the sound effects and no dialogue or music. Which might be a stroke of genius and actually make the film halfway decent.
- Here’s a good one: in the 3D version of the film, all of the credits are in 2D except for the names of the people who converted the film. Personally I think it would have been funnier if they did it the other way around.
- Unlike Chicken Little (God… that film…), which was converted in post, this was actually shot as a 3D film.
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There were a few I mentioned in the trivia. Mostly I wasn’t enjoying the film, so I wasn’t looking that closely for stuff. So I don’t really have anything. I really didn’t care for this one.